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Arriving by Chance, but Not Without an Agenda

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Kristen Jefferson

Student Profiles: The Convocation Speakers

Kristen Jefferson
Arriving by Chance, but Not Without an Agenda
“Probably more than you bargained for—but at least you’ll have something to choose from. Don’t make it lame.”
They were Kristen Jefferson’s parting words to an interviewer to whom she had just briefly sketched out her life story, but they stand as an accurate description of Jefferson herself.
A native of San Antonio, Texas, Jefferson is half black and half Mexican; obsessed with the artist Frida Kahlo; a passionate soccer player, Spurs fan and devotee of college football; a talented singer who nearly pursued a professional career; and a lover of cheese and ice cream (“Not necessarily at the same time, but separate, they are the nectar of the Gods.”) She also is a neatness freak who likes to color-code her files.
Vocal, organized, team-oriented, independent…subtract the cheese and ice cream, and it’s not surprising to learn that Jefferson’s ultimate goal is to become a school principal. However, it’s because she’s also a self-described “horrible procrastinator” that Jefferson—who earned her undergraduate degree in sociology and Hispanic studies at Rice University in Houston—ended up attending TC at all.
“I’d never heard of it,” she says cheerfully. “I just wanted to go to education school in New York City, and I’d missed the deadlines for all the other institutions. When I got to TC for the first day of orientation and someone important went to the podium to read off impressive-sounding statistics, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I guess this is a big deal.’”
Jefferson particularly enjoyed her classes with Eleanor Drago-Severson in Organization and Leadership (“her research is all about learning to meet others where they are instead of trying to force your ways upon them”) and John Balbi in TESOL (“he’s also the principal at Corpus Cristi School, and it always impressed me that he came running from there to teach graduate classes from 5:20 till 9 p.m. and still had so much energy”), but she says her most important experience at TC was serving as coordinator for the Cahn Fellows, a program that each year brings together a cohort of top New York City principals for professional development and shared problem solving.
“I’ve gotten to go behind the scenes to see what it takes to run a school,” she says. “Those principals never cease to amaze me with their dedication, expertise and innovation. It’s the first time I’ve ever sat in the middle of a group of professionals and doubted whether I could do what they do, as well as they do it. But they’ve also taught me that as long as you’re driven, open-minded and surround yourself with smart people, it can be done.”
Jefferson says she wants to teach for the next five to eight years, then take on administrative roles and eventually become a principal.
“Hopefully I’ll be a good one, and hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain stable mental health and some sort of personal life,” she says. “After that, I’m going to Disneyland.”
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