Powerful Females in Education
Every woman in education is powerful. Being a teacher requires so much strength in a time when most educational systems are underfunded and often underappreciated.
Still, these eight women continue to change the lives of their students. They're shaping the future, and they should be lauded this Women's History Month and beyond.
1. Michelle Obama
She's no longer the first lady of the United States, but that hasn't stopped Michelle Obama from pursuing one of her greatest passions — empowering girls around the world to achieve at their full potential. Post-presidency, she and her husband started the Obama Foundation, and, in late 2018, Obama announced that her first major project would be the Global Girls Alliance.
Around the world, 98 million girls cannot go to school, and the Global Girls Alliance aims to change that. Obama hopes her programs will keep adolescent girls in the classroom — she wants to show them how their learning can help them chase better careers to support themselves and their families. "It makes no sense that girls and women are not getting educated. The stats show when you educate a girl, you educate a family, a community, a country," she said.
2. Kelly Harper
Kelly Harper's students are in third grade, but that doesn't stop her from getting them involved in the community. The elementary schoolers have learned about young activists and have put their study to the test by speaking to their Congressional Representatives about what they can expect in their Washington, D.C., neighborhood.
Plus, Harper herself works to change and shape educational policy as a member of the District of Columbia Public Schools' Family Engagement Collaborative and the Chancellor's Teachers' Cabinet.
3. Anu Malipatil
With 15 years of K-12 teaching experience under her belt, Anu Malipatil now serves as the vice president of education for the Overdeck Family Foundation. It's her job to set the foundation's goals so they can make the biggest impact.
The Overdeck Family Foundation provides funding to programs that prepare a child for school, and later helps them navigate their classes until they graduate from high school successfully. This can include programs for early-childhood education, money to pay better educators, the creation of more learning-conducive educational environments, a boost in STEM-related options and more.
4. Donna Gradel
In Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Donna Gradel has given her students the tools to learn about our changing environment — and how to use them to make a positive impact on the Earth. Together, she and her students came up with the idea for Aqua for Tharaka, which has helped deliver clean water to Kenyan children. On top of that, she spearheaded an effort between the city of Broken Arrow and the schools within it to improve the area's waterways.
5. Ruby Lee and Vivian Shen
There's a reason why coding has become such a desirable area for training both kids and adults — some say it's going to be an essential skill for workers of the future. Ruby Lee and Vivian Shen are helping the younger population improve their coding skills virtually through the company they co-founded, Juni Learning. Their students log onto their website for online lessons and, rather than sitting in a class with other students, they get one-on-one coding tutoring from their teacher.
6. Michelle Gefland
Michelle Gefland is a distinguished professor at the University of Maryland, but her impact stretches far beyond what she's doing in the classroom. Gefland travels the country giving speeches that help her audience to improve their teamwork and performance.
Although she mostly speaks to those who want to improve such aspects of a business-related environment, she has countless tips that apply in every stage of one's life. Plus, her encouragement of high-performance standards will only work to improve her students' outlook and futures, too.
7. Rebecca Kantar
Rebecca Kantar isn't a teacher, but she has always loved learning. One thing she didn't enjoy school-wise was standardized testing, though. So, she dropped out of Harvard and started Imbellus, through which she has created examinations that test a student's ability to problem-solve, among other practical skills.
She hopes the adoption of her exam will allow high schools to teach what their pupils really need to know to become successful college students and adults — no bubble sheets or timed testing required.
8. Vanessa Luna
Vanessa Luna finished her K-12 education as a DREAMer, which meant she came to the United States as an undocumented child and followed the educational pathway to citizenship. Today, she uses her own experience to help other academic institutions guide their DREAMers to the same level of success through her organization, ImmSchools.
Just the Beginning
These eight women are extraordinary, but they're just the tip of the iceberg — so many amazing women shape the lives of learners across the country. This Women's History Month and beyond, be sure to honor an educator whose work has meant a lot to you. They're our society's heroes, and they should know we appreciate the impact they're making each and every day.