Women Education Leaders: Self-Care Advice and Tips

women education leaders
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In the T&L Honor Role podcast, Drs. Kecia Ray and Frances Gipson celebrate fierce and formidable women in education. Their guests are some of the most accomplished education leaders working today. 

In each episode, guests are asked how they take care of their health and wellness and balance the demands of leadership and other responsibilities. Some common themes have emerged. 

Most guests emphasized the centrality of health and wellness to their ability to be in service to others, noting that self-care fuels their work. The importance of sleep, good nutrition, and physical movement are central to self-care as well as music, laughter, meditation, and joy, particularly during this time of ongoing disruption.

Here is some of the wisdom they have to offer:

Dr. Tanzy Kilcrease, Bibb County (GA) Schools Chief of Staff. “Understand that self-care is not selfish. We can’t lead others if we don’t care for ourselves. As women and leaders we normally put the needs of others before ourselves at the expense of our health. I take time to reflect in the morning and evening, and I listen to my body. If you’re tired, rest. If you need a day, take one. It’s okay because the work is going to be waiting for you when you get back.”

Dr. Noreen Bush, Cedar Rapids (IA) Superintendent, the 2021 AASA School Superintendent of the Year. “Most of my life I’ve not been good at this. Quick snippets of daily joy is really what gets me going. I jam out on my song of the day in my car going to work. We have family dinner together every day. I focus on eating well and getting rest. I have accountability partners who hold me accountable for taking care of myself.”

Marie Izquierdo, chief strategy officer in Miami-Dade County (FL) Public Schools. “I like fitness and exercise quite a bit. I’m an Orange Theory advocate. It’s an hour I spend on myself. I love to read and sometimes binge on TV. Occasionally, I’ll take a mental health day to read at the beach or go for a long walk. I am a member of Chiefs for Change and there are so many women leaders there I admire. We turn to each other for support and advice about struggles that are unique to women.”

Dr. Danelle Walker Whiteside, first Black President of Austin Peay State University (TN). “I don’t really believe in work-life balance. It’s not 50/50. I’ve learned how to do work-life integration. I bring my family to university functions and my mom comes with us to help. Self-care is another issue. We have to give ourselves permission to integrate ourselves into our life. If I’m integrating everything, I have to give myself space to do it.”

Dr. Torie Weiston-Serdan, founder and executive director of Youth Mentoring Action Network (CA). “Self-care is a radical act. It’s new for me. I’m being more intentional about my time, and what I will and won’t do. I do 45 minutes of cardio meditation in the morning, and I’m working on eating the right kind of fuel for my body. And most importantly, understanding that if I don’t get to something today, the world will be fine if I do it tomorrow. It helps me make space for all the other things I do.”

Dr. Maria Armstrong, executive director of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents. “Look at being present in the moment so you can enjoy it. Personally, I love to work out. It’s where I generate my energy and is the high point of my day. Once I’ve done that, I am ready to take on anything. Surround yourself with joy—friends and family. That’s the joy you have to make for yourself. You just have to make the time.”

Mónica García represents Board District 2 in Los Angeles USD. “I’m a learner when it comes to self-care and understanding that our best self is our whole self. Sleep cannot be underestimated, drinking water, taking a 30-minute walk, really understanding that you deserve it, and it will help you go your next mile. I believe in wellness. Schedule joy in your day. Surround yourself with people who feed your soul and, remember, you must be your biggest cheerleader, so you are clear about the ‘you’ you are building.”

Dr. Debra Duardo, superintendent of Los Angeles County Schools. “Now more than ever we need to practice self-care. This pandemic has put a highlight on mental health as our whole lives have been disrupted. I’ve been an avid meditator for over 30 years, so I meditate twice a day for 20 minutes. It gives me the ability to stay calm, to focus myself and not let the small stuff drive me crazy. I think everyone needs to find what works for them, whether it’s music, meditation, dance, sports, or the gym. It’s really important to find a balance.”

You can find more interviews of fierce and formidable women educators at Tech & Learning’s Honor Role podcast.

Annie Galvin Teich has more than 25 years' experience in education writing and publishing. She is an edtech industry expert in content marketing and copywriting. As a regular contributor to Tech & Learning she focuses on the information needs of district decision makers.