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May 18, 2021

ASCD Board President Reflects on Leadership During COVID-19

ASCD Board President Reflects on Leadership During COVID-19, by Dolores Cormier-Zenon
ASCD Press Release text and association logo on red background.
May 18, 2021
Chief Engagement Officer Ken Pratt, or 407-247-4958
ALEXANDRIA, VA—ASCD Board President Reflects on Leadership During COVID-19
By Dolores Cormier-Zenon
As I approach the sunset of my term as ASCD president in June, I think about the ways that leading through the pandemic has both challenged and inspired me and other education leaders. But I also think about how we have all been learning as we go. In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, "the ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have."
I was elected as president of the ASCD Board of Directors in March of last year. Little did I know that during the same week, all schools would close, and the nation would go into lockdown. The tumultuous shift to virtual learning challenged everything we knew about teaching and leading. For more than a year, we have relied on computer screens to learn, communicate, and build and maintain relationships.
But, in times of crisis, we have found that there is no room to be passive or subscribe to a "Let's sit and wait and see what happens" attitude. My own dedication to educators, parents, and students through difficulties evolves from having a son who suffered a brain hemorrhage at birth. His learning deficits and struggles to achieve academically didn't stop him from successfully earning his college degree. He has inspired me to never give up on any student and to press on even when issues seem impossible to overcome.
The intensity of the pandemic introduced a devastating outlook at its onset but later revealed an opportunity to make much-needed changes to systems and pedagogies. Yes, we experienced information overload and burnout. However, we embraced the challenges that came before us and stretched ourselves to thrive in a new reality. We worked to reevaluate our contributions, become more intentional in personalizing learning experiences, and affirm our commitment to equity.
ASCD experienced similar growth: The Board of Directors—along with CEO Ranjit Sidhu, the executive leadership team, and educator committees from across the globe—created a five-year strategic vision, which includes digital transformation; a centering of equity and social justice; and more impactful content, coaching, and community experiences for educators. We committed to increasing opportunities for community engagement and to developing agile, high-quality resources aligned to educators' suddenly shifting needs. We also reimagined our professional learning experiences—making all conferences and symposiums available virtually.
As a leader, I learned how important it is to be committed, resilient, and present and to establish a line of communication that inspires people to share their voice. Leading in this time deepened my commitment to servant leadership and reminded me to listen to and appreciate various viewpoints.
During the pandemic, I have often reflected on Nelson Mandela's statement, "Courage is not the absence of fear—it's inspiring others to move beyond it." In a post-COVID-19 era, my vision for ASCD is to embolden our ongoing commitment to education: to empower educator voice, invest in the whole child, engage and invest in teacher quality, and elevate professional learning to acknowledge profound expertise and talent.
As we begin to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, I think about my legacy and effect on the organization. After all the COVID-19 air clears, what legacy will you leave in your school or district?
Dolores Cormier-Zenon serves as the president of the ASCD Board of Directors. She is the CEO and founder of Wisdom Inspired Scholar Education Foundation and Wise Owl Scholar Academy and is the president of the Louisiana National Board Certified Teacher Network. She is also cofounder and president of the PC2 Education Foundation and a founding board member and vice-chair for the National Board Network of Minoritized Educators.

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