Dakota Punzel is our new Program Coordinator for the A+ Alabama Best Practices Center. Learn more about his background below.
By Dakota Punzel
I am thrilled to join the A+ team! I have really enjoyed my first couple of weeks in my new role, and I’m looking forward to helping teachers provide great schools for every child.
As Program Coordinator, I will be helping plan, coordinate, and evaluate our Powerful Conversations Network, Key Leaders Network, Instructional Partners Network, and our summer Institutes.
Before hopping on board the A+ train, I served in many different non-profit organizations in several diverse roles. One of these organizations gave me the opportunity to teach reading over the summer. This unique experience teaching students in grades K-12 was one I will not forget. It taught me so much about the demands of the profession, the craft of teaching, and about myself.
While I only had a fraction of the responsibilities that a traditional teacher does, it was still one of the most challenging positions that I have ever held. Teaching from the front of the room, student engagement, evaluation, and classroom management were things that were not only mentally draining, but physically draining as well. Teaching is really hard work!
The job gave me an even deeper appreciation for what educators do every day. It was also the most rewarding experience of my professional career. Being able to see the excitement that students experience when breaking through a reading barrier is second to none. Being able to contribute to student success by helping teachers is something that I am eager to experience as I begin my work with the Best Practices Center.
Some skills I bring to the work
Immediately prior to joining ABPC, I worked with the Edmundite Missions in Selma which operates a nutrition center and many other social services in the community. There, I served as the Executive Assistant to the CEO.
In addition to the implied administrative nature of this position, I was also entrusted with facilitating the various organizational events throughout the year. This gave me the chance to hone my logistics, event management, and vendor relations skills. I am excited to now utilize these abilities here at ABPC.
A little more about me
Before starting my career, I attended Troy University in Troy, Alabama. There I earned a B.A. in Sport and Fitness Management with a dual minor in Global Business and Leadership Development. Following graduation from Troy, my wife Andrea and I moved to the Montgomery area.
Through mutual friends, we met Emily Strickland, the previous ABPC Program Coordinator, and Megan Skipper, the A+ Education Partnership’s Communications Director. Emily and Megan became good friends and left me with no doubt that A+ hires excellent people.
I have another A+ connection as well. I graduated from Cleveland High School in Blount County, where I happened to take AP Literature with Dr. Stoney Beavers, ABPC’s recently hired Assistant Director. Small world! All of these connections, the interview process, and the organizational values expressed by ABPC leader Cathy Gassenheimer and others, showed me that A+ and ABPC is where I want to be.
In my spare time, I like to read. I am currently powering through book 5 of 7 in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Series. Much like the plot of the story, my journey to finish the series has been wrought with distractions and the occasional side quest. However, I am determined to be finished before 2021!
Andrea and I have five dogs: a Walker Coon Hound, Red Heeler, Blue Heeler, Black Lab mix, and a Heinz 57. A cat also joined the family recently and soon we will have a fully functioning zoo. (Look for the billboards when we open!) We enjoy involving our motley crew of furry friends as we pursue various outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and swimming. I also enjoy going to the gym, woodworking, and cooking.
I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in all of our networks during the coming year. Until we’re able to gather together again in person, be safe and stay in touch with us through this blog, our websites and social media. See you soon!