Follow-up: Remake Learning Employment and Partnership Opportunities with Pittsburgh Public Schools

Ani Martinez
Feb 20, 2018 · 13 min read

Below you will find the email follow-up from the January Remake Learning Meetup: Employment and Partnership Opportunities with Pittsburgh Public Schools. For more information about the Remake Learning Meetups and Lunch & Learns visit

I’d like to start this message with tons of love and appreciation for Donnie Yawn and the Recruitment Team. Additional thanks to Tylor Hart and the PPS Office of OST.

In Case You Missed It

This is a brief summary of what happened. You’ll find the full and unedited notes below my signature.

Note: You’ll find the slides attached to this email.

  • We started with a clear and useful presentation on how a person can become a PPS Sub.
  • We learned that there are different levels of comitment and different kinds of substitutes — there are even positions that do not require a teaching certificate which could really help introduce new talents and assets to the sub-pool.
  • We also learned that PPS is not a district that is afraid to talk about race. As the second-largest district in the state of PA, that’s a key statement. The District works to uphold a vision, mission, and goals for all students that graduate are “Promise Ready;” that PPS should be one of America’s premiere school districts; and that we all work to accelerate student achievement and eliminate racial disparities to foster creativity and innovation.

After providing some practical next steps, Donnie let the conversation take an interesting turn; he asked the group: “What made you interested in becoming an educator?”

  • The responses were varied, of course, but we also found some similarities.
  • People shared their own talents and passions, but we also uncovered some themes like the drive to inspire young people, to create more relevant and engaging opportunities, and the deep and challenging work to make equity a core value.
  • We were also very lucky to have a long-time sub in the room who shared some inspiring words about working with PPS students, “My goal was to work a few days a week, but then I went into a classroom and fell in love. Now I can’t figure how to get out. I had really awful experiences with teachers growing up, but I knew I wanted to be a teacher because I knew teachers should be kind, warm, and embracing. Being in the classroom allows me to be that person. And the students give me way more than they know. It comes full circle. And I have students that text me asking when I’m coming back.”

Don’t forget, you’ll find all the commentary and the Q&A below my signature in this email.

Upcoming Remake Learning Events

Great Remake Micro-Grants Info Session

Want to learn more and apply for a Remake Learning Micro-Grant? Come to this helpful session at Everyday Cafe in Homewood to get help. Register here:

Remake Learning Days

Already participating in Remake Learning Days but could use some help marketing your event? Join us online for a webinar on February 28th. More information and register here:

Upcoming Meetups and Lunch & Learns for the rest of 2018 will be posted via the Remake Learning Network’s weekly e-blast and calendar.

Mid-Western PA Future of Learning Meetup February 22 More information and register here:

Appalachian Makerspaces Meetup II March 15 More information and registration opening soon. Please email Ani with interest.

Bring, Bag, Borrow for Women’s History Month March 22 Come learn and share with other mentors for Girls in STEM/STEAM. More information and register here:

Feminine Gender Norms in STEM with Riki Wilchens February 27 More information and register here:

Get Involved

If this was your first Remake Learning event, please reply to this email because I would love to learn more about what is relevant, engaging, and equitable to you!

Add yourself or your organization to the Remake Learning Network Directory.

Want to host a Meetup or a Lunch & Learn? You can use this helpful Meetup Guide to help you recruit attendees, organize the agenda, and more.

Share, Tweet, & Repeat! Social Media helps us stay in touch and share the wealth. You can find us & other Meetup members by using @remakelearning #RemakeLearning

Thank you for coming and I hope to see you soon!

Ani Martinez

Community Manager

Remake Learning Network


PPS Meetup

PPS Admin Office

Reference Link





  • Donnie Yawn, Recruiter PPS
  • Charmagne Clark, Recruiter PPS
  • They help folks better understand how to become a substitute, how to get involved in the district, and questions
  • So there are some requirements that will help you become a sub according to the state of PA
  • They also cover the pay-rates
  • There are part time and full time subs
  • Full Time are people that work more than 40 days or longer in a classroom
  • They are also eligible for pay increases
  • They also have more responsibility
  • There are also benefits at step 2 of the table in the slides
  • So there are clear differences in the benefits and the responsibilities for sub types
  • One thing that they want to mention, they are looking for subs in all subject areas, but STEM and special education are in highest demand
  • If someone has a teacher cert and is looking for a teaching position, subbing is a great way to network and get your foot in the door
  • The District Vision, Mission, Goals all students that graduate are promise ready, to be one of America’s premiere school districts, to accelerate student acheivement and eliminate racial disparities foster creativity and innovation
  • PPS is the second largest district in the state
  • PPS is not a district that is afraid to talk about race
  • They strive to uphold this belief
  • They also provide an overview of the District Beliefs
  • The Pittsburgh Promise: what do students have to do to be eligible ?
  • Grade point average 2.5 9th-12th grade
  • Attendance 90%
  • Live in the city
  • Attend an eligible school
  • They can earn $30K in support toward college
  • There are additional local university partnerships that add to these dollars
  • PPS serves over 25K students
  • They cover a wide-range of high school certs
  • And they have 1 online academy
  • There are so many vacancies for subs available, one could work every day in this position
  • Next Steps
  • We’ll share the application with you today — this contains the steps you need to through and the clearances you need
  • Q&A
  • What made you interested in becoming an educator?
  • Motivation and motivating others. I have a savvy way of getting through to young people. So I can motivate just one person… I look at this as a way people perceive me. I’ve been in social work for years, so when I see someone go from being unmotivated, feeling unwanted, and I can take them from zero to seeing that star, and I see them in the present as self-sufficient… they look at me as a role model. If I can do that, why not give that gift to others. It’s part of my legacy, my blessings.
  • As a computer science major I wasn’t motivated to tell a hunk of metal what to do. Children are much more important
  • I graduated with a nonprofit degree, since I wasn’t engaged with the standards that teachers are told to uphold. So I wanted to find an alternative. I grew up in PGH and I’ve seen how resources change from neighborhood to neighborhood. The equity piece is becoming big. And it’s important to motivate the kids to make sure they have the resources to become who they want to be. It’s not only kids, but all people to transcend their environment.
  • It’s all about challenging people to move through the process. Passion varies, but it’s always about the children.
  • I may not be an educator in a traditional sense, but I’ve always worked in an educational environment. TO the point I made earlier as a facilitator, I recognize that I can apply this to many fields, I can’t imagine being in a different environment. And I get to be on the administrative side so that our teachers and students can be successful.
  • I actually am a substitute teacher, and I feel into this as the founder of a nonprofit. My goal was to work a few days a week, but then I went into a classroom and fell in love. Now I can’t figure how to get out. I had really awful experiences with teachers growing up, but I knew I wanted to be a teacher because I knew teachers should be kind, warm, and embracing. Being in the classroom allows me to be that person. And the students give me way more than they know. It comes full circle. And I have students that text me asking when I’m coming back.
  • What are some of the obstacles that you see in educating today’s youth and what are some of your solutions?
  • Honestly, it’s having the kids trust me and understand that I care about them, and I want them to “be something” when they grow up. And I hear, “well you’re saying that because you’re an adult” and I have to remind them that I am a constant figure in their life, that I am there for them. The empathy piece is so important. You have to understand where young people are coming from. That’s so much of the reason why behave the way they do. Just from simple interactions, I’ve seen great change. I think that’s my biggest obstacle — that I’m here because I want to be.
  • From my perspective I see a couple things: Race and equity. We’ve got teachers that don’t appreciate cultural differences and they don’t want to bend to that. The second thing that I see are teachers that along the way have lost their spark. The drive to open and expand minds. They go through the motions and without directly saying it, they are there to collect their paycheck. I see that as problematic in our district.
  • Donnie says he is glad he brought that up. Over half of PPS students are black and less than nine percent of the teachers are black.
  • The first thing is black males in the classroom. My husband is there as a mentor in the classroom; unpaid by the district. He’s developed a math literacy course called Math Doctors that is designed for black children. They interact with him in the community. And interactive classrooms; let’s face it, students are bored. In our local school we had a school garden. They were able to learn about STEM and garden and food health. They were so engaged they were out there in the dirt. It was a great way to build pride through ownership. We need more opportunities where they can show ownership
  • Another way would be to be better able to bring people in. This would help build in better representation from the community so that young people can recognize adults that look like them. That provides exposure to positive examples. It can’t be the total responsibility of school staff- it takes all of us. And in the Northside, there are so many institutions, but students can’t access them. You have to learn to be world citizens.
  • There’s the systemic piece and the structural piece. So where I am in the OST space for PPS. And sometimes I see myself in the in-between. And sometimes I Think we are poised to access students in the inbetween. Sometimes the pieces I mentioned aren’t mentioned for our students. And why I become a teacher, I was interested in thinking about student achievement. We know what we aren’t able to do in the school building and we know how we can address this, but we aren’t able to because of the systemic pieces.
  • There’s absolutely no reason why those things can’t happen in the school day, but we are using an outdated system. The old system won’t prepare kids for the world today. Kids learn reading, writing, and math through problem based learning, but our system isn’t set-up to reward that. And when you’re a classroom teacher, that is terrifying.
  • Kids are so anxiety ridden of getting the correct answer. It doesn’t allow for expanded thinking to get the wrong answer, and they aren’t prepared how to behave when the don’t have the right answer. And we see that in adult behavior, too. It goes back to the systemic problems of education
  • So I just want to say that as someone who has been in different schools, I’ve seen such a dichotomy of different support. From bathrooms that don’t have doors and then the total opposite. Certain schools feel like they are in a totally different district. These are signals to students and families. How can we bring people up when our environment feels depressing. So to take it to Reggio, we need to go back to environment.
  • To add to that, back in the day when the library needed people to donate books, we gathered community members to redo the library (of a school). But that shouldn’t have to be. So check-in and making sure that all our kids have the best they can be.
  • I feel like coming here I appreciate the support that there is a need for organizations like ours that want to help outside the realm. And be part of wrap around services. At the end of the day, just become you are creative, doesn’t mean you have to go into science, or just because you can read, doesn’t mean you have to be a professor. There are so many times I’ve been told I am creative, but then they want to shape and mold me into a box. It creates friction because it creates friction in school and family because it doesn’t have that balance. There has to be some place where children can feel normal. No just gender, but through a humanitarian standpoint. I am great because of my superpowers. We need to magnify these superpowers, even if that power is energy and wanting to get out of our seats.
  • Questions?
  • Based on the conversation, I’m curious … I appreciate these opportunities to connect with different organizations and in PPS. I’m curious if there are other plans and initiatives to convene other types of educators in a different way. There’s always a sense from OST providers that we are knocking on the door to work with schools, but frankly I think there’s quite a bit of opportunity for OST folks to share and learn. Both with other OST providers and with teachers. Are there other things on the tap from PPS to have conversations with this? I’m talking about opportunities that get more toward pedagogies and equity.
  • So, being in the OST office is to think about how we bring in partners. But for us, the next couple of steps is to think about our strategic plan. We start with our partners that exist and work with them on restorative practices. If we can support them and see that it’s working, we want to bring others in the fold. We want to figure that out how we can build meaningful partnerships. And better understanding what our capacity is and what the needs are. We aren’t there yet, but some of those systems and structures absolutely have to be addressed. I’m meeting with a principal tomorrow to figure out what their students need. And we want to value what OST folks bring things to the space. We’re going to talk about that on the 15th at our partners meeting.
  • What’s the partnership?
  • There’s a formal agreement between OST providers and the District. This supports ease of getting folks in the building. THey also help share outcomes (like access to grades). So for admin, they need to know what’s helping kids and this supports that. This also makes it easier for us to support OST organizations. If we’re rolling out efficacy models that we are teaching our teachers, then we want our OST providers to create continuity. If we know where kids are, or where they aren’t this helps everyone.
  • We are now also keeping this process open every single month corresponding to the board cycle. And the last thing we want is to prevent folks from coming in through unnecessary barriers.
  • It’s unfair that the community partners aren’t getting funding. There are opportunities that people can get funding. That information is not readily shared. We could link and go back to support everyone. But there’s no sharing of resources. In terms of equity, that’s not equitable. We (OST providers) often have to work 40 hours a week and do this work with young people on the side. And I have no children on the district.
  • PPS would love to talk to people about these issues. What we really need is to better understand what is going on, and for people to tell us.
  • As of last week, we are at 98 partners. And when new administrators come in, things change and it can be difficult to continue to support children that way. And they want to help make processes more transparent.
  • Do you have to have to be a resident?
  • Not for a substitute position ; it might be different for a full time sub
  • I was looking at why we don’t have more diverse teachers, there’s a psych test for teachers
  • For subs that doesn’t exist. There is a physical, TB test, and clearances. Plus a bachelor’s degree or a highschool degree to be a paraprofessional. We don’t too many superstars, which is a shame because you can get just as much satisfaction being a sub. We really really need subs.
  • If you have more questions and are looking for partnership let us know.
  • What are the benefits that you’ve experienced?
  • The access to student grades allows us to access grades
  • There are lots of resources that we have that can follow-up with academic support and there’s impact there. But the thing is, we don’t always have the capacity to share our success. So much of the impact is coming from our end of the work, but that’s not acknowledged.
  • The YMCA in Homewood now has a partnership with CCAC where they are dual-enrolled and accessing college in high school. Particularly in a field that young people are excited.
  • I have creative way of forming partnerships. It’s kind of hard to get into the district. To be quite honest, it’s hard to get information from the district. In some ways I have had to say, “forget the district and go directly to the principal.” I want to challenge us to examine more creative ways in because it’s not easy to get in through the gates.
  • I think it’s important to have the conversation around access to the district.
  • Please reach out to Donnie and Tylor to get in touch and Ani will follow-up to think about additional partnerships.
  • Could we have a branch of service that connects the Recruitment Office with the Office of OST to connect rockstar OST providers and help their OST educators become subs for the day and integrate their OST programming during the day to students?
  • Ani will follow-up with Donnie and Tylor
  • Perhaps we could have a follow-up design session to think about this.

Written by

Field Director, Remake Learning Network

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade