Beyond Philosophies: How we draw candidates unique to your needs

What does it mean to be intentional about a search process? In action, creating recruitment processes with intentionality requires an honest assessment connecting all stakeholders throughout the organization. When we worked with Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI) this summer, we met an unique individual, a BATTI alum, that truly modelled the program's outcomes and inspired part of our application process. 

Gabriel Lucas

Nov 18, 2020

Beyond Philosophies: How we draw candidates unique to your needs

Children from a young age need well-trained, experienced teachers to develop the fundamental skills that will enable them to tackle more complex problems as they get older. Although most educators have a Bachelor’s or a background in education, structured teaching apprenticeships are harder to find. That’s where the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI), based in Oakland, California, comes into the picture, providing both theoretical and experiential training to local teachers such as Marikah Burnett.

Marikah Burnett (BATTI class of 2008) is entering her third-year of teaching at Cobb Elementary School, part of the San Francisco Unified School District. From the time she started at BATTI’s program, Marikah knew she wanted to be a public school teacher, but she also knew she wasn't quite ready to run her own classroom. Today, thanks to BATTI’s robust teacher development program, she can identify and counter the systemic inequalities that exist within our educational system. "I was aware of these injustices before, but it’s been a bit jarring to witness it first hand. It is important to me to create a space where students can bring their whole selves to school — something I wasn’t able to do when I was in elementary school."

We are excited to join BATTI as their retained search firm to help them hire their second-ever  executive director to continue their vision of training the next generation of educators and leaders. In this series, we are excited to share 12M’s process as we undertake this search in partnership with BATTI. 


Since 2002, BATTI has supported nearly 500 aspiring educators in gaining master's degrees and multiple-subject credentials through two years of intense classroom study and on-the-job mentoring. Now in 2020, BATTI seeks an executive director with a passion and expertise for teacher development, as well as a systematic and relational mindset for running and growing an association of partner schools, teacher residents, and university instructors. This one of a kind position starts July 1, 2021 and reports to the board of directors.

Since its inception, BATTI has benefited from the able leadership of its founding executive director, who will retire next June after nearly twenty years of service. What resonated so much with Micaela Andres (Associate at 12M Recruiting) and I was BATTI’s commitment to local Bay Area teachers. We knew that 12M would be a great fit for BATTI’s search because of the deep connections we have with a variety of parallel local industries in the region.

Research has shown that to deliver excellent pedagogy requires not just a practicum of knowledge but also extensive apprenticeship. Thus, institutions that provide both theoretical and experiential training to future elementary school teachers fill a critical role in the larger educational ecosystem. 

At BATTI, the combination of theoretical and experiential training looks like hands-on training to paid teacher-residents employed by a coalition of independent, public, and charter schools in combination with two years of graduate-level instruction in advanced pedagogy. Teaching residents receive daily support from their lead mentors and monthly observational visits from university supervisors. In the evening, seminar-style classes led by university instructors help to connect experiential learning to theoretical pedagogy. Because of this proven two-part model of practice and theory, 80% of recent BATTI graduates are still in the classroom as compared to the 50% of educators who graduated from traditional graduate studies in education programs.

Crafting an opportunity statement

As a third-generation San Franciscan, I am well versed in and networked with foundations and institutions of higher education, K-12, and the arts throughout the Bay Area that could provide ideal candidates for our search.  Micaela and I have spent the last four months intensely getting to know the committee, the BATTI community, the organization, and everything about the program — so we could develop a customized, inspiring, mission-aligned opportunity statement to attract the most qualified and enthusiastic candidates. 

We knew that BATTI’s next executive director had to be an inspiring, compassionate, thoughtful, and relational leader who makes an effort to not just know everyone involved with BATTI but also support their personal journeys. During our “Assess” phase, we started with tough and honest conversations and conducted a thorough needs assessment via direct conversations with a variety of BATTI constituents: staff, board members, instructors, supervisors, and former students, among others. That’s when I met Burnett, whose story I shared above. 

What struck me about Burnett was her insightful understanding of the multifaceted training BATTI provided. At Burnett’s first class at BATTI, “Transformative Education,” she was able to go in-depth on topics that covered race and identity. “We did an identity deep dive, and that whole experience changed me," says Burnett. "It gave me a chance to unpack things personally, and it developed in me a deep passion for social justice.”

Upon assessing the needs and immersing ourselves in the BATTI community, we immediately recognized that despite the standard title of executive director, we were working with a very unique organization with a specialized mission. 

With this intention, we began to craft the opportunity statement. Our methodology requires applicants to submit four documents: a resume, cover letter, references, and an essay answering a writing prompt. That essay is critical, but only if the prompt is laser focused for the situation at hand. While many search firms just ask for an "educational philosophy statement,” we avoid this for several reasons. 

  • First, those standard educational philosophy statements provide very little insight on a candidate's ability to think dynamically about this particular role. Often, candidates will not tailor the statement to each position. As a result, we would end up sorting through vague writing without being able to intentionally spot candidates that could match well with the community we are serving. 
  • Second, because those statements are so abstract, we believe it disadvantages nontraditional candidates. A prompt that asks a very general question is going to implicitly reward general answers tied to a previous track record and career history — which will lean in the direction of those who are industry insiders. 
  • Third, we believe that the entire search process should be mission-aligned from start to finish, and what better way to kick that off than with a mission-aligned prompt.

Recruiting with intention

For every search we run at 12M, we construct a unique writing prompt particular to the needs of the client. The writing prompt we generated for BATTI went through a few iterations. Among the first drafts was this one: It is July 1, 2020, and you have been hired as a curriculum design expert for BATTI to help reimagine the courses that comprise the Master’s program, all of which are listed at Your first assignment is to work with the co-professors of “Issues in Urban Education.” What specific content, critical topics, and general guidance would you offer for a course like this, and how would you approach the task of helping two experienced professors reimagine and improve their course? Upon review, BATTI’s search committee had mentioned that expertise in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) was a major component of what they were looking for. They felt that BATTI could do more for the teachers of color in their community and knew that their DEI curriculum could be improved. Thus, it felt prudent to inject the topic into the prompt. But it didn’t make sense to be so literal and just go with “Tell us about your philosophy on DEI.” At this critical juncture, my conversation with Marikah Burnett stood out to me. Her moment of personal transformation was quite powerful and in line with the work that BATTI strives for. It made perfect sense to connect the prompt to her story. Hence, the prompt took on its current form:

It is the summer of 2021, and you have just been hired as the new executive director for BATTI. One of your first responsibilities is to plan a one-day retreat for all instructors. You were inspired by the story in this document of how BATTI guided Marikah in a journey of personal discovery that culminated in her deeper commitment to social justice. Now you would like to lay the groundwork for augmenting the BATTI curriculum in the 2021-2022 year so that even more students have opportunities for similar transformative experiences. How would you lead the faculty in this conversation, and what specific knowledge, guidance, frameworks, and calls to action would you offer them?

Our final writing prompt is clear, vicarious, and most of all, intentional. This commitment to intentionality is just one of the ways that 12M works to find the best candidates for your executive search. Just as we did with BATTI, we spend months getting to know your organization from those who you serve to those who lead in order to assess your needs and draw candidates best suited for the role you seek to fill. 

For more information on our services and methodology, please browse our website or reach out to us at

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