Q&A with Mary Paranac, Student Associate TrusteePosted by Nick Gray on November 20, 2012
At its October 24th meeting, the Bank Street College Board of Trustees elected Mary Paranac as Student Associate Trustee for this academic year. Mary is working toward her Master’s degree in Leadership for Educational Change. She is in her sixth year as a New York City educator, teaching fifth grade at P.S. 086 (the Kingsbridge Heights School) in the Bronx.
Mary recently spoke with us about why she chose Bank Street, and how she might serve the College in the coming year.
You’ve been teaching in New York for some time. What has your career looked like leading up to your time at Bank Street?
Mary Paranac: I’m a New York City Teaching Fellow originally, so that’s how I entered the education world here in New York City. So I’m very dedicated to equity in inner city schools especially. I just began my sixth year teaching fifth grade general education at P.S. 086 in the Bronx. It’s a public school and a high-needs school, but a high performing school as well. And so I really enjoy my time there. And now I’m a second year student in the Graduate School in the Leadership for Educational Change Program.
How did you decide on that program?
MP: I chose that program because I wanted to learn about leadership in a cohesive manner—in a full-blown graduate program where I could really bring back an entire skill set when and if I become a school administrator. A lot of people in my world sort of piecemeal those credits together, and I knew I wanted to be in a program that was more a cohesive look at leadership and change. I feel very strongly that our education system in New York has a lot of the crucial components needed to make schools better. So I wanted to be a leader who helps to facilitate change in these places that have a lot of the raw components available.
Are there different routes teachers might choose in order to attain leadership positions? How did you decide on a master’s program as your next step?
MP: People have different motivations, and I can only speak for myself in saying that I really wanted to broaden my horizons in terms of opportunities for my career growth, but also have the maximum impact on the students, families, and communities in which I work. So for me, I thought about how I could make this happen. Of course there’s the policy route, and the legal route. But I had a very hard time thinking about leaving the classroom and the day-to-day interactions with children and families in the community, so that’s why I chose to do this leadership degree. And my philosophy on that closely matches Bank Street’s mission statement in linking learning to families and to the community. So that’s why I chose Bank Street.
As the new Student Associate Trustee, what do you expect to be doing in the coming year?
MP: That’s something I think I’ll learn a lot about as I go. And from what I understand this is a position where different student trustees in the past have made it work for them, tailoring it to their strengths and personalities and knowledge of the school and outside. So I’m expecting to listen a lot and absorb a lot and figure out where my strengths can enhance what’s going on with the Board, and how I can best represent my colleagues—my fellow students.
Why is it important to have student representation on the Board?
MP: The Board of Trustees is the major governing body here at Bank Street, and I know that a lot of what happens there is confidential, but if decisions are made that affect the graduate student population, it’s always important that a student is present to field questions, offer anecdotes, and to bring the voices of graduate students to the meetings.
I teach in a very specific niche, but in all of my classes at Bank Street there’s such a wide breadth of types of teachers and educators. The schools they come from are private, public, charter, and the neighborhoods they work in are all different. There’s a great variety represented in all the classes I’ve taken. And at Bank Street you very quickly become close with all the people you take classes with. So I feel like I have a good sense for what a lot of students here care about and feel invested in, and I’m excited to work with and for them going forward.