As a 5th-grader, it can be hard to picture your teacher doing anything but teaching. But teachers in The Town come to our schools with a range of outside pursuits and eclectic job histories—it’s one of the things we love about Oakland teachers.
Kyle Albery, now wrapping up his first year teaching 5th grade at Parker, has one of our favorite past jobs: he once played drums on a cruise ship. (We’d love to have been a nonprofit fly on the wall when he shared this with his students.) While it might seem an unlikely precursor to OUSD, even on that ship Kyle had teaching on his mind.
“Teaching is in my family, so it’s always been part of my life,” says Kyle. “Even though I was focused on music and playing drums in a number of bands, teaching was also important to me.” He studied teaching at Western Michigan University, then substitute taught in Oakland for eight years while also pursuing music. This led to a job teaching music at a nonprofit on the Peninsula, and he began teaching outdoor education classes in the Yosemite Valley.
It was there that the idea of full-time teaching clicked for Kyle. One of the groups that came to Yosemite was from an Oakland elementary school, and Kyle connected with the staff and kids. “Driving home, I realized I was ready to teach full-time and immerse myself in the Oakland community,” says Kyle. When the next OUSD job fair took place, Kyle was there, and this fall he became Parker’s only 5th-grade teacher.
Kyle came to Parker along with several other new teachers. “It feels like a good time to be arriving,” says Kyle, “like I’m a part of this new energy at the school, and I think the kids are picking up on it.”
Something he quickly recognized was the resilience of his students. “Our kids and families come from some tough situations,” he says, “but they are just as capable of doing great things as anyone.”
He sees a similar determination in his fellow teachers and staff. “When you teach in an under-resourced community and District, you know everyone who’s here is doing it for the greater good,” says Kyle. “It’s not easy. But everyone is so dedicated, which is a whole amazing unifying thing and so great to be part of.”
Speaking of unity and teamwork, Kyle got help from Tasha Rath, Parker’s librarian, when he learned about the opportunity to apply for one of the Ed Fund’s mini-grants. “This came at a time when I was super busy,” he recalls. “Mrs. Rath encouraged me to apply for a field trip to the Center for the Book and American Bookbinder’s Museum in San Francisco, and she helped me with the application.”
In his first year as a teacher, Kyle has found that reading was a key to creating the right tone in his classroom. “Kids’ commitment to reading has been the most important part of the culture shift in my class this year,” he reflects. “When we can all sit and read silently for a long stretch of time, this has a lot of value and we’re seeing major improvement in reading levels across the class.”
He hopes the field trip—where they will get to make their own books—will be a memorable way to wrap up the school year. “To have this hands-on experience with books should be great for them,” says Kyle. “It should be a really positive anchor in helping them build a love of reading in the future. I hope they will build on that as they head into middle school next year.”
As for Kyle’s other passion, music? He says he hopes to bring the two worlds together in the coming years. “Creative arts, sports, and other non-academic activities are so important for kids,” he says. “They’re often where kids get to express themselves and build interpersonal skills. Next year, I hope to get a musical group going here at Parker.”
You can help us continue supporting inspiring teachers like Kyle by donating to the A to Z Fund!