For those working in public education, last year was a series of curveballs and fast pitches – staffing shortages, learning gaps, behavior issues and more.
But everyone, from teachers and staff to campus and district leaders, kept their eyes on the balls and just kept swinging.
Their tremendous efforts paid off with statewide gains in student performance in math and especially reading.
For many, hope is what kept them swinging when their bodies were weary. Hope whispered “you can do it” when it felt impossible.
As a new school year begins, we asked our leaders to tell us about hope – why it’s important, what they do to keep it alive and what makes them hopeful about the upcoming year.
Why is it important for leaders to sustain hope in the face of great challenge?
Hope is the driving force for life. It defies all obstacles and challenges. It’s okay to be honest and know there IS a challenge, but do we give in? Or hope for better?
– Hope Garza, Assistant Principal, Aldine ISD
Challenges are opportunities in disguise. They allow leaders to shine a light during the darkest hours, to demonstrate that tomorrow will come and we will all work in concert toward a common goal. We have seen the collective impact of the world pandemic and our educators have shown they are up for any challenge. They will always find a way to support our youth and work toward a better tomorrow.
– Lloyd Verstuyft, Superintendent, Southwest ISD
A leader’s perspective is contagious. Our leader has been so positive and not afraid to face any challenge with confidence. That attitude starts with our principal and carries through our leadership team and down to the teams.
– Natalie Hubert, Instructional Technology Specialist, Round Rock ISD
It’s our moral imperative to be vigilantly optimistic and hopeful. Our community looks to us to model our vision, expectations and beliefs. We have to believe wholeheartedly that we make a difference in our students’ lives. Obstacles will always exist. Educators and leaders must model the grit and hope needed for continuous growth.
– Mark Foust, Superintendent, Kerrville ISD
Having a growth mindset is important. If we give in to negativity, change won’t occur. We have to remember that negative feelings only last a while, then we bounce back from them and move forward.
– Arely Tamez, Principal, Harlingen CISD
Educators must think of the power they have in the lives of kids. Challenges for educators are not new. I have always told my staff, “Don’t pray for a lighter load, ask for a stronger back.” I’ve have been at this for 44 years and if you love kids and care about their future then you must look for answers and solutions to anything that presents a challenge.
– Donna Grant, Executive Director of School Leadership – Secondary Schools, Grand Prairie ISD
How we face challenges as a classroom teacher affect our students. They observe our enthusiasm and persistence and learn how to face their own challenges. They radiate our energy back to us. If we’re excited about a challenge, they will be too.
– Saumi Bonds, Teacher, Beaverton School District, Oregon
When you need a jolt of hope, what do you do or think about?
I picture my own babies and immediately feel the love that I have for them. Then I remember that the kids at our campus are someone’s babies too.
– Deborah Haegelin, Academic Coach, Southwest ISD
I think about all the women who have traveled my path with more obstacles. If they can do it, so can I.
– Angela Aguilar, Teacher, Arlington ISD
Going to talk with students and teachers is my go-to. Listening to some 4th grade jokes in the cafeteria, having pre-K students serve me a meal in the home center, or helping a 6th grader in math gives me hope for our future and reminds me of why we do what we do. Talking to teachers and hearing their ideas and how much they care gives me hope and a jolt of energy!
– Cindy Brown, Principal, Arlington ISD
I turn to celebrating others. I love to witness the joy staff give one another through expressing appreciation. I created a celebration committee that planned events once a month like bake-offs or chili cook-offs. In between, we created activities where staff could celebrate each other through positive cards or little treats.
– Jessica Berger, Assistant Principal, Klein ISD
I go sit in a classroom to remember why we do what we do each day. Seeing students and teachers in their element gives me the energy to continue to work hard in the background for both the teachers’ and the students’ success.
– Courtni Boyd, Leadership Development Specialist, Arlington ISD
I watch a movie scene of my favorite superhero overcoming adversity.
– Parvinder Singh, Teacher, Arlington ISD
I think of a very good friend of mine who was diagnosed with Stage 3 Colon Cancer in March of 2021. She was only 40. She continued to work along as receive treatment. My entire staff rallied around her and provided her with support and encouragement. When I’m having a bad day or things don’t go my way, I think of my friend (who is doing great now) and reflect on how things could always be worse. I try and make time to reflect on a daily basis and be thankful for all I have and get to do.
– Cheryl Hester, Principal, Round Rock ISD
I imagine the captain of a ship or plane maintaining their pose during an unstable period during the trip.
– Eric Barrett, Biology-Instructional Specialist, Aldine ISD
What makes you feel hopeful or excited about the upcoming school year?
After a profound season of disconnectedness, I remind myself that the most important things about raising kids, educating students, supporting teachers and leading a campus are STILL the most important things. Circumstances cannot derail that truth.
– Ethan Hoeft, Assistant Principal, Grand Prairie ISD
A fully staffed algebra team gives goosebumps! When I think about the possibilities we could accomplish, I can’t help but be happy for what this upcoming school year could be.
– Samuel Ramirez III, Mathematics Instructional Specialist, Aldine ISD
The new One-Way Dual Language program at our school makes me feel hopeful. Knowing that my district is implementing this program for students on all campuses just makes me want to jump for joy!
– Susana Cruz, Bilingual Instructional Specialist, Aldine ISD
I am so motivated to have students and families back in this school building. It is too quiet right now. We are super proud of our little school that once was a D and now is two points from a B. When I shared this accomplishment with my teachers, there was so much excitement. They are even more pumped to welcome our students and families back.
– Cheryl Hester, Principal, Round Rock ISD
We have SO MANY kids counting on us to give our best. I’ve been watching the excitement of the band, student council, athletes and freshman at Fish Camp over the past few weeks. They are so excited about school!
– Thomas Hensley, Principal, Klein ISD
Picturing the faces of our little pre-K and Kinder students who are going to experience their first day of school this year. They will be full of excitement, hope and wonder. Along with all our students, they deserve the very best education we can possibly give them.
– Brian Pennartz, Principal Supervisor, Southwest ISD
I am excited to continue building on the momentum of last year. The start of the school year was hard. The middle was harder in many ways. But toward the spring, we began to see a shift. Students started responding to instruction; they, along with their teachers, found a groove. I’m hopeful that the groove is still there when everyone gets back from summer break.
– Shahveer Dhalla, Executive Director Junior High School Learning Community, Arlington ISD
Our Board, leadership team, staff, and parents have gained a lot of experience in being comfortable with being uncomfortable. In those moments, we have come together with the freedom to innovate and empower others to truly thrive. Because of this, I know without a doubt that Lockhart ISD is embarking on its greatest chapter of excellence yet to be written, and I cannot wait to share that story!
– Christina Courson, Chief of Staff, Lockhart ISD