It was recently announced that Dr. Monika Williams Shealey will now serve as board chair for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). Dr. Shealey is Rowan University’s senior vice president for the Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.
The AACTE represents more than 800 postsecondary institutions with educator preparation programs that specialize in evidence-based preparation, which helps educators be able to teach a variety of learners.
“We are thrilled to have Dr. Shealey serve as the board chair during a year when AACTE will commemorate its 75-year history as the leading voice in educator preparation,” said President and CEO Lynn M. Gangone in a press release.
Institutions with education programs send representatives to the annual meeting every year. The AACTE just recently met in Indianapolis where they passed the position on to Shealey.
Shealey began with the organization as a member and moved up. The board of AACTE voted her in to be on the executive committee. After she was voted to be the secretary, Shealey became the chair-elect. The chair-elect is a three-year position that includes being chair-elect, chair and past chair. This year, Shealey is the chair and next year she will be the past chair.
As the board chair, Shealey will preside over the board meetings. The board meets at the annual meeting, which will be held in Denver next year. They also meet in virtual meetings before they meet in the fall. The board is responsible for evaluating the president and CEO of the organization. This year, Shealey’s focus is nurturing and cultivating the talent of the organization’s students and other members
“With her expert leadership, the organization will amplify its work to grow and diversify enrollments in colleges of education and programs of teacher education and increase the number of qualified K-12 teachers, as well as the faculties of colleges of education,” said Gangone in a press release.
Shealey’s career started in the classroom as a special education teacher in Florida for six years. She moved to higher education because she had the desire to be a better teacher.
Shealey decided that she wanted to instruct teachers, which put her in the realm of academic leadership. Her journey started with being a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, then she moved to Florida International University in Miami.
An opportunity to take on leadership came up at the University of Kansas City as associate dean for teacher education. There she worked for the dean in building their urban teacher education program for Kansas City schools.
“I am just really drawn to working in schools where we were serving the needy students because they needed us more,” Shealey said.
One day, she received a call from the provost at Rowan, stating that they were looking for a new dean for their college of education. After six years, she wanted a bigger challenge to take on. So in 2019, the division for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion was launched with Shealey serving as president.
“That’s not easy when there have been decades of not really addressing these issues in a cohesive and systemic way,” Shealey said. “So we started to shift our thinking and be more intentional about our work. I’m glad that we were able to be a part of that.”
When looking back, Shealey stated that the people who were most instrumental in her life when she was growing up were teachers, school counselors and principals.
“I look back and I’m like, ‘Wow, these are all strong Black women.’ They just always told me I was smart. I was gonna do great things. They just embraced me and I felt seen by them,” Shealey said.
With the experience of multiple high positions in her career, she is now a leader in representing marginalized groups. She understands that being in this role is a lot of pressure.
“In some instances, I sometimes forget I’m the only Black person in the room or the only woman in the room because I’m so used to it now I forget. And I look around like, ‘oh wow, I’m the only one in here.’ So I think that there is this feeling of responsibility,” Shealey said. “I want to represent kids that come from the south and grew up wanting to be more than themselves. I want to represent them and I also want to represent myself in my own family. So yeah, there’s the pressure when you are seen as a representative.”
Shealey will still attend meetings and participate in AACTE where she can after her tenure is complete.
“There’s a time for me to lead and then there’s a time to get out of the way and let some younger folks lead, who are coming up in the ranks who have different ideas about what the organization should be doing,” Shealey said. “I’ve grown up with this organization. So for me to be able to now be board chair and still feel like there are a lot of things I can still do in higher ed, it’s not the end for me, but it feels like it’s a culmination of a lot of really positive experiences.”
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