I’ve always been drawn to professions that help others better understand the world. I started in journalism as a news producer, but in the end found my home in education. At the end of the day, I think education is the key to meaningful change in this country. At this point in my life, my mission is to empower teachers and administrators to better the lives of the students in their charge. Our democracy’s future relies heavily on how we educate young people today.
What was the defining moment in your past that set you on the career path you ended up following?
After leaving journalism in my early twenties, I floated around a bit. But when I decided to leave my job in retail and go back to school to get certified to teach English, the universe opened up to me. Things just worked. I’m not sure if it was just one moment, but the decision to enter education certainly put me on this path. I would eventually get my master’s degree and later a job in administration where a large part of my work was training teachers. And that “training teachers” has become my passion. Now I’m doing that as my own boss. I’ve also gone back to my writing roots, not only with my blog, but with my book Guiding Questions, which I recently self-published on Amazon. If you would have told me fifteen years ago that this is where I would be now, I would have never believed you. But right now, I feel like I am again open to endless opportunity. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. I’m trying to embrace the uncertainty and seek doubt rather than control.
What makes you unique in your industry?
I’m your hands-on type of consultant. Don’t get me wrong, I can rock a one-day professional development session because I know literacy education, but I truly believe that ongoing support, including instructional coaching, is what creates lasting change for teachers and their campuses. I want to be in the classrooms with teachers, living their challenges with them, and arming them with the tools they need to make the difference they are all looking to make. I want to be on that journey with them, to support, and eventually celebrate success. I want to be an equal partner in the messiness of instruction. I also have the advantage of seeing instruction from both the teacher and administrator perspective. I taught all types of students from GT, to language learners, to students receiving special services. I also served as a district-wide coordinator, so I got to see instruction from that view, from elementary to secondary. I gained a wealth of knowledge and a broader perspective.
I would be remiss if I didn’t credit the Junior League of San Antonio with my leadership development. I grew into what I am today through serving—from mentoring other members, to serving as treasurer and president. This again broadened my perspective of leadership and community service and was integral in my personal development. What I learned has definitely empowered me to do what I am doing today.
Junior League of San Antonio Meeting. Image Credit: Laura Tannenbaum at Oh, Tannenbaum Photography.
What is one way you hope to impact your community in the future, either personally or professionally?
I hope that empowering teachers and administrators to better the lives of their students will in turn improve the community. I think the role schools play is foundational. And it starts by developing and retaining quality teachers. Teaching is an incredibly difficult job, and teachers deserve all the support we can give them. I know there are incredibly good teachers who leave because they just don’t feel supported. If I can help support them, and keep them in the classroom, thousands of students will benefit. In my heart, I will always be a teacher.
I also want to continue my volunteer work with the Junior League of San Antonio and Hemisfair. There is so much opportunity to be involved and connected and create that impact you would like to make.
If you could sit down with any woman in the world–either from history or who is currently living–who would that be and what would you discuss with her?
I think it would have to be a female author, but there are so many. One who is living would be Margaret Atwood. I was a fan long before the Hulu series based on The Handmaid’s Tale. And that’s not even my favorite book by her. That most likely goes to The Blind Assassin, for which she won the Booker Prize. That’s the book that started me on my Margaret Atwood phase—she’s all I read for months in my early twenties. She just happens to be very en vogue right now. I always appreciated how she created these rich female protagonists with rich female relationships. There’s still a shortage of that in literature and other media. I would love to discuss with her how she creates these compelling narratives and what larger point she might be trying to make. And I would love to talk to her about her upcoming sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.
I’m also intrigued by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the famed author of Frankenstein. This is mostly because I recently finally read Frankenstein, and also because I would love to know what it was like to be a female writer in that time period. I’d love to talk with her about which character she most identified with.
Connect with Kristen Henry at KHLiteracyEducation.com, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, and on Instagram @khliteracyed.
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Edited from an interview by Eleanora Morrison.