How To Be An… Education Policy Advisor: Tonya Moore

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Life is rarely without its challenges. At several points in everyone’s life there are small and big problems to solve. Of course experience makes you more capable of solving the various problems you encounter but a rarely celebrated fact is math can also exercise your problem-solving muscles. Taking what you have (your knowns) and using it to get what you need or want (your unknowns) is a thrilling undertaking that builds confidence and develops critical thinking skills that can be applied to any aspect of life, which must be what Tanya Moore discovered after majoring in Math in college and then going on to help shape local educational policy. With science and technology fields needing more diversity, Tanya also serves on the board Building Diversity in Science (BDIS) with the hope of encouraging more people of color to get wind of the power of numbers and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

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Name: Tanya Moore

Age: 41

Location: San Francisco – Bay Area, California

Profession: Education Policy Advisor, Women’s Math Conference Organizer, Mom

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How did you get started?

Growing up I wanted to be an actress, writer, psychologist or a revolutionary—in short, by the time I got to college I had no idea what I wanted as a career. With the encouragement of one of my professors at Spelman College, I decided to major in mathematics and that was the start of a whole new world being opened up to me. Learning math helped me to develop a strong mind and it taught me how to think strategically. It also created a pathway for me to continue my education beyond college, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be a “professional student” in math and statistics, earning a doctorate in Biostatistics from U.C. Berkeley and completing a post-doc at UCLA.

Now I work in local government on policy and initiatives focused on improving educational outcomes for all young people. Additionally, I serve on the board of a non-profit organization called, Building Diversity in Science (BDIS). The mission of BDIS is to cultivate, develop and sustain a student’s spark and interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields so that they ultimately decide to pursue careers in STEM. One national event for BDIS that was truly inspired by professors at Spelman College is the Infinite Possibilities Conference (IPC)—a Women’s Math Conference for underrepresented minorities. I have had the opportunity to co-chair this conference every two years for the past nine years. The aim of IPC is to connect, empower and inspire women of color whom are students and professionals that share a love for mathematics.

What’s an average day like?

Mornings are my favorite time of day, so on an average day, I wake up at 5am to have time for myself before everyone else in the house wakes up. During this quiet time, I do some combination of meditation, yoga, writing in my journal or reading something inspirational. After having kids I felt pretty disconnected from myself, and while everything was going okay in life, there was a general feeling of being unsettled in myself. When I turned 40 I made the decision to make the spiritual part of my life as much of a priority as family, work and service commitments. Having this morning time, whether it’s 15 minutes or on a good day an hour, helps me in being more present with others, and clearer about important decisions I have to make each day.

During the day I work with teachers, administrators, counselors, community leaders and youth providers on developing and implementing ways to work together in order to have the greatest positive impact on youth in our community. As much as possible we use data and evaluation information to guide our strategies, policies and programmatic efforts. This also includes looking at the fiscal investments in youth programs and services to ensure that resources allocated towards youth are in alignment with our City’s goals and priorities. I believe in the wisdom of the biblical verse, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

After work, I start my second shift and between my husband and I we tag team on dinner and bedtime routines for our children. Some evenings I spend time planning for IPC or on work for BDIS.

Why do you do it?

In high school I had an incredible teacher, Mr. Richard Navies, who taught African American history and instilled in us the importance of always giving back to your community. I took that to heart. Growing up I had a lot of adults in my life that supported me, encouraged me, and I know it made a difference in my life. It helped me to believe in a positive future for myself, and I want to make sure that other young people, despite the circumstances of their life, can believe in their future as well.

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Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job?

The hardest part of my job is the necessity to factor in all of the political considerations of a decision, or trying to coordinate individual agendas from different organizations to move towards a common goal. The most exciting part is to see improvements in the educational achievement of youth, to have an opportunity to be inspired by an innate talent of a young person or to have the honor in supporting a colleague’s vision materialize.

Your greatest achievement so far?

Hands down, my two children, Solomon and Seraphina—although I don’t know how much credit I can take for how amazing they are. Children really do come to this earth as they are.

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What might be next for you?

In terms of the future, it’s not so much about a specific job or career for me, but rather it’s about how I relate to my work and to the people in my life. I want to continue cultivating the courage and faith to express all of who I am and to allow my decisions in life to be led by my spirit and my heart. I want to be more intentional and purposeful with the work that I do so I can make a greater impact in the world so that more young people believe in and can actualize a successful future for their lives.

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What are your top go-to hair tips?

  • I love Mixed Chicks leave-in conditioner, it holds the curls well without having to use hair gel which sometimes can leave my hair to “crunchy.”
  • I make a point to only shampoo just once or twice a week, but conditioner is a must every day.
  • For the longest time I would try to be frugal when it came to spending money on cutting my hair (curls can be very forgiving!). But, I finally started investing in getting a good hair cut and, wow, what a difference it makes when you start with a good shape.
  • When I wear my hair straight, I wrap it at night in a silk scarf to protect the press and to minimize dryness and frizz.

Fun Fact: I love yoga and recently became a certified yoga instructor. When I can, I teach classes at my church or at different sites in the community—it’s been a great way to take care of myself and to feel a greater sense of connection and community.

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