Introducing Our New Executive Director, Dr. Lora Hodges
In July, Dr. Lora Hodges became the executive director of Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc. (NEFC), developer of the Responsive Classroom approach to elementary education. Dr. Hodges comes from a family of educators and brings nearly two decades of experience as an educational leader at the school and district level.
Over nineteen years, Dr. Hodges has served as a high school English teacher in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a principal in several schools, and an associate superintendent in the Hoke County Schools in Raeford, North Carolina, where she was instrumental in improving the quality of instruction and student achievement throughout the district.
Prior to coming to Northeast Foundation for Children, Dr. Hodges served as the deputy executive director of programs for the SERVE Center, a nonprofit educational research organization at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She also served as a senior advisor for CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), advising educational leaders on implementing social-emotional learning as a district-wide initiative.
To help you get to know Dr. Hodges, we asked her about her career in and vision for education. Here are highlights from that conversation:
You're the third of four generations of educators. Your grandmother and mother were teachers, as is your daughter. Can you tell us about this family legacy?
My grandmother started in education by giving piano lessons in her home to her Sunday school students. Over time this evolved into a school for teaching reading and math to children in our rural Mississippi town who, for a variety of reasons, didn't or couldn't go to public school. As the school grew, my mother began teaching there, too. Eventually my mother left to teach in Head Start, where she worked for twenty-six years. In this same tradition, I have always chosen to engage in work that reflects my commitment as a friend and champion of students, teachers, schools, and schooling.
You've achieved remarkable successes as an educational leader. What's been the key to your effectiveness as a leader?
I think it's my ability to create conditions for other people to be successful. I'm particularly proud of the work I've done that provoked new or different thinking about improving schools. This work has created the conditions for teachers to deliver high-quality instruction and create classrooms that are safe and optimal places for learning.
What in your opinion are the most pressing issues in education today?
I see teacher effectiveness as one of the most important issues in education today. We depend on teachers to participate in the school improvement and transformation process by delivering standards-based, objective-driven, relevant instruction that actively engages all students. To accomplish this, teachers need to be empowered with strategies, tools, and resources. They need to be supported through focused professional development that builds their knowledge and improves their practice, so they feel and are more efficacious, hopeful, and confident in their ability to contribute to student learning.
I was drawn to the Responsive Classroom approach because it is a comprehensive professional learning approach that can easily fit into a district's or school's improvement plan, not as another thing to do, but as an investment in increasing teacher effectiveness and a resource and strategy for creating schools where all students learn at their best.
As you look into the future, what's your vision for elementary education?
My vision for a high-quality elementary education is one that provides developmentally appropriate, culturally relevant instruction to all children in a manner that fully engages and stimulates academic, social, and emotional learning and growth. Its daily activities should inspire imagination, teach cooperation, foster idea sharing, measure and improve learning, value students as individuals, and reflect and honor its community by including parental voice and points of view.
Through my role as executive director of NEFC, I look forward to supporting and improving effective teaching for learning, working with the passionate and creative Responsive Classroom community of educators, and enjoying all the new experiences that I will have living in Western Massachusetts!
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