You hold a Doctorate in Education Leadership. What led up to that? Did you
complete your advanced education early in your educator career?
Of course, I got the Bachelor’s degree. You know, typical story, the first person in my family
that ever had a four-year college degree. That kind of happened because a lot of different
people helped me get there. With my Master’s degree, I had a choice. I could either keep
working at J.C. Penny or get my Master’s degree and get a raise. I chose the Master’s
degree because I thought it might give me some other opportunities in the future which,
of course, it ended up doing. I waited a while before I got to my Doctorate and it was
really funny because I looked at five or six different Doctoral programs. I really wasn’t sure
whether or not I wanted to get my Doctorate. I wasn’t really sure how much I really needed
that, and then my grandparents passed away. My grandmother passed away and my father
was already deceased, so when my aunts and uncles kind of broke up the family farm, I
got my father’s share of the inheritance. Come to find out, it was exactly—almost to the
penny—the amount of money that it took for me to get my Doctoral degree. So, I always
said that my grandparents paid for my Doctoral degree. That just kind of spoke to me at
that time. I had a great group of people in my Doctoral program. It was a cohort group, so
the people that we started with were the people that we ended with. We lost one person
out of like 25, but the thing I would say about it as at certain points during that three-year
program, every one of us was going to drop out and the other people made sure that we
didn’t. So like I got to a certain point. I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the war, but I
just was so tired and, you know, two or three people really helped me through that from that
group. It really taught me how the importance, I guess, of relationships and the importance
of being able to support people in their work.
Is that advice that you would share with educators who may be considering a
Yes. They really need a strong base of support. And, of course, I would really recommend
looking for a cohort program. When I got my Doctorate, there weren’t very many cohort
programs. There are a lot more now, and I think I understand why because I think the
relationships are much stronger. You get to a point where you feel like somebody else’s
success is your success as well; somebody else’s failure is your failure, too, so you can’t let
them fail. You’ve got to help them be successful.
Can expand on how your executive leadership roles have personally shaped your
career? Do you have any particular memories or interactions that you have carried
throughout your carried or touched home?
I think one of the things that probably has stuck with me more than anything else is
the work that I’ve done with locals and with states. It’s just amazing to me, still after all
these years, the obstacles that educators overcome to make sure that their students are
successful. Sometimes that obstacle is a really poorly thought out school board or state
policy. Sometimes it’s a really bad state school board decision, but over and over again,
educators have moved beyond the obstacles that have been put in their place.
I think of my own time as the President of Tennessee Education Association and the ESP
members that I would meet. After they paid their health insurance, they maybe had $4 in
a paycheck. I think of the teacher who gets to school at 6 a.m. and goes home and still
has the take kids to dance and forgot to thaw dinner and, you know, they just keep coming
back because the important thing for them is student success. I think that’s what has struck
me over and over and over again is the length that educators will go to and will work to
overcome so many of the obstacles that they have in order to do what’s right for kids.
During your time at GAE, do you have a short-term goal or a specific message you’d
like to share with our member for the upcoming school year?
I was actually thinking about that the other day as I was driving home. What I think in my
mind a whole lot is, you know, GAE is standing up for educators. GAE is standing up for its
members, but really GAE is standing up for public education because public education is
being attacked repeatedly, over and over again. And, it’s just so important that we use our
collective voice to stand up for our members and to stand up for public education. I think
the way that we do that is through engagement. We not only engage our members, but we
engage non-members about the importance of collective action. I think we also engage
school boards. We engage local leaders. We engage legislators. We engage policymakers.
I think what I want members to take away is that GAE is the only organization that is
steadfastly representing members at the local level. We have locals that work to empower
our educators, and I don’t see anybody else out here in Georgia that is working at the local
level to empower educators to do what’s right for students.
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