Mount Made: Putting the Pal in Principal
Alumna Climbs the Ranks One Lesson at a Time
Never did Mallorie Bocachica ’10 think that, at only 12 years into her career in education, she’d be at the head of a robust and rigorous building of teachers and students.
She’s leading the charge to change how students learn at a charter network called Uncommon Schools, an educational system consisting of 57 schools serving over 21,000 low-income students across the northeast—including areas of Boston, Camden, Newark, Rochester, Troy, and right here in New York City.
At Uncommon Schools, educators believe that every child deserves an outstanding education and teachers and instructors are committed to working beyond the four walls of their school buildings to ensure all students achieve their goals. As Mallorie framed it, Uncommon Schools are joyful, full of love and learning, and fiercely dedicated to closing the achievement gap and changing history.
If you ask us, that sounds like a remarkable and supportive place to work, and Mallorie considers herself both lucky and proud to have had the amazing opportunity to serve as principal of an Uncommon School—Leadership Prep Canarsie Elementary Academy—for the past three (almost four!) years.
As a Bronx native, born and raised, Mallorie understands some of the hardships students of low-income families face. Not only do young children lack the reinforcement to classroom strategies at home, many often come to school hungry in the morning—and leave at the end of the day not knowing when their next meal will be. That sparked Mallorie to pursue her career in education and led her to the Mount’s campus after graduating from the Academy of Mount St. Ursula.
“I had a teacher who impacted me tremendously in high school, and I was able to reflect on the bond and the relationship that I had with her,” recalled Mallorie. “I quickly knew that’s what I wanted to have with my future students.”
It was easy for Mallorie to nail down her major as a first-year student at the College—double majoring in math and psychology while enrolling in the Mount’s esteemed elementary education curriculum. Her four years of study were no joke—thinking back on it, Mallorie doesn’t remember how she had time to balance everything! But it prepared her to lead a classroom, and now a school, of her own—ready to take on new challenges at the drop of a hat.
At Leadership Prep Canarsie, students receive well-rounded instruction focused on the education of the whole person. Hey—doesn’t that sound a bit familiar?! The mission of Leadership Prep Canarsie is very much aligned with the mission of Mount Saint Vincent, which made the transition from student to teacher quite natural for Mallorie.
Leadership Prep Canarsie places a focus on three main educational goals: excellence in learning, excellence in character, and excellence in teaching. Students from across Brooklyn are enrolled in an extended school day, giving them access to additional educational supports and instruction. Teachers work tirelessly to help their students achieve their academic goals, and students and families are instilled with the qualities for success.
This is all achieved under Mallorie’s direction and guidance.
But getting to where she is today took time, commitment, and passion. Mallorie’s been with Uncommon Schools for nine years. After graduating from the Mount in 2010, she began her teaching career as a substitute teacher with the New York City Department of Education. She then transitioned to a position teaching in an early childhood preschool while pursuing a Master of Science degree in special education and teaching from City College. It was during that time she first heard about the Uncommon Schools network.
Fun fact: Mallorie was actually one of the founding teachers of Leadership Prep Canarsie! During the school’s inception in 2013, Mallorie served as a kindergarten teacher. She remained in that position for two years and then transitioned to teaching first grade and serving as an instructional leader—until a new opportunity arose.
“I was lucky enough to be asked to join Uncommon School’s Principal Fellowship Program, which trains feature school leaders to become principals either to sustain a school or to launch a new one,” remarked Mallorie.
As a principal fellow, she supported sister schools in the Uncommon Schools network, filling in where some principals were stretched to lead two schools at once or were on leave. Then, in 2018, she was presented with the choice of returning home to Leadership Prep Canarsie to serve as their principal. She knew that she would one day end up in leadership—expanding her impact to reach not just a classroom of students, but a whole school.
Needless to say, Mallorie said “yes!” without hesitation and it’s been incredible to watch her career come full circle.
Mallorie’s had a dedicated support system in place to help her achieve her goals, including guidance from professors, mentors, and past cooperating teachers from her time student teaching.
“I still keep in touch with Yolanda Wright, who was my cooperating teacher when I student taught at P.S. 7 in Kingsbridge, just a 10-minute drive from the Mount’s Riverdale campus,” Mallorie said. “Yolanda now serves as an assistant principal at P.S. 7, and it’s been so great to be able to bounce ideas off each other and support each other in our roles. We’ve truly become partners in our work.”
And at the Mount, Associate Professor of Teacher Education Mary Ellen Sullivan was a guiding force behind Mallorie’s early teaching career. Mallorie saw how Dr. Sullivan went out of her way to maintain positive relationships with each of the students in her cohorts, and it’s become one of Mallorie’s goals to replicate that care and concern Dr. Sullivan taught her.
“Dr. Sullivan and I recently found out that we actually live rather close to each other in the Bronx,” chuckled Mallorie. “We were walking in a park and ran into each other! We were able to reconnect and have kept in touch.”
Having such strong mentors in her beginning days at the head of a classroom—both from the Mount and beyond—undeniably helped to prepare Mallorie for her role as principal. It’s a job she loves and one she’s excited to wake up for each day (and not to mention one that keeps her on her toes!).
She notes that there isn’t exactly such thing as a “typical day” at Leadership Prep Canarsie—since it’s so important to remain flexible in order to best serve the daily needs of each student.
“Our days at Leadership Prep Canarsie are pretty long—starting promptly at 7 a.m. and ending at 5 p.m.,” explained Mallorie. “I begin each day by greeting every student who walks through the front doors—which is absolutely one of my favorite parts of the day!”
And then for a majority of the rest of the day, Mallorie’s on the ground, so to say. She’s spending time visiting every single classroom every single day—giving real-time feedback to the teachers and students, having meetings with teachers, and taking note of everything that goes on in the building. She’s passionate about professional development and making sure the teachers at Leadership Prep Canarsie grow so that they can impact their students in the best way possible. Any time Mallorie has the opportunity to get back inside the classroom and teach alongside the teachers—she jumps at it!
“There are these special moments in the classroom when a student who was struggling with a concept finally gets it—there’s this ‘a-ha!’ moment—and the joy that student has, knowing that they’ve been able to succeed, makes what I do all worth it,” she reflected.
Leadership Prep Canarsie started the 2021-2022 school year fully in-person a few short weeks ago. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every inch of our globe, but education has, without a doubt, faced some of the most pressing challenges. Last year, the school adopted a hybrid learning model where students spent time alternating between in-person and remote learning. It took a toll on both the students and teachers, so Mallorie’s over the moon to have a bustling school once again.
“It’s so wonderful to have all of our students and staff back in the building,” exclaimed Mallorie. “We serve about 500 students at Leadership Prep Canarsie from kindergarten to grade four, and I can’t even explain to you how excited I am to finally be able to see everyone in-person each day.”
Like so many Mount alums, Mallorie believes that her time at the College—both outside the classroom and within it—helped prepare her for her career.
“There were so many things I took away from my experience at the Mount that set me up for success and to be able to be where I am today,” she reflected.
On campus, Mount professors are smart, educated, and professional—willing to take the time to make sure their students are supported as they learn and develop. And beyond the campus gates, Mallorie’s field experience in local Bronx classrooms was crucial to getting a taste of what it would be like to one day run her own classroom (although she joked that no first-year teacher is every truly “prepared” for what might be thrown at them!).
“Our practicum classes—where my peers in the Teacher Education Program came together to share our experiences in the field—really allowed me to begin to put theory into practice,” said Mallorie. “I was able to establish my individual pedagogy as a student teacher, and then I was given the tools to actually put it into action.”
Mallorie sums up one of the benefits of studying education at the Mount: student teachers are given the opportunity to observe and teach in three, sometimes even four different classrooms throughout their course of study. Student teachers gain invaluable experience in the field, and that’s something Mallorie will never forget.
Today, she’s keeping a building full of eager teachers and learners motivated in an uneasy education climate.
“I often tell teachers who might be struggling or feeling burnt out, this work is really hard—but hard doesn’t mean bad,” said Mallorie. “We have to stay grounded in what our ‘why’ is. And our ‘why’ should always be our students.”
And Mallorie’s career continues to blossom. But no matter where she finds herself, she knows that her heart will forever be in a classroom.
“I’m a teacher first—always,” Mallorie affirmed. “Teaching will forever be my passion and I’m grateful to be able to play a small role in changing the lives of my students—one lesson at a time.”
Are you Mount Made? Do you know other alums living out the mission of the College? Let us know—we’d love to show how the Mount helped launch your career. Contact us to be featured!
About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.