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Sanford Alum Helps Students Learn through Hip-Hop

The way Sanford alumna Valerie Moniz ’00 tells it, her main motivator throughout her career as a student was one thing: music. It helped her engage even with the subjects she was less excited about.
“I remember doing a project with Ms. [Jackie] Pitts my junior year at Sanford where I related music to math,” Valerie recalled. “I hated math at the time, but I’ll never forget when I played my flute in math class!”

So it’s especially exciting for Valerie that she’s arrived at the “perfect intersection” of her interests and her career in education. Since March of 2016, she has been a senior customer success manager at Flocabulary, an innovative digital program that uses hip-hop to increase student achievement and engagement in the classroom. In her role, Valerie works with the schools and school districts who use Flocabulary’s programs, from New York City to California to China.

Founded in 2004 by Alex Rappaport and Blake Harrison, Flocabulary offers hip-hop videos, instructional activities, and student creativity tools that teach across a variety of subjects for all grades. The program is standards-aligned and includes resources not only to help students learn and improve test scores, but also to fire their own creativity.

On any given day, you might find Valerie in Flocabulary’s New York office delivering teacher feedback to the program’s developers; in rural South Carolina training teachers; or in Denver hosting a “teacher rap battle” at an education conference. Through all her work, she brings the lessons she learned from her years of training and experience as a teacher and school administrator herself.

“One of the number-one requirements working on the customer success team at Flocabulary is having empathy for teachers, students, and administrators. Many of us are former teachers, or have at least been a student,” she said. “Knowing firsthand what it's like to be in the shoes of our customers has been by far the best lesson I've learned.”

After graduating from George Washington University with a degree in international affairs in 2004, Valerie entered the New York City Teaching Fellows program and earned her MS in elementary education. Over her 12 years of experience as a teacher and school administrator in New York City and Spain, she discovered a love of flexibility and the ability to pursue new skills and interests.

“I love working in education technology, especially on customer success, because I use my experience coaching teachers to influence how they implement a product that represents my passion - learning through music,” she said.

Valerie’s education at Sanford not only helped to set her on the path to success in her career, but it also fostered other interests—in sports, music, and languages—that remain part of her life today. “Having the opportunity to take two languages at Sanford led me on a path to major in international affairs in college, live and work two years in Spain, and help shape the way my company works with students learning English as a second language,” she said. “Sanford broadened my horizons!”

To learn more about Valerie’s work at Flocabulary, visit www.flocabulary.com.

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