If you could name a single most important change the education system needs to reshape the future of our nation what would it be?
I wish I could give you A silver bullet. I don't think there's any ONE thing that will make the most change, because the needs of each community are unique. However, what is most important is that EVERY student have access to lots of opportunities- the arts, strong math and science instruction, world languages, hands-on instruction, great libraries, and robust non-academic activities. Finally, I believe every young person needs a champion. If each young person could have a champion, she or he could reach full potential. The reality is that adults/educators also need a champion. We ask educators every day to save the world, and then we talk so badly about them and about the profession.
How would you define open mindedness?
Open-mindedness is a willingness to acknowledge that YOUR way is not the RIGHT way; it's a way. Open-mindedness is believing I can ALWAYS learn new things from other people.
What is a common misconception people have about you?
There are many misconceptions about me. I'm a tall Black woman. People assume I was raised in the US. I was raised in the Netherlands and speak 4 languages. I have an Afro, so people assume I'm a radical. Although I am radical about certain things, the Afro is not a political statement; it's how my hair grows. People assume I am younger (and, therefore, less experienced). I'm 45 years old with 3 adult children. People assume I was a teen mom (and all that goes with that). People assume my greatest accomplishment is probably basketball, but it is actually being awarded as a Champion of Change by President Obama.
What is an important global issue that isn't talked about or acted on enough?
Slavery/sex-trafficking. One of my best friends was brought to the US as a slave. She and her family escaped. Far too many young women are being trafficked across the world. We are silent about it, because these women are often brown and young.
You look incredible, what is your best beauty advice?
I LOVE fashion! As an educator, it was always important to me to look my best (although I am well-known for my thrift store expertise). I spent most of my career in poor communities. I wanted my students to see what "professional" looks like. I also believe that when we feel good about ourselves, it improves how we "show up" in life. I try to walk or run 5 miles a day. I eat healthy. Wearing my hair natural is my way of giving young ladies permission to embrace their own beauty. I talk about that all the time. For years I wore my hair straight (a 6-hour endeavor) to be pretty like everyone else. I tell girls now, "You do you. When you embrace the beauty of YOUR unique package, that makes you beautiful."