Meet the CSO: Jeff Maxwell
October 31, 2018
Jeff Maxwell joined the GVSU Charter Schools Office in the fall of 2018 as a School Support Specialist. He brings 15 years of urban education experience to the CSO, and is passionate about instructional coaching, developing systematic improvement plans, and analyzing student work.
Jeff was born and raised in Southeast Michigan. He and his family lived in Romeo until he was 10, and then moved to Grosse Pointe for the remainder of his K-12 education. Jeff always had a passion for life sciences and knew as a teenager that he wanted to have a career as a science teacher. Upon graduating from high school, he enrolled at Michigan State University to study biology and zoology and pursue his dream.
By the time he was a senior at MSU, Jeff was anxious to get into the classroom. To do so, he joined Teach for America in 2004 and was placed in a school in Chicago where he taught science courses for three years. From there he joined the Noble Network of Charter Schools, working for three years at Pritzker College Prep. During his time at Pritzker, Jeff served as the 11th-grade lead teacher and was part of a staff that turned Pritzker into one of Chicago’s fastest growing schools.
In 2010 Jeff returned to Michigan with aspirations of becoming a school leader and starting a charter school in Detroit that resembled the Noble Network's schools. He got his first taste of life as a school leader when he served as principal at Southeastern High School in Detroit. After two years in that role, he accepted the principal position at Voyager College Prep, fulfilling the opportunity he was seeking to develop a school through his own vision.
When Jeff is not working to assist educators in GVSU’s charter schools, he is designing workshops that primarily focus on using data to drive instruction.
We sat down with Jeff to get to know a little more about how he inspires educators.
What is usually one piece of advice you offer to new school leaders?
Make sure you understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day. I encourage them to think critically about the top three or five priorities that you want to get right in the first few years. You can’t do everything well right away, so it’s about doing a few things really well and then adding on from there.
How about advice for new teachers?
Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Building relationships is incredibly important. A lot of people think that that has to be done in isolation, but that’s not necessarily the case. You can build relationships while teaching your content; it doesn’t need to be done in a silo. The more you can demonstrate care and support to your kids, the more they will buy in to what you are teaching them.
Are there any books you would recommend that would be beneficial – professionally or personally – for us to read?
As a science teacher, I go to those that are practical. I really found “ Teach Like A Champion ” and “ Teach Like A Champion 2.0 ” to be incredible resources. Every time I pick them up I find something else that dynamically changes the way I teach. Those books will make you a better teacher tomorrow just by reading a chapter or section. Then, from a school leader’s standpoint, I would recommend “ Leverage Leadership .”
What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy watching sports. I’m working on getting myself back in shape and would like to start playing hockey again. I always enjoy spending time with my wife and daughters. I also enjoy playing guitar when I can. I’m certainly not very good, but I enjoy music and playing music.