Women’s History Month: Women Making a Difference in Education
March 6th, 2023
Officially established within the United States in March 1987, Women’s History Month is an important time to honor the outstanding accomplishments of women both historically and in our current times (Women’s History Month, n.d.). One area where women have made significant strides is the field of education, where they have played a key role in shaping the minds and supporting the success of students around the globe. Whether the role of a teacher or a school leader, it’s safe to say that current and former students alike can recall a woman who positively impacted their education and, in some cases, their lives.
Here are five women creating waves of change within the field of education today:
Recognized as the 2021 National Teacher of the Year, Juliana Urtubey utilizes her platform to advocate for a “joyous and just” education system for all students. Throughout her career, she has also held various leadership positions, including being appointed to the President’s Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics under President Joe Biden.
As a first-generation bilingual immigrant, Juliana encourages students to be proud of their identities and backgrounds. She emphasizes the importance of community connection in helping students thrive. Additionally, she has led initiatives to beautify schools by creating murals, gardens, and more, including heading fundraising efforts for these projects. Juliana serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for the future of education, student learning, and community connections (CCSSO, 2021).
An Assistant Principal and former Fifth-Grade Teacher at Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School in Wahiawā, Hawaii, Esther Kwon was recently recognized for her student-focused and innovative approach to teaching with the Milken Educator Award. Lowell Milken created the Milken Educator Awards to give outstanding teachers the recognition they deserve for their important work — ensuring a bright future for every student. As an educator, she advocates for seeing the infinite potential of every child while fostering creativity and compassion. During her tenure, she led 100% of her students to achieve improved assessment scores within the elementary STEM fair program.
She further demonstrated her commitment to student success during the COVID-19 pandemic by creating the Pineapple Academy program, allowing students from different schools to socialize and listen to music together. Through her thought leadership, publications, and actions, she has been an exceptional role model for showing educators how they can impact the lives of their students and communities (Dym, 2023).
Driven by her personal experience of needing a supportive teacher during her youth, Carolyn Kielma is committed to empowering her students to reach their full potential while providing additional assistance to those needing extra support. She approaches teaching with the belief that learning is a process of discovery and that all students have both special gifts and require individualized guidance.
As a result of her efforts in education, Carolyn received the Fund for Teachers Fellowship Grant giving her the opportunity to document wildlife and conservation efforts at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center and Yellowstone National Park. She uses this experience to further educate and connect her students with conservation initiatives and efforts in their local community. Her admirable dedication to her students demonstrates the power of a student-focused approach to education and learning (Connecticut State Department of Education, 2023).
A Music Specialist at Dr. Beverly S. Mathis Elementary School and another Milken Educator Award Recipient, Ali Jun instills a passion for music in all of her students and empowers them to tap into their musical talents and gifts. She has spearheaded several initiatives to improve the quality of her students’ education, including raising funds from outside donors to buy guitars, ukuleles, and other musical instruments. She has also led her students to perform in major events, such as the PBS Holiday Showcase.
Ali is actively engaged in her local community, which she demonstrated while gathering and distributing supplies to school families during the COVID-19 pandemic and reminding students to sing and dance at home. Ali utilizes her love of music to help students cultivate passion and develop lifelong skills that will support and empower them well into their futures (Milken Family Foundation, n.d.).
Pamela Lamcke, the Executive Director of the Marshall Teacher Residency at Summit Public Schools, impacts student lives by revolutionizing teacher training. She advocates for a highly personal, innovative, and student-centered approach to teaching that focuses on the unique needs of each student. Her training program has resulted in above-average teacher retention rates, with 90% of the first cohort having completed their fourth year within the classroom.
In addition to recognizing the importance of strengthening teacher retention amidst the current teacher shortage, Pamela also strives to improve the diversity of the teacher workforce. In collaboration with her colleagues, she strategically designed the Residency to promote the recruitment, training, and retention of diverse educators. She believes that investing in the next generation of teachers is crucial to the success of students and education as a whole (Solomon Yem, 2022).
From empowering their students to creating a just education system for all, the contributions of women in the field of education have and continue to be substantial and impactful. The women highlighted here are just a small sample of those that make a difference in the classroom every day. As we celebrate the achievements of women during Women’s History Month, it’s important to remember to support and uplift those who strive to provide students with an education that helps them realize their dreams and become the best version of themselves.
Did we miss any outstanding women educators?
Feel free to share your thoughts in our comments section below!
CCSSO. (2021). Juliana Urtubey, 2021 National Teacher of the Year. Council of Chief State School Officers. https://ntoy.ccsso.org/juliana-urtubey-2021-national-teacher-of-the-year/
Connecticut State Department of Education. (2023). Connecticut Teacher of the Year 2023. CT.gov. https://portal.ct.gov/SDE/TOY/Connecticut-Teacher-of-the-Year-2023
Dym, Z. (2023). Wahiawā educator surprised with national teacher award. Hawai’i Public Radio. https://www.hawaiipublicradio.org/local-news/2023-02-01/wahiawa-educator-surprised-with-national-teacher-award
Milken Family Foundation. (n.d.). Educator Profile: Ali Jun (NV ‘21), Music Specialist. Milken Educator Awards. https://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/view/ali-jun
Solomon Yem, S. (2022). 13 Education Innovators Reimagining Learning Around the World. Better. https://better.net/life/education/10-education-innovators-reimagining-learning-around-the-world/
Women’s History Month (n.d.). March is Women’s History Month. The Library of Congress. https://womenshistorymonth.gov/about/