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Superintendent's Column: Embracing Joy in Education

Superintendent's Column: Embracing Joy in Education
Dr. Theresa Battle
District 191 Superintendent
headshot of superintendent dr. theresa battle

Over the last few years, public schools have been at the center of a few controversies. It’s no surprise that people feel strongly about education, especially when it involves and affects their children. We should care deeply and we should be involved. 

I believe that public education is the most important thing that we - all the people in our community, state and nation - do together. That’s a big reason that I’ve been an educator for my whole career. Yes, there can be stress because of how important this work is, but there is also tremendous joy. 

This year, I am focused more than ever on the joy I experience when I am in our schools and programs, when I am with our students, with our families and with my colleagues in District 191.  

In particular, I’ve been focused on the joy I feel because I saw the steps we’ve taken as a school community, including 

  • the work to implement a new, more rigorous math curriculum;
  • the resources we’ve put toward credit recovery that are helping more students graduate sooner;
  • the tremendous impact of our work around early literacy, which is moving from pilot to district-wide implementation this year; 
  • the continued expansion of our Pathways model, which is helping our students feel wonder and joy about their own strengths, possibilities and futures.

I also feel joy about how clear we are about our own identity, about what we want to be as a school district. I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a community that has so clearly rallied around a set of core values as its identity, and that is truly powerful. 

There is something special about a community that rallies around the growth and learning of its members. From early learning to K-12 to adult education and our senior center, we help people of all ages explore their interests, discover their strengths and pursue their passions. In roles ranging from direct classroom engagement to support through clerical, food service, custodial work and so much more, everyone contributes to this impactful work in a real and meaningful way. 

I can hardly express how fulfilling it is to be part of that work. It’s truly joyous. 

So what is it that brings you joy? Whatever it is, it’s worth feeling and it’s worth feeling as big as you can feel it. 

In her poem “Don’t Hesitate,” author Mary Oliver tells us about the importance of embracing joy, writing: “If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. … Joy is not made to be a crumb.”

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