Ariel is someone who believes deeply in building power in community. Raised in Burlington, Vermont, Ariel was an advocate from the start. She explored politics as a high school student, volunteering for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign before turning her attention to the classroom. For five years, Ariel served as a public school teacher in a turnaround school in Denver where she found her calling to organize for educational equity in the Denver metro area. Ariel serves as co-founder and executive director of Transform Education Now (TEN). Through her work with TEN, Ariel organizes families, community leaders and decision makers to ensure that every child has access to a world class education regardless of their zip code.
Ariel attended American University and received a degree in communications, legal studies, economics and government. She is also a mom of three-year-old, Kayce, who definitely believes in magic, which is a great reminder of the potential of this work.
I aspire to be like Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Here’s why:
She is a pragmatic, thoughtful disrupter, who does not waiver on values and always commits to the hard work of understanding all sides of an issue. If there is one thing that we must appreciate in conversations about improving education, it is nuance and the courage to challenge the status quo.
Why I love my job:
I am a true believer in the power of relationships and collective voice. I always joke, “every friend was once a stranger” but in this work, it is really true. The best part of my job are the relationships I have formed with other moms throughout Denver – fighting alongside them as they demand that all children have access to a high quality public school.
My connection to public schools:
In college, I had a work-study job at an elementary school in Washington, DC where there were not enough teachers, so I taught kindergarten every afternoon. The school had one working bathroom, requiring boys and girls to take turns, and lead pipes that left students without water fountains. From the playground, the elementary school has a perfect view of the U.S. Capitol, which is a visual reminder of why I do this work. Policy makers are disconnected from the experiences of kids who are being left behind by unequal opportunity.
Teaching in DC changed me, and I went on to teach in Denver at a school that was rated one of the worst in Colorado in 2010. With full hearts and expectations for improvement, we built an education community. I believe this is possible at all Denver schools. My experiences in and out of the classroom deeply informed my belief that communities must lead in improving the educational options and outcomes for our kids.
What I’m bad at:
I get impatient in this work and feel a deep urgency everyday to build power, challenge systems and improve experience. I also have no tolerance for slow movement when time is ticking, and all children are not given the opportunity to live up to their potential.
I believe in the expertise of communities. Designing systems of improvement with community is incredibly important to school and district transformation.