The 2010 Linowes Awardees: On Motivation and Leadership
Three of The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region’s 2010 Linowes Leadership Awardees write about what motivates them to lead…and what leadership means to them.
Allison Baugher, Spanish Teacher, Ballou High School, Washington, DC
Every teacher, despite how much he or she loves their job and their students, has to be re-inspired sometimes. Often those things that rejuvenate us are very simple. I received a post on my Facebook wall a few weeks ago from one of my first students at Ballou Senior High School, who is now in college at University of Miami. It said, “Just got an 96% on my first college Spanish exam, and it wasn’t even beginners Spanish! I owe it all to the best Spanish teacher ever, Ms. Baugher!” This simple statement reflects one of the biggest successes I’ve had as a teacher and is the reason I teach at Ballou Senior High School.
When I came to Ballou 2 ½ years ago, I gave a diagnostic to my Spanish II students and all of them, regardless of what level they were supposed to be at, demonstrated the same level of knowledge in Spanish language across the board. I am not exaggerating when I say they only knew their numbers 1-10 and the words hola and adios. The majority of these students told me they received A’s and B’s in their Spanish I classes. This is a common disservice to students in under-performing schools. Students at Ballou, and other schools like Ballou, are on average 3-5 grade levels behind when they enter high school. Teachers frequently become so overwhelmed with delivering high school level material to students who are performing on an elementary school level, that they simply pass students along and give grades based on good behavior and task completion. The result is a school full of students who are graduating high school reading and writing at a 5th-6th grade level who are no where close to being prepared for college academics and therefore will be stuck in a category of applicants that are only qualified for minimum wage jobs.
In fall of 2006, Ballou sent 27 graduating seniors to college. In spring of 2010 only 6 of them remained and were graduating from college. This statistic is alarming and is reason alone to be inspired to be the best teacher I can be every single day. Ballou has recently taken on the task of restructuring and changing the face of the school. The “New Ballou” is dedicated to not only getting students into college and finding financial support for them, but also to preparing them academically and socially for the rigor of higher education. This is not a simple task, but it would be a disservice to our community to not give students access to the same opportunities as their more affluent peers who can afford a private education. I teach at the New Ballou because I believe inequity in public education is the greatest social injustice of this generation. I teach because my students deserve to have a teacher who cares enough about their success that they are willing to work hard everyday to provide the same quality of education that I would expect for my own children.
I gave it some thought that the true inspiration behind the work that I do is the young people that will benefit. “The children are the future” is a common saying in the world and I have a responsibility in helping to shape their future. It’s no secret that our young people are thinking about sex and some experimenting as young as 11 years old. So when and if they decide to have sex or the next time they engage in sexual activity I want them to hear my voice in their head that says “wear a condom” “go get tested for STI’s”. “Talk to your partner about their past sexual partners”. It’s important for our young people to make proud and responsible choices and I am ecstatic that I can deliver the information that will help keep them safe.
Many people feel that a leader is someone that can run a country. A leader in my eyes is someone that gives back and uplifts someone else’s life. So by my definition anyone can be a leader because we all have the power to uplift, inspire, and impact someone else’s life. All you have to do is tap into that way of being. The creator has given us all that power. It’s not something you have to buy, take a class, or read a book. Leadership skills are in all of us.
Evelyn Green, Manager, Bethany Women’s Center at N Street Village, Washington, DC
My inspiration comes from where I came from and is the motivating force for where I want to be. When I come to work in the morning it reminds me of when I first came to N Street Village. My eyes are open to the fact that if I don’t remember where I came from, then I could be right back there myself. Working at N Street is a joy. It is a humbling experience everyday when I sit and talk to someone and I remember that it is only through the grace of God, the help of the staff, and my loved ones that I am still here. My leadership style has always been that I don’t walk behind someone or in front of them; I always try to walk beside them. I believe this a job that we must do together. It is not an “I” thing, it is a “We” thing. And YES WE CAN!