Not All Educational Leaders Are Formally Educated

Our parents are our first teachers, encouraging our first tentative steps while grasping our hands to steady us, and as we grow, they directly and indirectly pass on their values, morals and even some idiosyncrasies to us.  

As I write this, I sit where I have sat for the last few weeks, at my mother’s bedside in the Intensive Care Unit. Sitting, waiting, praying, clinging to hope with an outward fierce stoicism, a characteristic that I have gleaned from being my mother’s daughter. As I reflect, I sift through memories of my mom and probably too much time imagining my life without her. I push thoughts of her mortality aside with thoughts of my students, coworkers and as I reflect on my profession, I imagine what my life would be like now if she hadn’t given me a love of learning.  With the forced air sound of a machine helping my mom breathe as a background to my thoughts, prominent educators throughout my life parade through my head. Still my thoughts keep circling back to what a profound educational leader Ella Sue Koepke, otherwise known as my mom, has been and is to me.  Does she know this, have I told her I wouldn’t have gone to college without her inspiration, will I get an opportunity to tell her she’s one of the smartest women I know even though she’s never set foot in a college classroom?

How many of us are among the first in our family to graduate college and know we couldn’t have done it, moreover never would’ve even attempted if it weren’t for the influence of a brilliant mother at home who gave us no other option, but to educate ourselves?  More importantly how many among us are stay-at-home moms, housewives, aunts and grandmas believing ourselves to be less accomplished because we’re not formally educated; or that we are less of an inspiration to the next generation looking up to us?

You’re wrong if you believe that formal education is needed to inspire a child.  Don’t underestimate what you have to offer the children in your life because you lack a degree.  What you have is priceless, what you have can’t be taught in any classroom.  What you have is heart and selflessness.  So much so that you’d give up everything and give anything for your child to succeed.

My mom did seamstress work, cake decorating, house cleaning and gift wrapping to make ends meet.  She sacrificed because she believed her greatest job was to be my mom.  She taught me more than she thinks she did.  While she was working tirelessly, her message was constant, “Go to college, you’ll never have to work as hard as I do.” I went to college, and while there I exemplified the characteristics my mother instilled in me, knowing the entire time she was right behind me, just as in the above photo.  

Now if she’ll just wake up, I have so much to tell her…

What do you think?

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Alicia Christiansen

Alicia Christiansen

Alicia Christiansen is the first college graduate in her military family and the only special education teacher to ever receive the Key to the District where she has taught special needs students for over 16 years. Since she was once a Special Education student in the district where she teaches, she feels that she can not only relate to the challenges within the population, yet also has added insight into the community where her students reside. Beyond instructing, encouraging and molding her students, she feels part of her job outside the walls of her class is dispelling the many misconceptions about special needs students. Contributing to La Comadre will provide her an additional avenue in assisting fellow educators, parents and families of Special Education students in the varied related topics that may seem overwhelming to comprehend often due to conflicting or misinformation. Alicia believes ultimately a teacher’s job is to forge a bond with the family as she helps their child build a bridge to the future.

17 thoughts on “Not All Educational Leaders Are Formally Educated

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    Veronica Valadez-Arrezola

    Your written words ring so true for many moms out there. We ultimately want the best for our kids and we hope that we teach them well (degree or not).

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    Jennifer Smith

    Beautiful and truly an honor to your mom. I know your mom already knows how much you love and respect her, you have told her and shown her in many ways!

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    ella sue koepke

    Hello! I am Alicia mother and am proud to be so! With much prayer on her part, after 2 months in the hospital I am home! I struggled raising her and her older sister because I not only did not have a formal education I never graduated from high school, I knew how much I loved my children and I could not bear having someone else being the one who taught them love, kindness and to stand up for them selves!

    1. froggiealicia


      Thank you Hunnelle. This was written during a very dark time about someone, my mom, whom as you know means the world to me.

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    Deborah Clark

    This has inspired me to make my motto for 2017: Everyone and everything is your teacher. Life has so much to offer and we so often struggle against letting anything we perceive to be negative or “less-than” be our teacher. If we can open up and look bold faced into our lives we will be rewarded not only with knowledge but deep love and joy. Formal education is powerful, but as you point out, so is great love and intention. And maybe so is grief and pain, like you were experiencing at her bedside, that allowed you to observe something in a new way. That is deep abiding beauty in the human experience. Thank you for sharing!

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