Tiffany Lovett: Former Teacher Continues to Serve Education Through Philanthropy

The elementary education alumna (M.Ed., '89) spent her teaching career in challenged L.A. communities.

According to Tiffany Lovett (M.Ed., ’89), life today would look very different without UCLA. In addition to developing her passion for education here and building the foundation for her future career as an educator, Lovett met her husband at UCLA and still thinks of herself as a Bruin.

Having grown up in the Midwest, graduated from Smith College with a BA in Sociology, and spent her early career in the business world, Lovett discovered a passion for elementary education in the mid- 1980s and decided to change career paths. Unlike its current two-year structure, the Masters in Education at that time was a one-year degree program at UCLA. Despite the rigorous schedule of taking classes, conducting in-class observations and holding two student teaching jobs all in under 12 months, Lovett took advantage of much that UCLA had to offer. As soon as classes began, she says she felt as if light bulbs were going on. She recalls that Madeline Hunter’s seven-step direct instruction model was a major component of the curriculum then, as was educational theory that emphasized the learning potential of every student.

“It was really the perfect place for me – I had finally found my true passion in teaching,” Lovett recalls.

Like many of her classmates, Lovett felt compelled to use her education to serve the most challenged communities in Los Angeles upon her graduation. She felt well prepared at UCLA, but was still surprised by the day-to-day classroom management and discipline challenges that she experienced in Inglewood, where she began her career as a kindergarten and fourth grade teacher. There, Lovett experienced first-hand the staggering achievement gap faced by low-income students even before the start of their formal education, let alone the systemic barriers that obstruct their academic achievement, graduation, and college and job prospects as they develop.

Lovett’s teaching experience has led to deep concerns about the crisis faced today by public schools across the district, state, and country, as already stretched budgets receive further cuts, class sizes balloon, and promising teachers find themselves without work or burned out from lack of support. Inspired by educational advocates like Geoffrey Canada, whose Harlem Children’s Zone and visionary leadership have transformed Harlem’s most challenged schools, Lovett believes that passionate principals, administrators, teachers, and school boards are critical to the success of a district and its ability to positively impact the lives of the children and families it serves.

After 12 years of teaching in both the Inglewood and Santa Monica school districts, Lovett is now taking some time off to raise her two young sons and to help run the Isabel Foundation, a small family foundation. She is also a Trustee of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, where she enjoys combining her interests in foundation work and education to best serve those in need.

Lovett is passionate about issues of quality and access in public education and is proud of UCLA’s commitment to public school reform across Los Angeles and nation-wide. She praises UCLA’s model of teaching educators to capitalize on the natural talents and intuitive knowledge of each student, a skill which she has used regularly throughout her career.

“I feel like I can make a difference every day,” says Lovett of teaching. “When a child gets a concept and you see how you have guided them and provided them with the tools to discover what they already know, it’s thrilling. You know you’re helping them reach their full potential.”