Warren Christopher has dedicated his entire adult life to giving back.
He served 24 years in the U.S. Army, was a high-ranking member of the U.S. Department of the Interior, a candidate for U.S. Congress, and a volunteer for numerous organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
But for all the places his commitment to service has taken him, Warren’s most recent may be his most meaningful: For the last two years, he’s worked with students in the Washington D.C. area as a substitute teacher with Swing Education.
“It’s really about fulfillment,” Warren says. “This is far greater than any other opportunity that I could have had when it comes to the fulfillment of being able to pour into these students’ lives; pour into their pitcher. When I’ve had the opportunity, I’ve really tried my best to have that kind of impact.”
Warren Christopher’s desire to make a difference has been shaped by the challenges he’s had to overcome in his personal life — he was abandoned by his mother at birth and endured a difficult upbringing.
“I did not have a very nice early childhood,” Warren says. “Based on my experiences, I feel like I have to do everything that I can to do to help make a difference in some of these young people’s lives. To the degree that I can, I want to make sure their experiences don’t have any kind of resemblance to the challenges I had to endure as a young person.”
Although he didn’t become a classroom teacher until 2017, in some ways, Warren got his start as an educator while he served in the military, where he held the position of Deputy Chief, Training Management Operations.
“As a military officer, I instructed troops from varying services,” Warren says. “I was in the army but led troops from all military branches.”
After retiring from active duty, Warren worked in the Obama administration, and later ran a competitive campaign for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District.
In 2016, after falling short in his run for the U.S. House of Representatives, Warren took time off to do some soul-searching and determine what he wanted to do next. He came back from the break with a clear mission.
“I said, ‘Look, I really have to continue to give back,’” Warren says. “So I mentored and coached with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. I then thought, ‘OK, maybe I can take this to the next level.’ I thought about teaching, but I knew that I really couldn’t do it full-time because I had also decided to pursue an MBA for Executives.”
Although full-time teaching was off the table, Warren soon realized that substitute teaching would allow him to give back while maintaining the flexible schedule he needed to continue his MBA program. That’s when he discovered Swing Education, which connects substitute teachers with a number of schools across Washington D.C.
“After having raised two daughters and seeing how well they were educated and what a big difference that made in their upbringing, I knew that I wanted to give back to the community in a way that could be really impactful to everyday people,” Warren says. “And to be honest, with people classified as underserved or under-represented.
“I searched for the most optimal platform to be able to deliver a tremendous impact educating, mentoring, and coaching. It really was an alignment thing. Really, from the very beginning I was very impressed with the platform and how Swing was conducting business.”
A Rewarding Experience
Warren Christopher has created a number of lasting memories during his two years as a substitute teacher. He believes his ability to connect so well with students stems from his experience raising two daughters as a single dad, as well as the skills he’s gathered over the course of a long and successful career.
“I would just tell you that honestly there have been a lot of gratifying parts of being a substitute teacher,” Warren says.
“One that comes to mind was when I was on a long-term assignment. I was working in a 1-on-1 situation with a first-grader, and the little fellow was tough to work with, but I was determined. I told the administrators, I told him, I told his mom, ‘I’m not giving up. This is really a challenge for me, but I’ve got to stay here.’
“I stayed for five months, and eventually, he turned the corner. That little kid, when I left, man, we both cried.”
As Warren nears the conclusion of his MBA program, he’s still evaluating what path he’ll pursue next. But whether he decides to continue in education, take a job in the corporate world, or anything in between, he will always look back fondly on the impact he’s been able to make as a substitute teacher.
“I’m telling you — I’ve loved it,” Warren says. “The impact is just beyond my wildest imagination, but I feel so aligned, like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing along this journey.”
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