4 Recent Alumni Reflect on Their Path to a Career in Education (Success Academy Story)

Five Binghamton alumni have been honored with Success Academy 2020 Excellence in Education Awards for demonstrating exceptional talent and commitment to educating underserved children. Success Academy is a high-performing public charter school network in New York City that serves mostly low-income students. Read a little bit about each the winners and their reflections on how Binghamton prepared them for careers in education:

Aldwin Villanueva (‘18) is a Sixth Grade English Language Arts Teacher at SA Queens 1 Middle School. Aldwin won an Excellence Award for ETHOS, which recognizes school staff who have best demonstrated the Success community’s values: Excellence, Teamwork, Humor, Ownership, and Scholars. Aldwin reflects on his path to teaching, “During my senior year, I worked as a substitute teacher at the local middle school/high school in Binghamton. This was an eye opening experience for me and helped me realize that communities with low funding have to work incredibly hard to best support their kids. They have to find innovative ways to keep kids engaged while working around financial difficulties. For me, this illuminated the disparities and the inequality of education in America.”

Michelle Higuera (‘16) is a First Grade Teacher at SA Harlem 6 and won an award for Growth, which recognizes educators who have exhibited the most significant progress in achieving excellence since the start of the school year. Awards are based on either academic and school culture data or observed growth in practice. Her undergraduate studies remain highly relevant to her current work: “As a psychology major I was able to learn a lot about the human brain and what makes us tick: environment, development, and behavior. It made me view actions and habits differently. To this day the knowledge I gained throughout my studies helps me support my scholars and families.”

Oyindamola Lawal (’17) is a Community Relations Coordinator at SA East Flatbush Middle School. Oyindamola also won an Excellence Award for ETHOS. Oyindamola reflects, “I studied Political Science in undergrad with a focus on advocacy. I believe that the core of education is advocating for our kids and providing them with the tools to build courage to advocate for themselves and, ultimately, for others.”

Lucy Bailey (‘19) is a Second Grade Integrated Co-Teacher at SA Prospect Heights and also won an award for ETHOS. Lucy attributes her interest in education to her coursework: “The courses that best prepared me for a career in education were Childhood Psychology, School & Society, Multicultural Psychology, and a semester-long internship as an elementary school Teacher’s Assistant. These courses educated me on the complexities of a growing child’s brain, our school system in America, and of the racial injustices that still persist today. My internship gave me valuable skills for my future as a teacher.”

Kailah Kaner (‘19) is a First Grade Teacher at SA Washington Heights and won the Rookie of the Year award, which recognizes first-year teachers who have embraced the challenge of teaching and demonstrated significant growth in their practice. Kailah reflects, “I developed my passion for working with children through my undergraduate degree in Human Development. A class that stood out to me was Politics of Education, taught by Dominic Davy (who was tragically taken from the world too soon). He had such a passion for teaching and the educational system and he truly transmitted it to the entire class. He taught us that education was more than just the classroom — it is life,  family, and home. This inspired me to foster a classroom that encompasses all that Professor Davy taught me.”

Let the success of these Binghamton alumni inspire you when looking for meaningful work with an innovative and dynamic organization in New York City. Success Academy currently has 45 schools across four boroughs and are growing fast and offers extensive training and exciting opportunities for young adults with a drive for excellence and the desire to bring life-changing educational opportunities to underserved kids.

By Alicia Hibbard
Alicia Hibbard Profile Picture