For the Media

Keeping the Promise of Public Education: NEA Foundation Showcased the Hope, Promise, and Future with Diverse Voices

Keeping the Promise of Public Education: NEA Foundation Showcased the Hope, Promise, and Future with Diverse Voices

WASHINGTON, DC — October 5, 2018—  At a critical time in America’s over 200-year tradition of supporting public education, the NEA Foundation staged a story-telling event. It drew on the wisdom, passion, and experience of educators, artists, STEM experimenters, philanthropists, parents, and students from across the country who explored what it means to keep the promise of public education.

The NEA Foundation, a public charity founded by educators for educators to improve public education for all students, organized Keeping the Promise of Public Education, a symposium to highlight that a dynamic public education ecosystem thrives when all stakeholders are engaged and heard. The Foundation pointed out that the vast majority of the nation’s students (90 percent) rely on public schools to prepare themselves for college, career, and civic life.

“Everyone’s story matters. We have learned through our work over the years with educators, district leaders, students, and other stakeholders nationwide that it is only through our collective and diverse thinking, and actions, that the true promise of public education is held — and kept,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO, The NEA Foundation. “To prepare our students for a future that is ever-evolving, we must create space to hear and learn from the many voices that make up our vibrant and complex public education ecosystem. As we embark on the Foundation’s 50th year in 2019, we will continue to elevate stories that cause us all to think differently and move our communities to action.”

More than 300 leaders from the education, philanthropic, and business sectors attended the event and many more viewed the symposium across the country via a livestream broadcast.

Local Educators Shared Lessons from Their Teaching Experiences

Linda Ryden, a teacher at Lafayette Elementary School in DC Public Schools, is the creator of the Peace of Mind Program, a cutting-edge combination of mindfulness, conflict resolution and social-emotional learning. Ryden described her use of these tactics to help students resolve conflicts in school and life.

Another Washington-area education leader, Josh Parker, spoke about his mission to help educators, students, and others solve problems. Parker is a Maryland Teacher of the Year. He described his journey to diversify the teaching workforce and pipeline and explained how this could help educate and improve life outcomes for all students.

 Arts Education and Empathy Highlighted

Ayanna Hudson, Director of Arts Education for the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC, discussed the role of arts education in schools in partnership with young poets Aniyah Smith, DC Youth Poet Laureate, and Kris Sykes, known as “Paine the Poet,” who shared their stories with a poetry slam.

Daniel Lubetzky, serial social entrepreneur, author, and Founder and CEO, KIND Snacks, spoke about creating the KIND Foundation, which seeks to foster kinder, more empathetic communities. He explained how their Empatico initiative creates interactive lesson plans that schools across America and abroad can do together, expanding everyone’s understanding of differing cultures and social norms.

Rachna Sizemore Heizer, a public school parent from Fairfax County, Va., shared the story of her son, Jake, a teenager with autism. Heizer explained that Jake is a musical prodigy and that both his assets and constraints have aided in his education. Attendees then had a chance to hear him perform.

Additional speakers discussed in raw terms their impressions of the migrant student experience and what it’s like to walk in their students’ shoes. Another teacher shared how he uses his love of poetry to reach his students, as they grapple with depression, incarceration, and other challenges.

Because of her focus on global competence and the value of the stories and experiences of others, the NEA Foundation invited acclaimed author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to tell her story. Adichie is known for the books Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun as well as her Ted Talk “The Danger of a Single Story.”

Find livestream video of the speakers and the program, and follow the conversation @neafoundation and #neafpromise.

About the NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a public charity founded by educators for educators to improve public education for all students. Since our beginning in 1969, the Foundation has served as a laboratory of learning, offering funding and other resources to public school educators, their schools, and districts to solve complex teaching and learning challenges. We believe that when educators unleash their own power, ideas, and voices, communities, schools, and students all benefit. Visit for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Editor’s Note: Please use our correct name, the NEA Foundation. The “NEA” is never spelled out. We are not the National Education Association Foundation. Many thanks!