The Education Trust-Midwest's Center for Excellence Teaching and Learning instructor says children are her calling.
Dr. Tambrelyn Quick always wanted to become a writer, but, to her delight, life went sideways. To call Quick's journey a winding one would be an oversimplification. Throughout her career, she never seemed to take the straight path – zigzags, curves and unplanned destinations have come to define 25 years as an educator and advocate for learning, because, as she says, all students can achieve.
Quick, a Detroit native and proud DPS graduate – Cass Technical High School – never wandered far from a life in education, despite her journalistic hopes. The daughter of a school secretary, she had family members who were teachers and principals and, in a way, the stage was already set. After graduating from William Tyndale College with a bachelor's degree in written communications, she still had dreams of finding a newspaper job. Then, something happened: An opportunity came to teach writing to seventh and eighth graders at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple Christian Academy (now David Ellis Academy).
"That's where I realized the gift for teaching," Quick says. She traded newspaper ambition for one that required shaping young minds through language instruction. Fully committed to this path, Quick earned her master's in teaching from Wayne State University and was later employed by Detroit Public Schools as a certified teacher, starting as a language arts instructor. She got results and caught the notice of her administrators. "My students performed so well that they pulled me out the classroom and made me an instruction specialist, so I could spread things around a little bit with their struggling teachers," Quick says. "That's how I kinda got into working with kids – it was not my original plan."
Determined to make a difference, Quick embraced a nontraditional career path. As an instruction specialist, her job was to go to various struggling schools and implement changes that would help students succeed. From there, she adds, the natural progression would have been to accept an assistant principal position, but she ended up working with Inkster Public Schools' emergency manager, "as the highest-ranking educator in the district," in an effort to turn around instruction.
During this time, Quick also pursued a doctorate in education. Her experience in Inkster still haunts her to this day. It perfectly illustrates her educational philosophy – that low-achieving students, particularly those of lower incomes and minority backgrounds, matter. "When I got to Inkster, I cried," she recalls. "For the first time, I witnessed what despair looked like on the faces of children. I knew then that I had to do something – I was commissioned to do something."
Quick went to work devising educational strategies and eventually watched the test scores and graduation rates rise. The program was so successful under her watch that they opened a Gifted and Talented Academy for high-achieving students. Some even reached as high as Harvard. "Those are the kinds of things you just love to see," Quick says. "Kids surpassing their own expectations and the expectations of those around them. I perceive that in our schools today we have volumes of them that are just lying dormant, waiting for somebody to just ignite that fire – turn that light on that sends them off and running."
After leaving Inkster, Quick finally had an opportunity to serve as principal at Starr Detroit Academy, a charter school that closed in 2017. Unfortunately, Quick and the school had different visions, so she departed in 2016. Since then, Quick has worked as an instructional coach at The Education Trust-Midwest's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, tirelessly pushing toward a future where all students can learn. "I've seen children who were on a downward spiral, stop and reassess and do better and soar – it can happen," Quick adds. "So, at some point, that is what I would like to see. Until then, I will continue to champion the cause of student achievement wherever God places me – 100 percent."