Operations Manager Zuri Gracin joined Akili Academy in 2010. A native of New Orleans, Gracin spent the majority of her childhood attending suburban schools in other states due to her parents’ work in the U.S. Air Force. Although her travels took her many places, she remained connected to New Orleans and keenly aware of the disparities between her education and that of her cousins still in the city.
“I joined the education field via Teach for America after graduating from Howard University,” she said. “I had the privilege of attending schools in various states as a child. As I grew older, my eyes were opened to the differences in my education compared to that of family members attending school in the inner-city of New Orleans. The inequality of the education system, based upon location, upset me. Hearing about Teach for America as a freshman, I decided I wanted to join in New Orleans upon graduating. I wanted to help give students the same opportunities I had growing up.”
Gracin worked as a first grade teacher at Akili Academy for three years. Through The New Teacher Project, she earned her certification as a highly qualified teacher. In 2013, she moved from teaching to the Operations Team, taking on the role of Operations Manager.
When asked about her favorite moments in the classroom, Gracin said she loved witnessing the growth and positive changes in her students. “Teaching first grade for three years in the same school allowed me to see their growth,” she said. “It is rewarding to see excitement in students’ eyes as they expand their knowledge.”
Gracin said she also loves building relationships with the students and families of Akili. “Having been here four years, it is rewarding connecting with families beyond the classroom,” she said. “I love staying connected to students I taught four years ago. The bonds I have made are what make it a joy to come to school everyday.”
In reflecting upon how she has evolved since her first year as a teacher, Gracin said that she has become more adaptable and able to meet the needs of many while maintaining a strong focus on excellence. “Working at Akili, I have learned to be more flexible,” she said. “Teaching students taught me to deal with various personalities and meet the individual needs of students. Working in operations, I have had to balance multiple projects at one time. I have learned to lead projects and work with a plethora of different people and different work styles.”