The Broad Residency Class of 2012-2014
Superintendent, District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent
Initially, being part of a cohort of 50 people was daunting. But the experiences in the program that have been incredibly uncomfortable on a personal level pushed me in ways that have made me a stronger professional.
Coming from an immigrant family of humble means, Hanseul Kang was determined to work in foreign policy and international law. But while at Georgetown University, she began reflecting on her life experiences and recognized the advantages she had because of access to strong K-12 public schools. “It is completely unfair that other students didn’t have the same opportunities,” she said.
She joined Teach for America after graduation and was assigned to teach high school social studies in a rural town located in the Navajo Nation. Her classroom often lacked enough desks, chairs and supplies. It also lacked an air conditioner, meaning the room would swelter on hot days. Despite these conditions, Hanseul knew her efforts were making a real difference. “Every day, I saw how very tangible and important this work is,” she said.
After earning a law degree, she was determined to use her skills to continue serving young people, first as a managing director for Teach for America in Washington, D.C., then as chief of staff to the Tennessee state commissioner of education.
Tennessee was among the lowest performing states in the country when it won a federal five-year Race to the Top grant in 2011. Hanseul was tasked with finding ways to ensure long-term support for the resources and programs the grant enabled. When she heard about The Broad Residency, she had been charged with helping to transform and sustain the government agency serving more than 1,800 schools and nearly 1 million students. Hanseul was already familiar with the education content, but she recognized the value of the program’s leadership development and skill-building opportunities.
Once accepted into the program as an Associate Resident, she found the close collaboration with people doing groundbreaking work across the country inspired new insights into her own efforts. Hanseul also found the executive-level professional development critical to her leadership growth. “I tend to be a private person. So, initially, being part of a cohort of 50 people was daunting,” she said. “But the experiences in the program that have been incredibly uncomfortable on a personal level pushed me in ways that have made me a stronger professional.”
During her Residency, Hanseul and her team at the state department of education established protocols to increase effectiveness at all levels and improve the agency’s ability to deliver high-quality educational opportunities to all students. By 2013, Tennessee was hailed as the fastest improving state in America – with unprecedented student-achievement gains in reading and math that endure.
Now, as state superintendent of education for the District of Columbia, Hanseul is applying her past experiences and training to a range of services, from subsidized child care to adult learning to K-12 education.
No stranger to challenge, she returned to Washington ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work. “From my experience, the state education agency can make a difference,” she said. “I’m excited to work hard to ensure that all kids can live up to their potential.”
More from Hanseul Kang
I know the fears of immigrants in the schools I oversee. I was undocumented myself. - The Washington Post, May 8, 2017
"Educators can be an important source of support for students and their families. They were for me. But it should not fall on an individual principal or teacher to protect a child or a family from immigration enforcement, and no parent should have to ask them to. We have to do better for our students and for our nation." Read more.
The Broad Residency
Class of 2012-2014
Residency Role: Chief of staff, Tennessee Department of Education
J.D., Harvard Law School
B.S.F.S., international politics, Georgetown University