Teaching Ambassador Fellowship
2009 Alumni Classroom Fellow
San Francisco, CA
Bio/Overview: Matt Kostecka currently works at Partners in School Innovation, a non-profit organization which works to dramatically improve teaching and learning for students of color in low-performing schools. As a School Innovation Partner, he works with school leaders and teachers over multi-year partnerships to build their internal capacity to lead school transformation. Raised in a family of educators near Seattle, Kostecka decided to become a teacher shortly before entering college after realizing the tremendous advantages his access to education had afforded him and that so few others benefitted from those advantages. After graduating from Saint Louis University with a degree in education, he moved to Taiwan for a year and taught ESL to preschool and elementary students. The experience that most shaped Kostecka, however, was teaching and working for three years at Frank W. Ballou High School in Washington, D.C. Seeing the incredible disadvantages students and families faced in our nation’s capital was incredibly frustrating, and drove him to seek as many ways to help his students as he could – through teaching, mentoring, coaching, and eventually through learning about and ultimately hoping to affect larger education policy. The students whom he worked with at Ballou changed his life and are his biggest inspiration today. Kostecka’s experience as a Classroom Fellow as well as his successes and frustrations teaching in Washington, D.C. prompted him to pursue a Master’s Degree in Educational Policy and Leadership from Stanford University in 2011. After finishing at Stanford he came to work at Partners in School Innovation, believing that the best way to improve urban schools and school systems is to build the capacity and expertise of the people who live and work in those schools and communities.
Educational Values/Philosophy: Kostecka believes that education is a fundamental human right, not just because the economic and social advantages it affords individuals, but because in the words of Paulo Freire to be able to exist humanely, all people must have the opportunity and ability to name their world – to define their experiences for both themselves and others. Education should provide every person the ability to define, mediate, and ultimately change their reality. Classrooms, therefore should be places that not only build the fundamental skills of literacy and numeracy that are necessary for these conversations to happen, but also provide opportunities for children themselves to discuss, analyze and assess what they learn and experience. A teacher’s role is to provide access to those fundamental skills, to facilitate dialogue, and to provide children the opportunity to not only name their world, but to feel hope that they can change it.
Achievements: In this first year at Ballou High School, Kostecka was given the opportunity to take-over an A.P. U.S. History course that was available to a minimal amount of students each year, and whose students had never passed the A.P. exam. Through countless hours plotting, planning, tutoring on Saturdays and after school, and staying-awake wondering if he was doing right by his students, he was able to pilot the growth of the A.P. program from 9 to 27 students over three years in partnership with the A.P. English teacher. In his third and final year at Ballou, a handful of students passed the A.P. U.S. History and English exams, and over a dozen more were only one point away. In addition to his work with the A.P. program, Kostecka founded and led a Capoeira program and started a boys’ varsity soccer team to give young men at his school a positive activity to be involved with after school. During his Fellowship, Kostecka was also asked to present at the Teaching American History Annual Project Directors Conference on his work engaging his U.S. government students in civic engagement projects in partnership with Georgetown University and on his work with the A.P. program.
Leadership Experience: As a teacher, Kostecka was involved in a number of projects and initiatives at the school and in the District. He founded two after-school programs (Capoeira and Varsity Soccer), and was a founding teacher in a district-wide A.P. Saturday Academy. As a Classroom Fellow, Kostecka organized and led the Teacher Leaders in Urban Education Conference, which brought together teachers from all-over Washington, D.C. to discuss national education policy and the Department’s Blueprint to reform NCLB. As a graduate student at Stanford University, Kostecka was a co-president of the Education Club and in that role helped organized the Business and Education Symposium, an annual conference that brings together innovators in both business and education who are working to affect positive change in schools.
Education: Kostecka has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary Education from Saint Louis University. He completed a Master of Arts degree in Education (Policy, Organizations and Leadership Studies) at Stanford University in 2011.
Areas of Interest/Expertise:
- Urban Education
- Teaching and Learning in marginalized classrooms and communities
- District-Level Reform
- Full-Service Community Schools