This post is part of the Career Center’s bi-weekly roundup of alumni success stories. Check out Jack Teter’s story below, and find more SuCCess Stories here!
8 Questions with Jack Teter ‘13
Grad Year: 2013
Current Job Title, Organization: Research Director, Democrats for Education Reform
What did you do after graduation?
JT: I moved up to Denver and worked on four Denver Public Schools Board of Education Races and a statewide ballot measure to 1) increase education funding and 2) completely change the tax structure that funds education away from property taxes and to an equitably distributed income tax increase. I was also a legislative aide at the State Capitol, and a campaign manager for a legislator in Colorado Springs.
What are you up to now?
JT: I’m the Research Director at Democrats for Education Reform’s Colorado office, where I work with two other people to improve access to education for kids. I live in a co-op in the Speer neighborhood in Denver with a bunch of housemates, a cat, a dog, and a vegetable garden. I’m also the secretary of the board of Inside/Out Youth Services in Colorado Springs.
It may be interesting for you to know that I was the first transgender staffer at the State Capitol, and am currently one of only a handful of trans political operatives.
Tell us about your current position:
JT: During the legislative session from January to May, I work on education policy issues at the State Capitol and the State Board of Education. Depending on the day, I might be working with legislators, testifying in a committee hearing, researching and helping draft legislation, or in stakeholder meetings or negotiations. From May to November, I work on Democratic campaigns – in odd years it’s school board races mostly, in even years it’s State House, State Senate, congressional, and this year gubernatorial campaigns. Last year, we won 29 of our 29 campaigns for democrats statewide. From November to January I’m getting ready for the session and sleeping.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
JT: Improving educational outcomes for kids by ensuring that every kid – no matter their zip code, race, or how much money their parents make – has access to a high-quality public education.
What does your typical day look like?
JT: Right now, it’s the policy part of the year. Today, I started with an 8 am meeting with the educational equity coalition. Then I walked over to meet with a group of 20 students from KIPP Colorado who were visiting the Capitol today. I don’t get to actually hang out with students very often, so I volunteered to help with their advocacy day. We did a tour of the Capitol, and they got to sit on the Senate and House floors to watch bills being debated. They also met with legislators.
After that, I met with State Representative Pete Lee, who represents the area around CC and who I worked for until 2015, to talk about a bill I’ve been working on that will be up in committee on Monday. The bill would prevent school districts from withholding student’s grades, transcripts, or diplomas due to unpaid fees or fines (for example, it’s pretty common that students who have dropped out are unable to re-enroll because they lost a textbook at some point, and their old district won’t share their transcripts and records with their new school) because it’s an absurd barrier to participation in the school system.
After that, I ate tacos on Colfax with my coworker, and now I’m at the State Board of Education across the street from the Capitol while they discuss implementing Colorado’s state plan for compliance with the new federal Every Students Succeeds Act.
Has your career path changed at all from graduation to now? If so, how?
JT: I started working in politics pretty soon after graduation (and worked for former US Senator Mark Udall while I was still in college). I’ve been bouncing back and forth from legislative work to campaign work every six months because that’s the political schedule here. I’ve had my current job since May of 2015.
What are the transferable skills you took from your liberal arts education?
JT: I studied Religion with a minor in Feminist and Gender Studies. I learned to read, write, and speak articulately. I learned to do research. I learned to resist systems of oppression with conviction. I learned about deeply-held values. It’s all transferable. I don’t wish I had studied political science – religion and gender studies were great preparation for American politics.
What advice would you give to students looking to find a job in your field?
JT: Volunteer on campaigns. Very few political jobs will be interested in hiring you if you haven’t knocked on doors. It’s one of the last meritocracies, so don’t expect to be writing speeches right away. Be humble – knock on doors in the sun, stick around, be helpful, and eventually you’ll move up. Strong writing skills are definitely one of your most valuable assets.
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