[Education Advocate] TSU Alum Tenicka Boyd


Name: Tenicka Boyd
Class: 2006
Occupation: Director of Organizing, StudentsFirstNY  
Hometown: Milwaukee, WI 

Tenicka serves as the Director of Organizing for StudentsFirstNY. She joined SFNY from the Obama Administration, where she served at the U.S. Department of Education in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Tenicka joined the Administration as Assistant to the Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. Previously, she spent years as an organizer: in Flint, Michigan, as Lead Community Organizer for Flint Area Congregations Together and as an organizer for the Obama campaign in 2008; and in Alexandra, Virginia as Regional Healthcare Reform Organizer for Tenants and Workers United, where she helped build a statewide coalition in support of progressive healthcare reform.

 Tenicka earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Tennessee State University and a Masters of Science in U.S. History and Public Policy from the University of Michigan. She resides in Brooklyn with her college sweetheart, Calvin, and her daughter (a NYC public school student).

Education Advocacy Work

I have a pretty exciting job. I manage the largest education reform organizing effort in the state of New York. I have a team of nearly 30 who have 1-1s, house meetings, daily community meetings, leadership sessions, and trainings in some of the lowest performing school districts in New York City. Our organizing effort is still fairly new but we are seeing a tremendous response. Education policy is nuanced and complicated, but this is truly exciting work. When I walk in a church basement with 30 parents from the same school sitting together discussing ways to increase the quality of teaching in their local elementary school, I know that we are winning.

Why I Came to StudentsFirstNY

I truly believe that in order to reform education in this country, we have to be willing to challenge the status quo.  I have always believed in putting students first. I love working with a team everyday that engages and motivates real parents around issues that are deeply important to them.

Areas We Organize Around

We discuss issues of teacher quality that many parents are concerned about. We know that poverty is an issue in many of the communities we serve, but we also know that teachers are the largest in school factor that can contribute to changing the life trajectory for many of the students. We also talk to parents about school choice. Though we organize primarily traditional public school parents, many of them see high performing charter schools as a viable option.

How can TSU be a gap to serve underserved groups in education?

I love my alma mater. I believe that this institution and my amazing professors truly contributed to my love for service. TSU has always been a gap to serving low-income communities and students of color especially in education. TSU should continue to create high standards, field experience, and rigor for soon-to-be teachers. The requirement and retention of men of color is also important and a great role for TSU. TSU and many institutions can continue to uphold the teaching profession as one of prestige and honor.

How can future teachers best prepare themselves to teach 21st Century skills such as creativity and critical thinking?

I always think it’s a great idea for teachers to set clear and high expectations for their students regardless of their background. But what is most effective is academic rigor which allows students to do most of the talking and working while teachers are asking rigorous questions and pushing students for top-quality oral responses and well thought out written work. To foster creativity, especially in low-income communities, a good idea is to be challenging in the ways we approach subjects. Being culturally competent and employing real life examples for our children is an amazing starting point to foster creativity. I believe it is so important to emphasize the process rather than product. Using creative problem solving was always the best way that I learned as a student.
Could you highlight some recent NY or national developments in education that you are excited about?
I’m really excited about the growing interest of parents in the fight for education equity. And it’s really great to see foundations and people investing time and resources in fostering those efforts. Parent Revolution in California is such an amazing organization that is engaging parents in policy changes. I’m extremely excited about the new policies that will come from the Obama administration’s Dept. of Education as well as the new teacher evaluation system in New York.



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