To the Educators: Thank You.

    At Nuestro Mundo Community School for a community breakfast on inauguration day wearing t-shirts designed by students at East High School.

    I know that the recent presidential inauguration is on the minds of many in our community. The transfer of power from any president to the next can bring with it great hope as well as fear and uncertainty. The weight of our responsibility as educators to provide opportunities to discuss our country’s issues with honesty, balance, fairness, care and integrity, is heavy.


    I dedicate this column to our educators.

    I want to say thank you. I could not be more grateful for you. Thank you for learning with me about how to lead and teach for equity. Thank you for every time you recognize and disrupt racial inequities and for your dedication to cultivating a true sense of belonging for every student and family.

    In the past couple of months, I have seen you strive to help us come together as a community no matter what our political backgrounds. Whether it was the community breakfast at Nuestro Mundo, the t-shirt drive at East, or the “words that heal” at Shorewood, I’ve seen you provide safe spaces for our students and staff to process what is happening in our country. I’ve seen you take personal risks on behalf of students and families. Most important, I’ve seen you affirm our joint commitment to see, embrace and celebrate every aspect of our diversity.

    “Words that Heal” posted in the hallway of Shorewood Elementary
    “Words that Heal” posted in the hallway of Shorewood Elementary

    We are proud to be home to a beautiful population of students, families and staff of different races, faiths, national origins, immigration status, abilities, political viewpoints, sexual orientation and gender identity.  We are striving to ensure that every student and family is a valued member of our community.

    I know that I could not be more grateful to be here, in this role, in Madison, with this group of educators, to do this work right now.  I am proud of what we have done—and excited about what we will do. I am committed more than ever to fight for the rights of our students to have a free public education that meets their needs and unleashes their potential.

    In a Margaret Wheatley article I read recently about what it means to be a “Warrior of the Human Spirit,” she describes her greatest teachers. In the face of incredible challenges, her teachers, she writes, “continue to do their work because they know it is theirs to do. Sometimes they say, ‘I can’t not do this.’ Other times they ask, ‘What else would I be doing if not this?”

    There are reasons we do what we do that are deep and real—individually and collectively. This year, we asked everyone to start talking more openly about those reasons, to lead with “the why” and develop a more explicit equity vision. At our principal meetings, you’ve been sharing these stories. They are stories of activism, resilience, hope, hard work and high expectations.

    NMCS signAnd our teachers are putting their beliefs, their “whys,” into action every day—as described in this inspiring blog post by Emily Zoeller at Nuestro Mundo.

     I told a group of about 250 educators at our last leadership institute that I personally lead from a place of believing in the inherent capabilities of children and adults and that’s what helps me persevere.  

    That means I believe in you. Here’s to being a warrior of the human spirit. We must strive to honor every single one of the students and families we serve in every action we take. We see their capability, their promise, and their beauty. In MMSD, everyone belongs!