Honorary Campaign Co-Chair for the College of Education, Vice Chair of Communications Advisory Committee
How did your interest in education begin?
When I was growing up my family moved every two to three years as my father built his career. I was constantly changing schools and sometimes jumping into new classrooms mid school year. It was challenging socially and academically. However, by the time I reached high school I settled into a four year stable environment with wonderful teachers. It was because of my teachers that I went on to receive an excellent education and attend the college of my dreams. As a mother, I have seen how my own three children have benefitted from early learning and hands-on learning with excellent teachers with attention to all students in the classroom. Our personal situation made me realize that if all children received the same excellent education what a different world this would be. I began to get involved with organizations that provide access to high quality learning for all children.
How have you been involved in education, professionally or as an advocate, over the years?
It has been around 15 years since I personally and professionally have focused on education and specifically early education. My family's foundation, The Ginger and Barry Ackerley Foundation, started by my parents Ginger and Barry Ackerley and which I have the privilege of being the President and Executive Director of, has focused on children's issues for over 20 years now. However, after the first ten years we as a board took a close look at our grant history and felt that our most impactful gifts were in the area of education, so we shifted our mission focus exclusively to education with an emphasis on early education. Almost 15 years ago my mother Ginger and I met with the University of Washington to begin discussions of how we could partner together in the area of education and access for all kids. These discussions led to the establishment of the Ackerley Partner School Network program that allows teacher candidates to do their practica as well as faculty members to apply their research in classrooms in poverty-impacted communities. This partnership has been the springboard to our commitment to improving education for all children.
What one or two education issues are you most passionate about (and why)?
My two passions in the area of education are early education and inclusive classrooms. A child's earliest years create their foundation for success in school and in life. I and my family believe that every child deserves the opportunity to succeed. We recognize that so much depends on a child’s first eight years of life. It is our mission to ensure that every child in our region has the ability to realize his or her full potential. It is through my work with the College of Education that I have learned about the power of inclusive classrooms and the impact they can have on typically developing children as well as those students with developmental disabilities. To observe a classroom where all children are included and working side-by-side together in a nurturing learning environment is awe inspiring. At the Haring Center at the University of Washington they are developing and implementing tools and practices needed to put full inclusion within reach. Teachers at the Experimental Education Unit learn the latest research-tested practices and inclusive classroom tools to use in school districts across Washington state and throughout the country.
Tell us about an educator who made a particularly large impact on your life.
My fifth grade teacher Mr. Meyers had the biggest impact on my love for learning. He was the first teacher that did not talk at us as students; he instead engaged us in discussion and critical thinking. He would sit on the top of his desk, with his coffee mug in his right hand and legs crossed, very approachable. He put our desks into a circle and made our lessons a discussion...not a lecture. He was creative with his curriculum and made learning fun. It changed my ideas of what a classroom and a learning environment could be. It was exciting to be in his classroom every day because you did not know what to expect next.
Share an unusual/fun fact about yourself.
I am the proud owner of a 1966 electric VW Microbus. It brings out my inner California beach bum.