We Learned From The Best

March is National Women’s Month and the Moms As Principals wanted to take a minute to recognize some of the most impactful women that we hold close to our heart and admire.

Kari Nethery Kluckohn (Lindsy)
“What do you think you can do?”
“Well, I actually have no idea. I’ve never done this before.”

I don’t know many women who have walked on to a collegiate level sports team with zero experience and have been welcomed with open arms and a smile. Yet, this is exactly what happened to me my freshman year of college. Over the next four years I hugged, cursed, smiled, and cried with Coach. She put me through workouts that made my immature self want to kick her butt, just so she knew how it felt.  In the time that I ran for her, she became a mom, twice. There was a whisper about her leaving during each pregnancy. I never had an example of a woman in my family who held a career while being a mom and had no doubts that she would move on. Even on the few days when Coach’s son hobbled around the track during practice or she would recruit us to babysit occasionally on the weekend, I still had a feeling it was short lived. I was wrong.

By the time I ran through the finish line of my last 200 meter race as a senior in college I realized I had my first example of a woman who could pull-off “working mom” like a rockstar. I would never forget it.

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Marianne Medley (Liz)
I learned both “carpe diem” and “semper ubi sub ubi” from Magistra Medley, Latin teacher extraordinaire.  Even though I never had her as an official teacher, I still learned everything I need to know about life from her.  She taught me to love life and to definitely get after it every day, hence the “carpe diem” part. And of course she always taught me the less well known, yet equally important lessons, like “semper ubi sub ubi”, or always wear underwear!  There have certainly been many women who have had an influence on me in my life, but Marianne Medley, my mother, has been my favorite teacher. She was my own personal teacher long before she became a Latin teacher, and she continues to be my personal teacher even though she has retired from the classroom.  Long before my mom was a teacher, she was a mom who managed to raise two fiercely independent women and two compassionate and caring men. She was the one who helped me fall in love with books and reading. She was the one who believed in me and taught me to believe in myself. She was the one who modeled her love of learning for me, sometimes sitting in her college classes very pregnant with a young kid (me) in tow.  She was the one who was always so creative and encouraged me to not be afraid to color outside of the lines. Not sure if other kids had the same experience as me, conjugating verbs on a daily basis and always learning the root of every word, but I will be forever grateful that my Latin teacher, my amazing mom, shaped me into the female leader I am today. For you mom: non scholae sed vitae discimus, we do not learn for school, but for life!

Erlyn Madonia (Claire)
“The people who influence you are the people that believe in you.” Growing up I struggled to read, and process information and in third grade I was diagnosed with a specific learning disability. I always knew I was further behind my classmates and it took me three times as long to understand concepts than others, and I spent many nights crying through the struggles of learning. Through all of the struggles and all of the pain, Erlyn Madonia, my mother, was always there fighting and supporting me. She had patience of gold, sitting with me each night teaching me as I struggled, and she never stopped believing in me and my abilities. She was alway positive when I was negative, and she never gave up in me. She taught me so many strategies to overcome my learning difficulties, and believed I could be anything I wanted to be, despite my disability. She fought unconditionally for me to get the services in school that I deserved. She would often say she was not only fighting for me, she was fighting for all the other parents that didn’t know how to fight. When applying to colleges she was my number one cheerleader and believed that I could go anywhere and do anything that I wanted too. She pushes me to do better at my job, and fight for what is best for my own kids.

leadership-quote-1Tamara Konrade (Kelley)
“Your energy introduces you before you even speak” is something that I have always felt describes my mentor and life coach, Tamara Konrade. It is this energy that has introduced me to a women that I not only admire, but I can now call my friend.

When I met Tamara,  she was presenting for ESSDACK in 2008 in front of a packed room.  I wish I could describe to you the energy I felt from her, but I couldn’t do it justice.  In fact, I can’t tell you what a thrill is was to discover that just 8 months later we had both joined Valley Center Schools. It was like as sign from God that I had made a sound decision to join the district and I was being given the opportunity to learn from her every day.

What I admire most about Tamara is that she lives her passion by coaching others to be their most authentic selves while also being a wonderful wife, mother, and friend. She models how to move through life with awareness of your judgments, beliefs and energy. She shifts cultures with simple questions that comes from a place of curiosity instead of judgement. You will never walk away from a tough conversation with her not feeling loved and trusted. She simply helps you find your way by helping you sift through feelings of doubt or frustration.

What I know for certain is that she brings out the very best in me whenever we speak. She acknowledges my worries and helps me dig down deep until I find the real story I’m telling myself. She also finds a way to show me who I am through her eyes and gives me the confidence to pick myself up and keep going. She’s my friend, she’s my mentor and she’s my role model for who I strive to be every day.

Marciala Chalin (Lynn)
When I think about the woman that has influenced me the most I can’t help but think about my grandmother.  While she is no longer with us, I carry with me so many of the traditions and passions she taught me from an early age. My mother and father divorced when I was 5, and it was my grandmother; the school custodian who picked up the pieces to raise me, making sure she guarded my fragile heart.

Chalin taught me to keep a tidy house that would welcome others, she modeled the life of a prayer warrior, and kissed me goodnight until the day I left home to be married. She took time to listen and taught me the value of friendships. In every conversation, she took delight in listening to my accomplishments and failures. She would then tell me stories (some over and over) of how failures combined with prayers turned into some of the best lessons of her life.

One of her greatest qualities was her humbleness.  She was proud of her role as the high school custodian and always reminded me that being humble in life is a non negotiable.  She made family a priority and made every effort to ensure I had the best education. She took a special interest in learning about my struggles and modeled forgiveness in a way I can’t ever replicate.

Chalin never saw me become a teacher.  As a matter of fact, she never saw me graduate from college.  But somehow she knew that I would make it… On the day of my graduation from college, she had left instructions to have my mother gift me a graduation ring in her name. As I look at my work ethic, the way I raise my daughters, and my love for God; I know Chalin has shaped me into the woman I am today.  I hope I can leave that type of legacy for someone one day.

quote.jpegFrederica Gosche (Melissa)
Incredible…..only begins to describe my mother, Frederica. As the youngest of 12 children, she grew up in a large family, with overprotective brothers in a small village outside of Sparta, Greece. As an avid reader, she excelled in her studies, rising to the top of her class. She always valued education, and exhibited a strong work ethic from a young age. Resilient describes how my mother handled the life-altering experience of being uprooted at age 18 and told to immigrate to the United States of America. Not being able to finish her senior year of high school in Greece, my mother was faced with the challenge of settling in a new country, with limited knowledge of the language, and figuring out how to succeed in a classroom in America. My mom was able to graduate from Austin High School in Chicago, obtain a job at a reputable company, and not only excel through the ranks of her company without a college degree, but dedicate 40 years of her life to that same company. Talk about loyalty!  She overcame many struggles and challenges in her personal life, yet she didn’t let those obstacles stand in her way of succeeding and setting an exceptional example for her children. She’s a dedicated, hard-working woman whose thirst for knowledge and work ethic are second to none. Her example showed me the possibility of being a working mother, while still nurturing and caring for a home. She is my biggest cheerleader, and most honest critic. I value her feedback and know that she always wants what’s best for me. She’s selfless and continues to demonstrate her huge heart, as she cares for her aging siblings. My mom continues to be my rock, as she supports my career endeavors and loves my two children each day, while I love the 800 students whose care, safety and education I am charged with as a building leader. I’m forever grateful for the example she set for me, and for her continuous support.

Carmen Vanegas Anderson (Tracey)
“Mija, You can do anything you want, as long as you work hard and believe!” These are the words that still pierce my core when I am doubting my own ability or feeling inadequate in my personal or professional life. I still can’t believe how clearly I can  hear my Grandma Carmen’s loving voice after all of this time.

My grandmother grew up in poverty, dropped out of school in fourth grade, and learned to speak English on her own. Without a formal education to rely on, my grandmother developed a strong work ethic, a desire to push beyond her circumstances at the age of ten and the tenacity to ask for help when needed. I still vividly remember being seven years old and helping her spell numbers or the names of businesses as she filled out checks at the local grocery store. She never seemed embarrassed or too proud to ask for help. In fact, her eyes almost seemed to sparkle with pride as I supported and taught her how to write in English.  She would let out a chuckle and reply to the cashier, “My granddaughter is my teacher. She is going to do great things.”

Growing up, I didn’t realize  the impact that these statements would have on me and how they would shape the learner, mother, teacher, principal, and leader I am today. My desire for ALL kids to know they are loved, worthy of greatness, and are NOT defined by their circumstances stems from my grandmother and the champion she was and continues to be for me!

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