Brett Pangburn

State and City of Residence:
Brookline, Massachusetts

Job Description: 
6th Grade English Teacher, Excel Academy Charter School – East Boston

Why do you work in education?
Eleven years ago I was a corporate lawyer. I thought life was good. . . that is, until I volunteered as a homework tutor and realized I should teach! I got my M.Ed. and joined Excel Academy, a middle school serving East Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts. Middle school students are engaging, inspiring, and often hilarious! They are also at a critical point in their education where cognitive demands, social pressures, and gaps in learning (and opportunity) can become barriers. I work hard to teach not only foundational skills, but also how making good choices now gives kids more control over their lives. 

Tell us about something that you have done in education that you feel has made or will make a big difference for your community?
Last year I was asked to be an Adjunct English Instructor by Building Excellent Schools, a Boston organization that prepares leaders to found schools and helps existing schools to improve. Working with two of my colleagues from Excel, we present to teachers and school leaders at trainings held nationwide to share instructional approaches, analyze student work and classroom video, and develop curriculum. It's been gratifying to hear from educators who participated in our trainings about how they’ve successfully adopted some of our best practices. I’m proud to be impacting students beyond my classroom.

What’s your favorite part about being an America Achieves Fellow?
I really valued speaking with teachers and principals from all over the country to soak in their fearless ideas, unique experiences, and constructive approaches to meeting challenges. It can be easy as an educator to hunker down and become insular, and that's a mistake. We have a lot to learn from each other – particularly from those who’ve been in the profession for a while and are still innovating. I like collaborating with people who are willing to be honest about what is and what is not working and then develop solutions – that’s what America Achieves was all about for me.

If you could change just one thing about our current education system, what would it be?
I would provide greater incentives for effective, caring, experienced teachers to remain in the classroom – particularly in those schools fighting to close the opportunity gap. 

If a song played every time you walked into a room, what would that song be?
Anything by Peter Gabriel. . . or Miles Davis. 

What’s the best thing a student ever said to you?
A student from early in my career recently texted me out of the blue to say: “Thank you for all the time you invested in me, and for seeing all the potential.” That made my day!