What Inspires You?

When was the last time you were truly inspired?  When did someone or something motivate you to action, spark your emotions, or awaken you, causing you to think in a different way? Can’t remember? Not surprising.
In the busy routine of our work-a-day lives, inspiration seems elusive and all too rare.

In the wood paneled meeting room of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. I recently discovered my inspiration!  Mothers from across the country, dedicated to improving the American educational system were brought together by Parenting Magazine as part of their annual MOM Congress.  I was fortunate enough to have been selected to represent Illinois at MOM Congress 2012 based upon my past volunteer work in my children’s schools. The desperate financial situation and resulting cuts in our school district were the motivation for my increased volunteerism and involvement.


Illinois Delegate Mom Congress 2012

The theme for this year’s conference was “Teach Me Something New” and focused on improving the parent-teacher partnership and building family engagement. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan returned for his third year to address the group and host a town-hall style discussion with us. I couldn’t help but feel more motivated when he spoke encouragingly, “We also need to be partners in bigger, systemic issues. That’s where you come in. I’ve read about the amazing work that all of you have done in your communities and collectively, you inspire me.”

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

A portion of his speech highlighted some of the work of this year’s delegates—“in the California desert, keep that mobile robotics lab rolling; keep advocating for Head Start in Maine; in Texas, keep developing more mobile apps to connect parents and schools; your Georgia delegate is advising the state superintendent. Keep contributing that crucial parent voice. Your voice, individually and collectively, is much more powerful than you realize.”

As I met more delegates throughout the three day conference, my respect for their creativity, drive, and ambition continued to grow immensely. The issues were diverse but all began with the welfare of our number one priority- our children. It was amazing, inspiring, and at times overwhelming to hear from parents across the country and national speakers regarding what is happening in education from the tiniest town in Idaho to the national goals of the US Department of Education.

Many other leaders and reformers including Rehema Ellis chief education correspondent of NBC News Education Nation, Lily Eskelsen of the National Education Association, Sam Kass, White House Chef and contributor to First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! campaign, Byron Garrett of the National Family Engagement Alliance, and Mark Shriver of Save the Children addressed our conference. The UN Foundation Shot@Life presented and was highlighted as one of the event's major sponsors.

At the end of MOM Congress, I left with many new friends (from Missouri, Indiana, Washington, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia….to name a few) and the renewed knowledge that one person can make an enormous difference. These mothers are fundraising and building playgrounds, organizing school gardens, purchasing much needed technology, testifying on policy, feeding the hungry, offering free medical care and shaping legislation. These grassroots activists are the true inspiration. With my newly acquired network of friends and the advocacy training I received, one of my immediate goals was to spread the word, hence School Zone was created.

In my upcoming blogs I will continue the discussion of the state of education today, especially in the Chicagoland area and Illinois. My goal is to promote the positive things happening in education while informing and alerting you to the pressing issues. I would like to help parents be empowered to improve their child’s education by providing them information to navigate, educate, and advocate for their children. My hope is to raise your awareness and inspire YOU to make the education of our future generation a priority.

When driving through those school zones, we all slow down and take the time to become aware of the children around us and make their safety our priority. On this School Zone blog, I encourage you to slow down, take the time to read the stories and news, comment or give feedback if you like, but please share in making education a local, state, and national priority. Let’s build some inspiration!

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  • I feel inspired!

  • Great first post! You've inspired me to put more thought into my children's education.

  • Good for you Lisa - we are lucky to have you as an advocate for our schools!

  • Nice job, Lisa. Very impressed and happy for all you're doing!!!!

  • excellent post! Love the name! Very thought provoking, here's to more parent advocates!!!!

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    Lisa Stiegman

    My name is Lisa Stiegman and I have been a Chicago area resident all my life. Besides being the mother of three children, I have been a writer, editor, and teacher.

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