My Why

When we meet someone for the first time the first question we often ask is “What do you do?” We want to know where they work and what their title is. That will tell us what they do and give us a broad overview of how they do it. It’s not until we are deeply connected to someone when we find out their “why”: why they do what they do. Knowing someone’s “why” gives you such a deeper understanding of who that person is, but we rarely get there, and when we do we have already formed a relationship. What if we all started with the “why”?

My Why

My Schooling

I was adopted by a white family when I was three months old. My mother was a secondary private school English teacher and my father was a college professor who wanted to teach, not research. As a result, we moved a lot growing up. I was born in Maryland, we moved to Pennsylvania, and then we moved to Egypt. After three years in Egypt, we moved to Miami, Florida, where my siblings and I attended the prestigious private school where my mom worked. I was the only African American girl in my grade. I distinctly remember the gut-wrenching feeling when we discussed slavery or civil rights in class and everyone turned to look at me. My education was top notch, but the social experience was stifling. When we moved just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, my freshman year of high school, my parents gave me the choice to attend the all-girl private school where my mom would be teaching or the local public high school. I chose the local school because I wanted to be in a more diverse setting. My high school was about twenty to thirty percent African American. The first day of school my mom registered me and made sure that I was in the highest-level classes because I had come from a very rigorous private school. I could not wait to be surrounded by a diverse student body. However, reality hit me quickly. I was, again, the only black student in my higher-level classes. As I made friends, and specifically friends of color, I began to question why my friends, who were at least as smart if not smarter than me, were not also in honors and GT classes. Along with math, science, history, etc., during my freshman year of high school I took a crash course in educational inequity and institutionalized racism. After my freshman year my parents moved me to a suburban county in a planned community. It was the first time that I saw true diversity. That experience helped me develop a strong identity as a black woman, but I also knew that I had sacrificed high educational standards for personal comfort. In eleventh grade at my traditional public school I read some of the same books I had read in my private middle school. And although I had a much more diverse student body, I did not have a single African American teacher in any of my classes until college.

My Education

I initially entered college with a plan to major and psychology and then attend law school. It was a great plan that only lasted for a few weeks into my first semester! I enrolled in African American studies 101 and fell in love. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree with double majors in African American studies and sociology. I no longer wanted to attend law school, but I felt a strong pull towards education. I earned a Master of Arts degree in Teaching, K-12, and began working in private schools. I was determined to be the diverse face in the classroom for minoritized students that I had not seen as a child.

My Parenting & Professional Experiences

After a few years of teaching, I recognized that I loved the school environment, but not necessarily the classroom. I had a passion for learning, for students, for equitable access, but not as a teacher. I first left the classroom to be the diversity coordinator for a private school. At the same time, I met my husband, an Air Force man, and we moved shortly after getting married. Each time we moved as a military family, I was able to re-invent myself. At the same time, we were growing our family, so I worked as a childcare director, taught early childhood education courses for different colleges, worked as a curriculum coordinator and assistant admission director for a private school, and more. In 2013 I earned a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and began looking for a job as well as a charter middle school for my daughter. I found a charter school that had high expectations for each student, coupled with systems that supported autonomy and emotional development. It was the perfect school for my anxious, timid, unconfident, but extremely bright daughter; and turned out to be the right school for me to grow as a leader. I was the founding assistant principal for half of a year, prior to being named the founding Head of School of the networks’ second campus in Texas. I recruited every family, hired the entire, staff, set the culture of the school, nurtured and developed my teachers, staff, and students. It was an amazing experience that lead me to my true passion and calling. I found that, even more than leading, I was my best when I was supporting, developing, coaching, and mentoring. Nothing made me prouder than to help others actualize their dreams. I was the founding principal for a school of excellence that was named the number one middle school in Texas, and the number 10 charter middle school in the nation. It was one of my proudest professional moments. However, I dream now to support other school leaders as they set out to found innovative school models that will bring diversity, equity, access, and rigor to as many students as possible nationally.

“What Do You Do?”

I have worked as a teacher and an administrator. I have been a founding school leader for three different schools. I have taught infants and at the college level and every level in between. I earned the Texas Superintendent certification to better understand the inner workings of the public education system. I am excited to begin my next adventure as an independent educational consultant. So now when people ask me what I do I will begin with my why…

My greatest joy comes from developing leaders to fulfill their visions for innovative school models. I empower future and new school leaders to meet and exceed their potential so that they can inspire, engage, and support teachers and students from diverse backgrounds to do the same.

I do this by building strong connections and by investing in leaders’ growth and development on both a personal and professional level.

As a consultant, I mentor new and founding school leaders to be highly effective managers and instructional leaders.

I am Dr. Abby Hasberry; and I am an independent educational consultant for D.E.A.R. (Diversity, Equity, Access, & Rigor) Abby Consulting.

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2 Comments

  1. LJ March 20, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    Well done and said, Abby! Thank you for sharing your powerful story with us.

    Reply
  2. Shawanda Onwuachi-Robinson March 22, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    Abby, you’re such an inspiration! I’m looking forward to working with you as I write my dissertation.

    Reply

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