To understand Hope Evans’ ’05 passion for educational opportunity for all, one must first understand her core inspiration – her parents. “Both of my parents grew up in low-income (households) in Cleveland,” Evans says. “Their education was truly transformative in my life. I feel strongly about it because I feel very blessed in life, and that has a lot to do with the kind of education my parents received and the kind of education they were able to provide for me.”
Evans’ parents attended East Tech in the 1960s. Today, her mom works as a financial analyst and her dad as a truck driver. Their unlikely ascension in the face of socioeconomic challenges instilled in Evans an infinite gratitude for her Gilmour education. And it has inspired her own career as a teacher and administrator in low-income public schools.
Evans, 26, graduated from Harvard University with a master’s in Education Policy and Management in May. Now she works as assistant principal at Alpha Middle School in San Jose, Calif.
But her road to public education began when she was an undergrad at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
“I started tutoring in Evanston through an organization called Family Focus in a low-income part of Evanston,” Evans says. “It was very clear that not every student had the same resources. The disparity in resources directly correlated to family income. It was very apparent.”
In the summer of 2008, Evans’ passion for teaching was solidified all the more when she taught in Miami, Fla., through a program called Breakthrough Collaborative. Responsible for creating her own curriculum and designing her own lesson plans, the program prepared Evans for the transformative opportunity that was to come upon graduation in 2009 – acceptance to the Teach for America program.
“Teach for America definitely had the biggest impact on me,” says Evans. “It clarified a lot of things for me. Since I had been educated in the private sector at Gilmour, seeing the dysfunction in the public education system definitely opened my eyes.”
Evans taught middle school on Chicago’s South Side, where the student body was 98 percent low-income. “I felt good about serving a community in need and ensuring that all students had an equal opportunity for high-quality education,” Evans says.
Evans is influenced most by her desire to help the disadvantaged. Gilmour’s impact on her in that regard cannot be overstated.
“Gilmour really turned me into a leader,” says Evans, who sat on Gilmour’s Student Council. “Getting involved in those leadership opportunities taught me to advocate for myself, and then how to advocate for other people, and that’s exactly what a teacher does.”
Today, Evans draws from techniques she picked up from her Gilmour teachers. As assistant principal at Alpha Middle School, she has brought to the educators she oversees, and thus to the school’s 400 students, Gilmour teaching methods such as analytical essays, Socratic seminars and mock trials.
Alpha opened just two years ago, and Evans is energized by the opportunity to shape the school’s curriculum, create procedures and set the bar high. It’s a huge responsibility, however, and one she was reluctant to take on.
“I am pretty young to be in an administrative role,” she reasons. “If I mess up, I’m not just messing up for me, I’m ruining things for kids. It makes me more thoughtful in the way I’m leading teachers.”
Often working 14-hour days, Evans sits in on teachers’ classes to assess their performance once a week, always keeping an eye on improvement. Her motivation is the same now as it was when she started her career four years ago.
“I feel an enormous responsibility for other people and to ensure that things are equitable, and that people who need help the most get the help they need,” she says. “It’s one of the biggest things my parents were able to teach me early on. A teacher that is struggling the most will probably be observed more, and I think that’s equitable.”