Monday through Friday at 4:30 a.m., while most Americans are still sleeping soundly, the principal of Boston’s Media and Technology Charter High (MATCH) School and Dartmouth alum Jorge Miranda,’01, slips out of bed and tries not to wake his wife. If he’s lucky, he’ll get a workout in at the gym before heading off to his fourteen-hour workday. The school he oversees is no ordinary center of learning. Besides the fact that it is a charter school for underprivileged inner-city kids that selects its student body through a random lottery, MATCH School classes end at 5:00 p.m. and both the students and Jorge himself remain on campus for after-school programs until dinner is served after 7:00 p.m. Wait ‘til you hear the rest.
Jorge’s daily schedule goes as follows: From 6:30 to 7:45 a.m.he answers e-mail and convenes with staff members and school leaders to talk about issues from the previous day. He then makes his way to the entrance of the school where he greets every single student that walks through the doors, shaking their hands and asking them why they come to school. Their answer: “to learn.” Jorge engages the students this way for forty-five minutes at which point his schedule syncs up with theirs.
“My day is defined by periods,” he says. “School periods.”
While the students attend their first class, Jorge meets with teachers and parents. But even when he has a prior engagement, the needs of the students come first.
“If a student comes in crying or upset for whatever reason, then I will cancel what I had and see them. They are the priority,” he says.
The remainder of Jorge’s morning consists of a mixture of student meetings.
“I like to check in with the students frequently. If someone is struggling, we meet to talk about what is happening and how we can fix it. Those meetings continue long-term,” he explains.
Jorge also talks with parents frequently in order to build substantial relationships with them.
“If we are going to be telling parents that we want their child at school until 8:00 at night, they need to trust us,” he says. “So we build a rapport. We touch base. I make phone calls to them with good news as well as news that might be concerning.”
The personal connections that Jorge builds with students and parents certainly shows. Just the other night, he got a call at 11:00 p.m.—past his bedtime—from a student who was having family problems. The student’s mother only speaks Spanish, and as Jorge is fluent in the language, he was on the phone with the mother for one hour mediating between family members. When unexpected incidents like this keep him up later than intended, he doesn’t make it to the gym the next morning. It’s part of the job, he says.
Another large portion of Jorge’s day is spent interviewing applicants for the school’s unique tutoring program. Each year, forty-five recent college graduates live at MATCH and tutor individual students full time. He usually spends two hours a day interviewing four different candidates. Since the MATCH School’s inception in 2000, at least one of the forty-five tutors has hailed from Dartmouth each year.
For the latter portion of the afternoon, Jorge visits various classrooms to observe teachers and students in action. He also meets with faculty and staff to discuss long-term priorities.
“I like to make sure that the culture of the MATCH School is strong in the classroom.”
The culture to which Jorge refers is one of strictness and support.
“In order to get these students ready [for college] they have to work incredibly hard. There is no time to waste,” he says.
The students’ days are certainly long, but the grueling work is counterbalanced by overwhelming support from everyone at the school.
“Even their first encounter coming to the school—the greeting at the door—is very personal,” Jorge says.
At 5:00 pm, classes end but school continues and the building remains open three more hours for after-school programs. For some students who are struggling, these hours are required. For others who simply want a quiet space to do their homework, it is optional. But many, if not most, opt to stay. Then at 7:15 p.m., dinner is served, and around 8:00 p.m., Jorge locks up the building. “I have to force the students to leave because some would stay here beyond that time,” he says.
As soon as every last student has left—voluntarily or by persuasion—Jorge hops on the train and arrives home where he spends time with his wife and friends until bedtime at 10:00 p.m..
His days haven’t always been this demanding. Not long ago, Jorge was a classic college student here in Hanover, with hours to spare in between classes for lounging on the green or throwing a ball around. But don’t get the wrong idea. While he may have slept past 4:30 a.m. every morning, the always accomplished and ambitious Jorge served as an active member in Student Assembly (SA) and he was elected President of the Student Body his senior year. Jorge remains grateful for the many leadership opportunities that Dartmouth gave him.
“Whenever there was something I felt needed to be changed, I’d get students rallied up. I wanted to make a difference. I really became an education-liner through my involvement in SA,” he says. “It wasn’t so much in the classroom as with my involvement [in extracurricular activities] that I learned the most.”
Although Jorge had long possessed a passion for education and even when his experience with SA solidified this interest, he says he didn’t “tangibly consider teaching until the end of senior year of college.” Like many of his fellow undergrads, Jorge had taken part in the recruiting program and had landed an interview in Boston with a well-regarded consulting firm. And then the feeling that something wasn’t right hit him.
“As I was getting ready, I realized I was unprepared. And I hadn’t prepared for it because I wasn’t interested in it. I realized that this wasn’t what I wanted to do. So I called and withdrew, and at that point I knew I wanted to teach. I saw myself having an impact as a teacher,” he says.
“I wanted to get involved and make a difference with students who didn’t have opportunities presented to them…with students whose one means to get ahead is their education. The reality for Dartmouth grads is not the reality for a lot of people out there,” he says, pointing to his parents’ odyssey as a prime example.
Jorge’s mother and father, immigrants from Honduras, had been a teacher and an engineer respectively in their home country, but upon coming to the United States “had to take whatever menial jobs they could get,” Jorge says. Growing up in Norwalk, Connecticut, Jorge says his parents placed a huge emphasis on education.
“We didn’t have too much as kids, but whenever I went back to Honduras, I realized how lucky I was compared to a lot of people there. My parents were even deported at one point, but they returned with the perseverance to want to be here in this country and taught us the importance of education and opportunity,” he says.
With his parents’ encouragement and enthusiasm for education, Jorge always did well in school. He liked getting good grades and continually did so. In elementary school, he toyed with the idea of becoming a writer, and in high school he enjoyed music and theater. He became interested in government and politics after a senior-year internship introduced him to the Democratic Party’s headquarters in Connecticut and he ended up majoring in government at Dartmouth, with a minor in education.
After his epiphany that he wanted to teach upon graduating from Dartmouth, Jorge signed up for a teacher-certification program over the summer, and began working as a History teacher at a traditional public school in Boston. He chose Boston because his wife--girlfriend at the time--had another year left at Dartmouth and he wanted to be close to Hanover. He says his time in Boston was a wake-up call.
“I graduated very idealistic, wanting to change the world and make a difference and it was a shock teaching at this school, surrounded by individuals who were just going through the motions. It was a very isolating and depressing experience,” he says. He admits that be began thinking that ‘changing the world’ was only a pipe dream.
But then he discovered the MATCH School. “MATCH was a complete 180-degree change in terms of the culture of the school. It was a realization like- ‘this is it,’” he says. “It’s not enough for you yourself to want to make a difference. You need to be surrounded by people with a common vision and mission and passion.”
So he began teaching math at MATCH and says he fell in love. After two years, Jorge considered attending graduate or business school, but he was enjoying his experience at MATCH so much that he decided to stay on as a teacher. That year, 2006, the principal at the time retired and Jorge was asked to lead the school. He cannot speak more glowingly about MATCH and its cadre of teachers and support staff.
“I thought I wanted to be in the traditional public schools. It wasn’t until I came to MATCH that I knew. It still has the challenges that traditional public schools have but the difference is that it’s not just one teacher trying to make a difference. It’s a whole staff and school structured around trying to overcome these challenges and create a culture.”
The culture of the MATCH School certainly has been paying off in objective benchmarks. US News & World Report recently ranked it one of the top 100 schools in America, out of more than 18,000 schools. Additionally, this past year, MATCH was the number one school in Massachusetts on the state math test. The students—73% of whom live in poverty and the majority of whom arrive at MATCH well behind grade level in math and reading—are nearly all minorities. 99 % of the graduating class at MATCH each year is accepted into 4-year colleges and universities. And Jorge is at the door to the school, every morning, shaking each student’s hands and greeting them with a smile.
Only two hours away from Hanover, Jorge travels back to the Big Green frequently to guest lecture in Professor Andrew Garrod’s Education 20. He took ED 20 his sophomore fall, served as a Teaching Assistant for the class the following year, and he continues to maintain a very close relationship with Professor Garrod. He recommends Garrod’s course to any Dartmouth students who are interested in charter schools or teaching in general.
“After college,” he says, “it’s all about working in the field and learning your own lessons.”
And old adage asserts that a minute of time is worth more than an ounce of gold. By that wise measure, Jorge Miranda is leaving a priceless endowment to one inner-city community and Dartmouth is fortunate to count him as another driven alum, dedicated to pursuing a noble mission.
Last Updated: 6/21/12