How This Former Teacher Is Increasing Support for Educators
Julio Chow-Gamboa, a senior manager on CZI’s education team, is using his classroom experience to create a more diverse and well-prepared educator workforce that gives students the opportunity to thrive.
Julio Chow-Gamboa and his team partner with grantees focused on creating relationship-centered spaces, collaborative communities and peer mentorship. (Photo courtesy of Julio Chow-Gamboa)
The people closest to our society’s most pressing issues should be the ones to inform solutions and drive change. So when we say to “stay close to the work” at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we mean it. Our teams partner with diverse educators, families, community leaders and organizations, scientists and more to make sure the voices of those most impacted are always heard.
In this edition of Stay Close to the Work, you’ll meet Julio Chow-Gamboa, a senior manager for educator capacity. As a former teacher, Julio knows firsthand the challenges educators face in and out of the classroom. So much so, he joined the philanthropy sector to find ways to support students and teachers so they can thrive. Get to know how Julio has leveraged his upbringing and classroom experience to achieve this mission.
While the issues within our education system are complex, at CZI, I feel we have an opportunity to move the needle for students and teachers.
Tell us about what you do at CZI.
The core of my work at CZI is making grants to organizations creating a more diverse, well-prepared, and supported educator workforce. Our grantees focus on creating relationship-centered spaces, collaborative communities, and peer mentorship as levers toward increasing support for the holistic needs of educators.
We believe that taking care of teachers, and moving towards systemic changes to make teaching a more sustainable career, will significantly impact student outcomes and well-being. We also believe that a more diverse educator workforce will have positive benefits for all students, and students of color in particular.
How did you come to be part of the CZI team? Tell us about your journey.
I was a teacher in Oakland, California, after college. I taught at a school for immigrant and refugee teenagers. As much as I loved that work, I encountered systemic challenges outside my control. I wanted to help address these challenges for students and teachers. This led me to a role as a consultant at an education philanthropy.
Tell us more about how your work at CZI relates to who you are and your values.
Both my parents were public school teachers, and I grew up in a home where education was seen as the best possible lever for living a choice-filled life. For my parents, there was value in a life of intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, and using one’s life to try and leave the world better than we found it. My dad emigrated from Mexico when he was 25. While he had dropped out after middle school, he eventually got his GED, bachelor’s and master’s degrees here in the United States. My mom actually taught at my high school and was my teacher for a semester. That’s all to say, growing up in a family of educators I saw how rewarding that work could be and how many challenges there were to teaching being a sustainable career.
Balancing the demands of work and life can be challenging. What are some of your favorite ways to prioritize self-care?
I always feel like I am still learning how to do this, but there are a few things that keep me grounded. I enjoy spending time outdoors with my spouse and baby. And I love sitting by the ocean or walking through the forest. At home, I cook and share meals with friends.
Thankfully, I have also found people and moments inside CZI where I feel I can be joyful, which brings balance to our work.
What’s an education project you’d like to shine a light on?
The pandemic has taken a toll on teachers and turnover has always been detrimental to student outcomes, and now many more teachers are considering leaving the profession. Teachers are exhausted and overwhelmed, with many citing compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and feelings of being disrespected as reasons why they may leave sooner than expected. I am grateful that we are able to provide support to incredible organizations at this critical time.
Our teacher well-being portfolio — grants aimed at combating teacher burnout by supporting their well-being — was one of the most significant projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on. Thanks to cross-team collaboration, we were able to support 10 organizations across the country.
What do you enjoy most about your team and CZI as a whole?
At CZI, I have the opportunity to be part of a team of brilliant, inspiring education leaders trying to impact education nationally. I’m continually challenged to think more deeply and wrestle complexity — and feel supported in doing so.
We get to support outstanding grantees. The organization leaders I’ve had the privilege of meeting are inspiring. And while the issues within our education system are complex, at CZI, I feel we have an opportunity to move the needle for students and teachers.