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State: New York
Recent Position: Principal
Employer: West Brooklyn Community High School
- B.A., M.A.T., Brown University
Liliana Polo was the founding principal of West Brooklyn (N.Y.) Community High School, a transfer high school partnered with Good Shepherd Services. She was determined to create a remarkable community of learners and leaders for her students, aged 16–20 and who had previously dropped out of school or become excessively truant. Understanding that schools alone could not prepare her students for post-secondary challenges, Liliana led West Brooklyn to forge partnerships with families, community leaders, and local organizations to meet students’ needs. As a teacher and school leader, she is committed to ensuring that struggling students can pursue their educational goals in a safe, nurturing, and academically rigorous environment.
What drives you to do the work that you do?
There is a combination of personal, professional, and ethical reasons that drive me in this work. Seeing the young students in my life and in my classrooms fall through the cracks because of insufficient academic and social supports was frustrating as a teacher, so I set out to develop structures that could provide access to those resources within a school setting. I also think that as much as I’m motivated by the challenges our education system faces, I am also greatly motivated by the stories of success we see every day. I’ve learned to be driven by seeing a teacher grow and be able to engage students in meaningful experiences in a classroom; or a student proudly holding his diploma after believing graduation was not possible. The fact is that there are structures that work, with people accomplishing great results – that keeps me motivated and confident in our collective ability to do right by our young people.
Why does the Ed.L.D. Program make sense for you at this time?
It is an amazing opportunity to immerse myself in the type of learning not available anywhere else. As a school leader, I have learned a lot about working with people, instruction, and how to manage a school; however, there were areas in which I wished I had more expertise to be a more effective leader, such as in-depth knowledge and understanding of policy and how it is developed, as well as the business aspect of leading change and maximizing resources in the education sector. As someone who understands the value of partnerships, bringing these three sectors together will have a monumental impact on the way schools look and how they serve our students.