Dave, James (age 8), Grace (age 6) and I in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this summer
In this blog series, we’re introducing you to the incredible people who make up the Hendy Avenue Consulting team. To kick us off, we’re excited to introduce you to Jessica Wilson, who joined Hendy in September 2017 and has supported a broad range of clients including the Delaware Department of Education, Breakthrough Public Schools and Independence Mission Schools. Jess is super smart, incredibly witty, a dedicated teammate, and deeply committed to students. She makes our whole team better every day. We hope you enjoy this interview with our wonderful Jessica Wilson.
Why did you choose to work in education?
My career began in the nonprofit sector, serving and supporting nonprofit leaders as they pursued solutions to the problems their organizations existed to solve. I supported nonprofits working to solve all kinds of problems, from hunger to housing to environmental justice. I was (and am) really good at supporting leaders to examine their challenges, generate solutions, and create plans to implement those solutions. However, I often lamented that I didn’t have my own “mission” – I didn’t know the problem that I wanted to put all of my professional energy into solving. It wasn’t until graduate school when I began an internship in the HR department of Pittsburgh Public Schools that I found a mission that fit my skill and passion. I learned then, and in my subsequent years at TNTP, that my skill in problem-solving and planning could make a huge difference in education, and specifically in the implementation of systems and practices to support the adults who were serving kids. I knew then (and know now) that I am not cut out to be a teacher. I do know, though, that I can make a difference for kids by making sure that the adults who teach them, lead their schools, and make decisions on their behalf have the skills, resources, knowledge and strategies to ensure that kids get the best.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
I love working with clients to solve problems and make their jobs easier. I firmly believe that leaders in education have some of the hardest jobs in our society, and in the pandemic these jobs have become even harder. I get a lot of joy in meeting leaders where they are in their problem solving, and in supporting them to bring their ideas and solutions to life – whether it be as simple as a well-run meeting or as complex as an entirely new initiative.
What’s the problem in education you most want to solve?
I firmly believe that the quality of the adults serving kids in schools is the most important lever we can pull to make sure that all kids (and not just kids whose families have means) get the education they need and deserve to live a choice-filled life. I think ensuring that the best, smartest, most dedicated people are serving schools as teachers and leaders starts with both better support and resources for those who are already in teaching and leading positions, and with elevating the teaching profession so we can attract more of the “best and brightest”. This means we must develop and recognize teachers in the same way and with the same rigor that we do other professionals that we as a society tend to revere, and that we implement changes in systems like job design, development and compensation to make teaching and leading more attractive and sustainable.
What’s a favorite book or quote?
A quote I’ve loved since high school: “This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw
What do you like to do outside of work?
My family and I have grown to love and deeply appreciate the outdoors. We make it a point to get into nature whenever we can for hiking, biking, kayaking, or boating on our beloved Lake Erie. We are avid tent campers, and are daydreaming of buying an RV to visit as many National Parks as we can. I also love to knit, and have found that the meditative nature of knitting brings me a much needed sense of calm in these crazy days. And I express affection through food and enjoy cooking for the people I love.