Efficient education

Thorman engaged experiences in the Senate, at Heritage, and in a classroom (teaching Latin, no less) to prepare for her new role at American Experiment

Catrin Thorman could not have plotted her path to a policy fellowship with better or more relevant experience in a relatively short period. Thorman, 26, was recently hired as a fulltime in-house policy fellow at Center of the American Experiment, where she hopes to specialize in education policy.

Thorman was born in Stillwater, Minnesota, grew up in Osceola, Wisconsin, and attended Chisago Lakes (Minnesota) High School. While under the tutelage of a life-changing high school teacher, she developed an interest in American government. She honed her political chops by working on several Wisconsin legislative races, particularly helping State Senator Sheila Harsdorf easily survive a union-initiated recall attempt in the turmoil surrounding Governor Scott Walker in 2011.

She earned a degree in political science from Azuza Pacific University, an elite Christian school near Los Angeles, where she also completed an internship in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Thorman returned to D.C. after graduation to complete an internship at the Heritage Foundation, where she worked on education policy with Lindsey Burke, a policy expert who specializes in reducing the federal impact on education as well as in the benefits of choice in education.

She then paired the policy experience with time in the classroom. After Heritage, Thorman took on a two-year hitch in Phoenix with Teach for America, where she taught fifth grade general education and sixth-grade Latin (that’s right, Latin) at a Title I charter school that served low-income families.

Those experiences confirmed for her that there’s a serious disconnect between what goes on in D.C., and the type of education reform that needs to go into the classroom and that school choice is an effective solution.

“There are barriers in place that prevent students from reaching their fullest potential,” she says. “Every student learns differently. They need different tools to succeed. It is up to the teacher to make sure that that student has access to those tools.”

Parents know their children best, and the parent-teacher relationship ensures that students reach their fullest potential, she says.

She adds: All children can’t thrive in the same environment. “Parents should have the choice of sending their child to a traditional public school, a charter school, or a parochial school, knowing full well that that decision will be the best decision for their child.”

Legislators, she says, would benefit from experience in the classroom. “They don’t see how difficult it can be for students to grasp certain concepts if teaching isn’t differentiated. I think it’s important to have that working relationship with the teacher, the parent, and the child to figure out where the child can learn most effectively.”