August 25, 2021 by HCDE-Texas
The Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) Teaching and Learning Center’s (TLC) new senior director sets a high standard for innovative professional development in education. Cynthia Brunswick, Ed.D., brings the comprehensive experience and insight necessary to build a support system created for educators by educators.
She will apply her expertise and lead the TLC’s endeavors to provide customized, relevant professional learning opportunities through content area specialists.
Brunswick says she was drawn to HCDE by the leadership and talent and, mostly, the chance to shape a vision for professional learning for 25 districts.
“I’m humbled by the opportunity to work in a new environment,” she said. “I recognize that I have a lot of work to do to build new relationships and to understand the Texas education system, but I think that I’ll be able to make an impact here.”
Before finding her calling in professional learning, Brunswick taught middle school for ten years in Chicago Public Schools. She says this experience motivates her every day.
“Working with [students], discovering myself as an educator, and understanding the role education plays and how critical it is in the lives of children is what grounded me in the values that I still hold dear today,” she said.
Brunswick grasps this mindset as she acknowledges how educators have been presented with unique challenges and the need to remedy COVID-19 learning loss. The disruption to traditional learning has prompted a need for innovation in schools like nothing she has seen in her career, she says.
“There’s an excitement right now in education in that we have the opportunity to think outside of the box and try things differently,” said Brunswick. “We now have school systems in need of a strategy to close the opportunity gaps that we are even more aware of than before. It presents a challenge for the TLC team, in particular, to come up with real solutions in a space that, I think, is yet to be chartered.”
Brunswick has nearly 30 years of combined experience in teaching and instructional leadership. The former director of curriculum, instruction, and talent development for the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a turnaround network that serves Chicago’s highest-needs schools, has an extensive background in envisioning and actualizing support systems for teachers and administrators.
Her roles lent the authority to enrich education communities in many ways, including founding the Chicago office of the New Teacher Center (NTC), a California-based nonprofit which specializes in new teacher support. There, she led the launch of a citywide teacher induction program—the first of its kind for the city.
Brunswick was soon promoted to senior vice president of program strategy and delivery for the NTC. She partnered with districts across the country to design coaching systems supporting new and experienced teachers as well as school and district leaders and oversaw several large-scale federal grant-funded initiatives. This induction model gained What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) approval as a proven solution for teacher effectiveness and retention and its positive impact on student outcomes. The WWC is part of the statistics, research, and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education which reviews evidence-based education programs to determine “what works.” Only three percent of all education models submitted for review receive this distinction.