Staff Profile: Dr. Katy Giovanisci
Dr. Katy Giovanisci: Agora’s Resident Adventurer Turns Exploration into Stellar Education.
From the journal of: Katy Giovanisici
Position: Director of Curriculum
Years in the Agora family: One (as of April 2022)
Home base: Lafayette Hill, PA
Dr. Giovanisci (Katy) was born into a family of education-minded individuals, and she has surrounded herself with—as well as become a member of—an influential group of voracious learners and teachers her entire life. Katy’s mother worked on the team of a local school district, and with great interest Katy looked on as her brother journeyed along the path of becoming a teacher. But perhaps her greatest inspiration came early on in her life, as Katy strove to emulate her father, who taught AP Government at her local high school and later coached school sports teams. Once she had the opportunity to experience him “in action” in the classroom, the drive to teach and make her mark on the world of education really began to take form in Katy’s life vision.
Katy spent her senior college semester at sea, earning credits in geography, journal writing and, what to this day defines her unique contributions to the Agora community—interpersonal communications. This educational adventure—took her through incredible learning experiences in Russia, Norway, Greece, Italy, Egypt, and Morocco—immersed her in a diversity of people, cultures, values and ways of life that shaped Katy’s determination to always honor and respect everyone.
The journey to Agora
Katy majored in secondary English communications education at Penn State and then pursued her master’s and PhD in education while she worked in the classroom. During her early experiences as a middle school English teacher, Katy married her passion for travel with her new role as a teacher. She became a chaperon for the People to People International Foundation and once again found herself traveling and engaging with new cultures, only this time with the added layer of experiencing it through the lens of the students under her wing.
During one People to People experience, a student lost his passport and couldn’t return home with the rest of the group. Katy stayed with him for an additional two days in New Zealand. “I think it was through this experience that I truly learned the importance of thinking of other people first—and how to do that.”
Many other educational and professional pursuits helped to shape Katy’s journey to Agora. She became an Instructional Coach to enrich her knowledge and skills in data-literacy—interpreting and using data from various sources to improve outcomes for students. She engaged in professional development initiatives and gained a deeper appreciation for the power that comes from parent participation. She also learned how to lead the “courageous conversations” that advance goals for increased equity and diversity in education. Along the way, Katy met and was mentored by many female role models she credits with teaching her how to approach issues and capitalize on moments to build communities and nurture people to get to their next place in life.
Being the difference
“Through my career, I evolved into an educator focused on creating strong coursework aligned with the lenses of students and educational visions. Everything became human-centered, and I wanted a place where I could put this into practice fully.” Katy’s first interaction with Agora was when she was exploring options for her son, who is on the spectrum. Katy and her husband have two sons, ages 9 and 10, and a 4-year-old daughter. As a parent and an educator, she saw a piece of herself in every aspect of Agora. “There was something in the way it was crafted that drew me in. Everything was thoughtful and research based. Then, when I interviewed for the position, everyone was involved to make sure I was a fit for Agora, Agora was a fit for me and most importantly if I joined the team, students would benefit. I knew right away Agora is a place where people are valued. Staff is valued. Opinions are valued. Students are valued.”
Katy joined Agora as Director of Curriculum in April 2021 and hit the ground running, showing her incredible value in everything from creating a more robust STEAM platform to implementing steps to keep up with needs as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. To make a difference at Agora, Katy has two main pillars. The first is her eye for data literacy. Here, Katy is taking her statistics-oriented, personalized solution-building background and applying it to the Agora formula to open up new possibilities for teachers, staff and the entire Agora family. “We are proving there is more than one way to educate a child and create a truly nurturing learning community.”
Katy’s second pillar for being the difference is rooted in her many life adventures. Every day her colleagues and Agora students and parents see how Katy translates the many “high-powered” experiences she’s had into educational growth and excellence. This is evident in the way she appreciates the individuality of every student and staff member—and how she works to bring out those unique attributes and nurture them to jell with others, as well as for the greater good. “I really value the contributions of others. My team at Agora is awesome, and we work together so well. The students are awesome, too. I know everyone has something different and wonderful to offer. My role is to understand everyone’s true talents, help them explore those talents and let them showcase them.”
The next chapter
Katy is certain she will continue her own formal and informal education on an ongoing basis to enrich her ability to fulfill her roles at Agora. Still relatively new to her position—she will celebrate one year at Agora in April 2022—Katy acknowledges that she is also still in the learning process and for now is not putting any limitations on what her curriculum team and the other Agora departments will set out to achieve. But she does know one thing: She is serious about her responsibility to help ensure Agora continues to rise higher and higher as the standard for not just cyber school excellence, but for educational excellence across the board.