How I Found a Job Where I Get to Be Myself Every Day
Our mission here at The Muse is simple: to help you find your dream job. So, there’s nothing we love more than hearing about it when you do!
Today, we chatted with Isabella Maldonado, an instructional leadership specialist at public charter school system YES Prep. She’s making big waves in the education sphere, and making instructional leaders’ lives a lot easier in the process. But it’s not all work—joking around, having fun, and being your best you are highly encouraged (if not mandatory) in the office.
Tell us about yourself!
I was born and raised in New York then completed my undergraduate studies at Johns Hopkins University and my graduate studies at SUNY Stony Brook. I began my teaching career in Baltimore City Public Schools through an alternative certification program, and ended up teaching for 11 years in three different states! My previous role was as the curriculum coordinator for the Spanish department, as well as a Spanish teacher and seventh grade advisor. In my free time, I love traveling, eating, dancing, teaching Zumba, and introverting (not necessarily in that order).
What’s your title at your new role, and what does this actually mean in terms of what you’re doing day to day?
I’m a specialist in instructional leadership initiatives, which means I have the pleasure of being a part of our academics team and working on our teacher evaluation system. I collaborate with instructional leaders to ensure that teachers are receiving regular evaluations and feedback; I provide trainings on how to use the website that holds all of our data and prepare and analyze reports related to teacher evaluations and advancement; and I will also be revamping the section of our website that relates to our teacher career pathway.
What were you looking for in a job?
I was looking for an organization that matched my values, as opposed to a particular role or job title. Once I identified companies that fit that mold—which The Muse helped me do—I looked for roles within them that matched my skill set. I wanted a company that seeks out and nurtures diversity, is actively involved in social justice issues, shows appreciation to its employees, values who we are as individuals, and fosters a healthy work-life balance. A fun and quirky office culture was definitely on my checklist as well!
What attracted you to the job when you found it on The Muse?
I knew about YES Prep already but learned about my position through The Muse, and it just seemed like a great fit. After having been in the classroom for some time, I wanted to move into a position that would allow me to have an impact beyond just my classroom, department, or even school. This role allows me to work with instructional leaders at all 16 of our campuses. It’s an exciting change of pace!
What’s something most people would find surprising about working at YES Prep?
To me, the most surprising thing is how diverse of an organization we are. The even greater thing is that our CEO says we still have more work to do. I feel so proud to be part of an organization that seeks to be inclusive and representative of the backgrounds of the students and communities that we serve.
Also, we have random pop-up karaoke parties!
What’s your favorite part so far about working at YES Prep?
My favorite part of working at YES Prep is that I’m able to truly be myself and inject my personality and humor into my work. In fact, humor is very much appreciated!
Learn More About Working at YES Prep
What are some of your favorite things to work on?
The majority of my work right now is creating presentations, screencasts, training videos, and newsletters, which I really enjoy doing. I’m learning new technology and using it in a meaningful way that helps people to do their jobs better. While each project is different, I love that what I do helps make people’s lives easier.
Is there anything from The Muse that helped you out in your job hunt?
The overarching theme for me throughout my job hunt was that The Muse gave me hope.
Before landing my current job at YES Prep, I’d spent three years at three different schools because I was searching for a place where I truly belonged and would be accepted and appreciated. Seeing The Muse feature companies that were doing important and meaningful work, while also providing flexibility, balance, and fun, helped me stay motivated in my search. I knew that if others could find places that provided them with such joy, I could too.
Is there anything in particular you did during your application process that you think helped you stand out and land the job?
I tried to be my authentic self and answer questions honestly, especially about challenges that I’ve faced in my career and mistakes I’ve made along the way. I think that being vulnerable is extremely important, in particular when applying to positions that involve collaboration and teamwork. I wanted to show my potential employer that I’m solutions oriented and that I also possess the emotional intelligence to help me get to those solutions as part of a team.
What advice would you have for someone who wants a job like yours?
Be fearless! If you’re afraid of change or to take risks, you also risk remaining stuck or unhappy. I believe that jobs and relationships are very similar—if you and the job are not right for each other, even after trying to work through your issues, you shouldn’t feel guilty about moving on. Each one is a learning experience and an opportunity for you to grow, even if it’s not long-term. As cliché as it sounds, life’s too short to remain unhappy in any aspect of your life.
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