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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

18 Women All K-12 Educators Should Know

By Peter DeWitt — January 04, 2015 9 min read
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There are many inspiring women in education. Unfortunately, we do not hear about them nearly as often as we should, because the pulpit seems to be dominated by men. It’s not that we should take away from the work that the guys have done, because we shouldn’t, but there are many strong female thought leaders whose voices should be equal to the men that surround them. They influence everyone in the field through their research, opinions and experiences, and have helped fight bad reform, create more innovative practices in the classroom, and unify voices around the country if not the world.

I have compiled a list of 18 female practioners and thought leaders. Some of them are well-known, while others may have names you are hearing for the first time. I do not expect you to agree with all of them, but I do hope that if you have not heard of some of them you will give them a deeper look.

They are:

Diane Ravitch - If you do not know who Diane is then you must be living under a rock. Diane has had great influence over millions and her last two books, the Death and Life of the Great American School System as well as Reign of Error have been two of the most important reads of the past few years. You don’t have to agree with everything Diane writes and speaks about, but you should listen to what she says because it has implications for us all.

Viviane Robinson - Viviane is a Professor at the University of Auckland (New Zealand) and has written many great books on education, teaching and leadership. One of the best is Student-Centered Leadership where she was one of the first to write about “Lead Learners.” Michael Fullan, Andy Hargreaves and John Hattie all reference her work, and although she says she is not well-known in America, she should be because her works is practical and powerful.

Deb Masters - If you have heard of John Hattie and Visible Learning, then you have been impacted by Deb’s work. Deb has a great understanding of what needs to be done to improve learning and is working with multiple Ministries of Education around the world using the Visible Learning Collaborative Impact Program. For full disclosure I work with Deb on Visible Learning, but this work is being implemented internationally and Deb is a large part of the reason why it is happening.

Carol Burris - Carol is more than a thought leader. As the Principal of Southside High School in the Rockville Centre School District (Rockville Centre, NY) she has been an outstanding practioner, NY State Principal of the Year, as well as an outspoken opponent of harmful standardized testing in New York State and all over the nation. Carol is a frequent guest blogger for Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss, and has written a great deal about the harmful nature of tracking in schools. She is a mentor of mine and someone I have learned a great deal from over the years. Carol has many strong opinions and she knows how to back them up with data. She provides a cautionary tale that we all can learn from.

Nancy Flanagan - Nancy writes the Teacher In A Strange Land Blog for Education Week Teacher. She is a long time arts educator and has many strong opinions and great insight into education and the way it works. She is on this list for many reasons, and one happens to be the fact that she is a strong proponent of women in leadership. We can learn a lot from reading her blog.

Patricia Ciccone - As the Superintendent of Westbrook Public Schools in Connecticut, Pat has long been a leader in the area of school climate and anti-bullying. Pat has not only created school board policy on safeguarding all marginalized populations, she has also made sure that there is curriculum that is used to educate all students about those populations. She serves on the National School Climate Council and was a 2013 Leaders to Learn From for Education Week.

Avis Glaze - Avis Glaze has had an outstanding career in education but her bio speaks for itself. “Dr. Avis Glaze is an international leader in the field of education. As one of Canada’s outstanding educators, she has been recognized for her work in leadership development, student achievement, school and system improvement, character development and equity of outcomes for all students. As Ontario’s first Chief Student Achievement Officer and founding CEO of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, she played a pivotal role in improving student achievement in Ontario schools. Her primary focus in education is on building capacity to ensure that all students achieve, regardless of background factors or personal circumstances. It is her core belief that educators play a fundamental role in sustaining democracy.”

Jenni Donohoo - Jenni is soft spoken, passionate and very modest when it comes to her place in education, but she has a bright career ahead of her. As the author of the best-selling Collaborative Inquiry for Educators, Jenni has spent lots of time working with teachers across Canada. We need to see her in America much more. She is also the Director At Large for Learning Forward Ontario, where she has worked with teachers and leaders to provide insight into how they can work collaboratively. She is destined to do more great things. Read Jenni’s guest blog here.

Judy Seltz - As the Executive Director of ASCD, Judy Seltz has a real opportunity to influence educational conversations. Through their Educational Leadership publication, the Whole Child Initiative and all of the other ways ASCD reaches 125,000 members in over 138 countries, Judy has a far reach and I look forward to seeing how ASCD moves ahead.

Peggy Robertson - Peggy is an elementary level instructional coach but she is best known for her work in the United Opt Out Movement. Peggy has been outspoken in her state of Colorado as well as the rest of the country about the harmful effects of our present system of high stakes testing.

Karen Lewis - As the President of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, Lewis has led over 29,000 teachers in the 3rd largest district in the US. In 2012 she led the very controversial teacher’s strike and was considering a run for Mayor of Chicago until she was sidelined due to a serious health issue.

Lyn Sharratt - At a time when I thought “Data” was a word that was being overused I read Lyn’s book Putting Faces on Data (co-authored with Michael Fullan) and it changed the way I felt about the 4 letter word. As noteworthy as the book is, Lyn’s experience is profound and includes being a “teacher, curriculum consultant, teacher-trainer, public education policy analyst, superintendent of schools, and superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Currently, Lyn is an Associate at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto (OISE/UT), where she coordinates the Ed.D. cohort in Theory and Policy Studies.”

Linda Darling-Hammond - She is the “Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University where she has launched the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the School Redesign Network and served as faculty sponsor for the Stanford Teacher Education Program. She is a former president of the American Educational Research Association and member of the National Academy of Education. Her research, teaching, and policy work focus on issues of school restructuring, teacher quality and educational equity. From 1994-2001, she served as executive director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, a blue-ribbon panel whose 1996 report, What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future, led to sweeping policy changes affecting teaching and teacher education. In 2006, this report was named one of the most influential affecting U.S. education and Darling-Hammond was named one of the nation’s ten most influential people affecting educational policy over the last decade. She recently served as the leader of President Barack Obama’s education policy transition team.”

Carol Dweck - Dweck’s work around “Growth Mindset” is both inspiring and important to the profession of education. For too many years there was a mindset that believed that student capabilities were fixed. She is “one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success. She has held professorships at Columbia and Harvard Universities, has lectured all over the world, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kristen Swanson - If you’ve heard of Edcamps, then you have been touched by Kristen Swanson’s work. Swanson is one of the Founders of the Edcamp Foundation. Edcamps are considered an unconference because they do not have keynote speakers, are free to attendees and focus on the fact that the power is in the room. Teachers, leaders, students and parents can show up on the day of the edcamp and present on something they believe is important. Edcamps are now found all over the world and are a viable way for educators to learn from colleagues near and far. In these days of mandates, accountability and boring professional development “Sit and get” sessions, Edcamps will only get more popular as people look for something more meaningful.

Jennifer Abrams - Many people take the path of least resistance when it comes to having open and honest dialogue with colleagues, which can build animosity in the work place. Jennifer Abrams would like to help stop that. She has presented internationally around the topic of helping people find their voice and having tough conversations, as well as helping people bridge the gap in a generational workplace. Jennifer believes that if we can all break through the tough conversations we will work more collaboratively and have more success in our workplace.

Helen Timperley - Helen Timperley is a Professor at the University of Auckland and is best known for “teaching in early childhood, primary and secondary education sectors which formed the basis of her research program focused on making a difference to those student outcomes valued by the communities in which they live. A particular research emphasis has been on promoting leadership, organizational and professional learning in ways that improve the educational experience of students currently under‐achieving in our education systems.”

Shirley Clarke - Clarke has written extensively about formative assessment and providing effective feedback. According to this website, “she began her career as a primary teacher, working for 10 years in the Inner London Education Authority. She became a primary mathematics consultant and was then seconded for two years to one of the first development agencies for KS1 test writing (CATS). This was followed by 10 years as a lecturer and researcher at the Institute of Education, University of London. During this time Shirley directed a number of national research projects focusing on curriculum and assessment issues.”

We don’t talk about women in education nearly enough, and I know you have your own major influences, so please feel free to add them in the comment section below because there are many, many more out there.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.