So you want to be a educator?
How would you feel about overseeing the teaching of kids, 70 percent of whom live below the poverty line? What would you do if about 10 percent of your students were homeless? Any thoughts about spending your own money to help these students buy all those extras? You know things like deodorant, toothpaste and other hygiene products that many of us take for granted?
Probably not an appealing proposition and no one would blame you if you took a pass. But, thousands of people accept that challenge every day. And, I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with them to try and make education more equitable and rewarding for the children of our great state. Beverly School District Superintendent Elizabeth “Liz” Giacobbe, is someone who lives and embraces that challenge every day. And, from my perspective truly embodies what an educational leader is all about.
Recently, I made a $5,000 donation to the Beverly City Public School District in Burlington County. It was in recognition of Liz's leadership and the selflessness of her team in Beverly towards the work of improving education in their community. While that's nice and I know the community appreciated it, the real story is why.
I have come to know Liz pretty well over the course of the last several years. We have worked together on backpack drives, reading contests as well as developing a mentorship program for her kids. She is one of the hardest-working and most caring school leaders I have ever met. This past year, she was a finalist in a contest on the MSNBC television program, Morning Joe. The contest, "Know Your Value", was about showing the talents, dreams and vision of some extraordinary women from all across the country.
The idea behind the contest and “Know Your Value” was to create a movement to empower women in the workplace. The winner would receive $10,000. Here is a clip from their show introducing Liz and the other finalists: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc-news/watch/mika-introduces-grow-your-value-finalists-550124611782
She didn't win, but her story moved me to make the donation. Now, Beverly is one of New Jersey's poorer communities. But Liz and her team have not allowed her students to believe that where you start in life should determine how far you go. She pushes them to dream big and gives them the love and tools to make this happen. It was my hope that my small gift to the district could help make a difference in her efforts. She is truly #1 in the hearts of the children and parents of the Beverly School District, where she serves as superintendent for about 315 kids, prekindergarten to eighth grade.
Throughout the time that I’ve written this blog, I’ve advocated that civic involvement, while not mandatory in any sense, is something that we should try to include in our personal lives. There should be no judgment about what you do, who benefits or where it’s done. What matters in the end is this simple supposition: It is better to do something than to do nothing at all.
Liz, who has been an educator for more than two decades, not only speaks to this notion, she puts those words to action. She and her team spend their own money to help kids with items that most of us take for granted. Not unlike the countless stories I have heard from teachers and other educational leaders across the state who believes that their personal sacrifice is a small price to pay to assist their precious young charges. “I do it with joy and pride, because I love coming here,” she said in a recent interview.
As I said, I have had the privilege of traveling throughout my district (and many others) witnessing the good work that people do to empower their neighbors. Often times unheralded but yet deeply impactful towards changing lives for the better. What makes Liz’s contribution so important is the impact isn’t just for the moment or a day or weeks. Her guidance, concern and counsel influence these wonderful kids long after they’ve left her building. But in one way, though these children are often exposed to hard times, they are luckier than most: They had Elizabeth “Liz” Giacobbe directing their school and serving as their champion. And for that, we should all be grateful. That’s my take, what’s yours?
Thank you, Liz!