(Then and Now) Quinton “Quinn” Vance, KIPP NYC Managing Director of Elementary Schools

Twenty-five years into his career as an educator, Quinn Vance remains keenly motivated by systemic impact. He has helped to create high-quality schools for thousands of students, supporting the opening of four KIPP elementary schools in New York City and then five additional schools in Texas. After seven years away, including time at the KIPP Foundation supporting regional leadership development across the country, he has returned to KIPP NYC to support the next generation of elementary school principals. Quinn came back to New York because he craved that direct interaction with principals and time in the classroom with students: 

“I was hungry for the opportunity to get back into schools and have the proximity to teachers and kids. I get to provide thought leadership and counsel on a daily basis. The job of supporting principals is to be a facilitator of their development and the plans they’re trying to implement. A good manager is someone who has enough experience to pressure test the things the principals want to do.” 

Maylien Herm, Principal of KIPP Infinity Elementary School, had this to say about Quinn’s leadership: “I had heard about how Quinn was an important part of KIPP NYC history, and how helpful he would be as my new manager. He has constantly been there when I needed support and his advice is grounded in years of wisdom at KIPP. He’s so quickly become a part of this Team & Family again.”

Returning to his previous role supporting elementary principals, but this time during a pandemic that has forced the majority of elementary students into remote school, was not what Quinn envisioned for his first year back in NYC. Nevertheless, he is taking advantage of the silver linings:

“Whether in person or remote, how do you get proximate to the things that matter [in a school]? We have the technology to record, jump into classrooms, and observe instruction without the friction of transit, schedules, etc. The number one job is looking at what you believe should be happening and diagnosing what is exactly happening.” 

We know that crisis creates opportunity and this one has given us a chance to question what most educators didn’t think was possible. In the future, Quinn expects to see schools maintain consistent instruction when students are unable to attend in person. We should also expect to see schools leverage technology to improve how we differentiate instruction for students who learn at varying levels in the same classroom.

“In the past, our default strategy was more time with a teacher, and while that’s critical, teachers are a scarce resource in our environment and we are realizing that some of these platforms can be really robust. We can create online, asynchronous content that’s tailored. For example, a self-guided science lesson for a student who is excelling and needs additional material.”

Even with all of the new technology we’ve adopted to deliver school remotely, nearly one year into the pandemic Quinn acknowledges that it hasn’t gotten much easier as a parent himself:

“I have three kids and it’s exhausting; at least one of my kids is struggling every day. The thing that works for me is to be honest with them about how I’m feeling and give them space to tell me how they’re feeling. I ask them, ‘How was your day? What was hard?’ and I share the same. I create a space to talk it through. This doesn’t get easier until it gets better.”