Haring Center Campaign Board; Philanthropists via our donor-advised funds at Seattle Foundation; Bill is a Trustee of the Sunderland Foundation.
How did your interest in education begin?
My mother was a public school elementary teacher and I can remember spending time with her in her classroom before and after school as a child. Her impact as a teacher was lasting for her students—she built and kept relationships with her students from all walks of life and that always stuck with me. She began her teaching career in New York City in the late 60s and taught the remainder of her career in Tennessee and Ohio.
With my mom's encouragement and support, my oldest sister went on to be a public high school English teacher and also taught in inner-city NYC classrooms for her first 10 years. Again, building relationships with students was always key to her success in the classroom. Some went on to Ivy League schools and others struggled, but she made them each a priority. Seattle is now lucky to have my sister as a public school teacher.
How have you been involved in education, professionally or as an advocate, over the years?
Bill came to Seattle as a PhD graduate student in physiology and biophysics, focusing on neurobiology. So, higher education was always important to him and his family. The Sunderland Foundation, based in Kansas City, has focused on supporting higher education through grants aimed at building infrastructure and collaborative work spaces on campuses across the country, including the University of Washington's development near Othello Station, which includes space for Unite:Ed, a community-embedded education design lab. We also both serve on the Haring Center's campaign board.
Our middle child Gareth opened our world up to special education and introduced us to the UW College of Education's Haring Center. He began receiving services for his developmental delay at the Haring Center's Experimental Education Unit when he was just a toddler as part of King County's Birth-to-Three services. We felt fortunate to have landed at this spot, but knew nothing of the Haring Center prior to Gareth's placement. Eventually our days became more and more focused on the broader picture of the Haring Center as we looked up from Gareth and looked around at the immense support system comprised of innovative leaders, researchers, graduate students and service professionals—all devoted to inclusive education practices for children with and without disabilities. These four years at the Haring Center have taught us that the movement for inclusion is important and that we need to continue to push for the research and training developed inside these walls to be parlayed effectively to teachers and classrooms throughout our state and beyond.
What one or two education issues are you most passionate about (and why)?
1) Inclusive education. We have had our eyes opened to the importance of having children with and without disabilities share the same learning environment. There are important exchanges and learning that happen for both the typically developing child and the child with the disability; it doesn't happen if the child with the disability is relegated to a different room due to lack of resources, training or basic understanding by the educators.
2) Achievement gap. It is stunning, and unjust, that Seattle has the fifth largest white-black achievement gap in the nation. We'd love to learn more about that and what we as a community and a board can do to help close that gap.
Share an unusual/fun fact about yourself.
We met doing backcountry trail work with the Washington Trails Association. We fell in love after a week of no showers and some contentious games of Scrabble on a weeklong trip based in the North Cascade's Monte Cristo ghost town. Now we have three children—two boys, ages 7 and 5, and an 8-month-old baby girl.