I’m fool of feel good vibes and warm fuzzies up in here lately. I think it’s because I finally did all of my laundry and didn’t have to repack a suitcase within 72 hours of returning from a trip. Or it’s from the EIGHT solid hours of sleep I got last night. Whatever the reason, I’d like to talk about how we empower others and in return, we become empowered.
My prior work in STEM was really satisfying to me. It fit all of the niches of my brain and I’ll be honest here: I was pretty damn good at it. It had all of my favorite things (except melted cheese): teachers, kids, STEM, free education for those kids, free professional development for those teachers, paying those teachers, undergrad/grad research opportunities, a balanced spreadsheet (thank you) more than 90% of the time, and since I’m all warm and fuzzy today: it had me working with some of the best folks I know.
One of my many teachers bloomed from a math teacher to a bad-ass STEM guru. She really took off with the material we provided. She made it her own. She stumbled, she fell, but she always asked for help without feeling bad. And I was there to catch her. In return, she offered to return the favor whenever I asked, allowing me and my team into her school, into her life, and interrupting it more than we probably should have.
Yes, this was really that positive of a relationship. All those teachers and students loved me and I love them still.
I nominated this teacher for a prestigious math and science award last year. It’s so fancy she might win a trip to the White House, meet the president himself (hate him all you want, he’s still the guy in charge & you’d like to brag you met him too), and win a boatload of money for herself and her school. This teacher is so humble. She is so generous. She is so talented. But she forgot what a bad ass she is. She sent me a photo over the weekend of her receiving her STATE FINALIST award (what??) and said, “there were so many great teachers there, it was an honor.”
I replied, “you ARE one of those great teachers, don’t ever forget that!”
She replied, “you’re an angel.”
Little does she know that by spending time in her school, with her kids, and engrossed in her community, she empowered me.
You read that right: SHE EMPOWERS ME.
Someone once asked me why I like doing what I do. It was a great question. My final answer:
“I like the underdog. I was born an underdog but I feel as though people invested in me every step of the way. When I invest in people and commit to them through research and building their capacity, I have yet to lose. I always win. When you invest in people, you will usually always win.”
Whether it’s supporting an amazing group of teachers, nurturing a struggling grad student, or taking time to listen to a trusted colleague, investing in people usually nets you more wins than losses.
I hope this teacher wins. Not just to hang a plaque on her wall, but to empower her. To show her what a great talent she is. To show her that she is one of the best educators in our country. To give her struggling county some of the recognition it deserves. To show that women can teach and raise our children, but in many cultures, they continue to be marginalized.
Every time I invest in people, I always win. I joke with my dad that the warm feelings won’t pay the electric bill, but I don’t need any heat today, I’m radiating sunshine for her and everything she represents.