A New Role for Aija Simmons
We are excited to announce that Aija Simmons is our new Associate Director of Teacher Leadership. For years Aija has been our model at Mills Teacher Scholars for what it means when a teacher embraces an inquiry stance towards teaching. Aija fluently articulates the questions she has about how her students are learning and what it is that she wants them to learn. She locates, collects, and collaboratively analyzes student learning data around these questions in order to make informed instructional decisions. She publicly models her own thinking process and supports her colleagues as they grapple with their own questions of practice and as they develop their instructional leadership capacities.
This year Aija will be busy leading our work with Emery Unified, continuing to co-direct our Teacher Leader Network, and co-develop our Coaching Through Inquiry framework. She will bring her adult coaching expertise to New Highland Academy (NHA) where she will support new teachers at NHA to take an inquiry stance, and she will support our thriving partnership with Oakland Unified’s Social Emotional Learning and Leadership Department.
Aija brings a wealth of experience and knowledge including a deep understanding of Mills Teacher Scholars’ goals and vision, expertise gained through years of leadership through Oakland Unified initiatives, the Bay Area Writing Project and though her work for the past four years on the Mills Teacher Scholars team. Importantly for our teacher-led organization, she brings the perspective of the classroom teacher.
After receiving her Masters at Mills College, Aija collaborated with Mills Teacher Scholars on the Novice Teachers of Color Inquiry Network. In the Network Aija supported Mills Teacher Scholars and researchers to understand the assumptions that we and the system carry about teachers of color—particularly assumptions about how they will relate to their students of color in terms of life experiences and educational challenges.
After the research project ended were lucky to have her jump aboard our cross-district inquiry group, the Scholars Group. She subsequently brought Mills Teacher Scholars inquiry to New Highland Academy, where she taught fifth grade, and later began to co-lead our Teacher Leader Network.