An NPEA Member Spotlight On… Gateway Public Schools!

Every month, we will feature an NPEA member who recently joined. We hope you enjoy getting the chance to learn more about some of the people and organizations within our network! Interested in being included in an NPEA spotlight? Fill out this form

Get to know Sharon Olken, Executive Director of Gateway Public Schools:

Describe your program or your work in one sentence.

Gateway Public Schools is a non-profit charter school organization dedicated to changing historic patterns of achievement by ensuring our diverse student body has the habits, skills and resources necessary for success in college and beyond.

What challenges do you or your organization/school face that you were hoping to address by joining NPEA?

We are eager to improve our understanding of our alumni’s experiences and success after they graduate from Gateway – in college and beyond.  We are also interested in developing stronger relationships and partnerships with colleges and universities who are committed to supporting first generation students and students of color and helping them thrive at the post-secondary level.

What’s on your desk at the moment?

We Dare Say Love: Supporting Achievement in the Educational Life of Black Boys by Na’ilah Suad Nasir, Jarvis R. Givens, and Christopher P. Chatmon; Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond; my To-Do list and notebook; a huge water bottle; flowers from Gateway High School’s garden; and San Francisco Giants’ bobbleheads (Willie Mays and Buster Posey).

What are your goals for this year?

Going into next school year, we are excited to focus on ways to foster collaboration across organizations on behalf of students.  We hope to continue to share our student agency work through Gateway Impact and engage schools and districts in conversations about how teachers are compensated and supported in their professional growth. Over the past several years, Gateway has engaged in an ambitious teacher salary project to ensure our educators make a livable wage and launched Gateway Impact, a collaborative professional development platform sharing Gateway’s best practices and resources with educators at no cost to its users.

What have you found most helpful since you joined our network?

Specific resources related to increasing access and success in college for traditionally underrepresented students, models of successful programs and aspirational approaches, inspirational leaders and educators.

What’s a hobby you use to relax outside of work?

Cooking, reading, trying to learn Pilates. And, rooting for Bay Area sports teams!

Is there anything you’d like to share with the rest of the membership?

I have been a teacher and educational leader for more than 20 years, and in that time I have attended many education gatherings and conferences – some memorable and some not-so-much. I was totally blown away and inspired by the NPEA conference and the people I met there. What a fantastically talented and powerful group of people.