Education is liberating, and it is my social responsibility to make it accessible to everyone, which includes providing a learning environment that welcomes and engages the entire range of humanity. Although I expect to constantly grow in this area, I do have some experiences, professionally and personally, that make me uniquely able to connect with others.
I have experienced what it’s like to be a minority: As a white woman, I lived and served in a primarily black neighborhood for over a decade, striving for racial reconciliation and community development. Even after moving out of the neighborhood, these issues remain important to me on a personal level. My family is racially diverse, and I have seen how my kids (one black and another mixed) have been affected by other people’s insensitivity and direct hostility. I’ll never be able to turn a blind eye to racism because it is my responsibility and desire to protect my children. If racism hurts one person, it hurts us all.
As a baby I was in a car accident, which disfigured my right arm and hand. I was able to overcome my disability, even learning to play piano and type without all my fingers. I have a passion to empower everyone to succeed, no matter what their challenges are.
My faith is deeply important to me, and I know others value their traditions as well. I have hosted people of various religions in my home, including a Thai exchange student who enriched my family’s life during her year with us by teaching us about her culture and religious beliefs (Buddhism). Before that, a young man from Jordan, a Muslim, lived with our family for several months; he and his wife are now our dear friends. My sister is married to a Hindu from India, and he is a wonderful member of our family. One of my best friends is an atheist; despite our contrasting personal beliefs, we have mutual respect and love for each other. It’s exciting to explore ideas together with an open mind even as we embrace our own traditions.
I have successfully worked with students with a variety of educational needs, including international students and English language learners, honors students, students with physical and intellectual disabilities, and first-generation and nontraditional students.
The word “tolerance” doesn’t capture the spirit of diversity, but its basic meaning is still true. We must accept everyone, even those who are fundamentally different than ourselves. Respecting others and appreciating the differences establishes an effective and enjoyable learning (and life!) experience.