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Honoring the Women Who Guided Our Education Journeys

In celebration of Women’s History Month, ACT team members reflected on this question: “What women have had the biggest effect on your education journey in life, and why?” We’re sharing their stories in a three-part series of blog posts.

Janet Godwin, CEO

Mrs. Garriott, my fifth grade teacher. I was a quiet, shy kid sitting in the back of the class, and Mrs. Garriott noticed me and helped me find my voice.

And my mother, who inspired me to dream big and not take no for an answer.

Andy Taylor, vice president, market segments and product management

I spent the first 10 years of my life living in another country, being educated in a different language than I spoke at home, and although at the time it felt hard, we had an easy and carefree childhood in the arms of sometimes absent but above all else loving parents.

My older — and she would say wiser — sister was the first Taylor to go to university (and to this day we are the only two of many cousins and their children who have). She had always worked hard at school and excelled in most subjects. Many teachers taught us both, and I always felt it was a need to compete that drove me to try and equal or improve on her achievements. As I grew older, I have come to realize that I simply want to be more like her; she is caring, compassionate, intelligent, articulate, and very successful in her field. I have had a few mentors in my life, but she stands above all the rest as the first and most important. As we grow older, I still learn from her every day. The competition is still there, but now it’s competing to be the best brother — something she has taught me along the way, and somewhere I have a lifetime to get better at.

Gladys Recinos, account executive – west

Although we had recently immigrated from Guatemala, my family worked hard to buy a couple of restaurants, and we were homeowners. I didn't see it as a big accomplishment at the time, probably in part because we had recently benefited from immigration reform signed into law by President Reagan in 1986, and I still very much felt like an outsider. My parents were strict, and as the oldest of four, my father saw going to school as an unnecessary investment of time and energy.

It wasn't until many years later, well into my adulthood, that I learned that my mother had spent many hours battling my dad on the topic of letting me go to school. My mother saw how much I enjoyed learning. She would tell stories about how badly I wanted to go to kindergarten when I was 4. As a loving, thoughtful, selfless mother, she would circumvent the routine threats from my well-meaning father to take me out of school. I didn't realize my mother fought for me to pursue what I enjoyed. Neither of my parents went beyond elementary school back home, so I imagine that the concept and act of going to school must have been abstract to them, maybe even scary. I am thankful for my mother's insight, strength, courage, and love.

Jeremy Burrus, senior director, research

My mother had the biggest effect, and I'll tell you why. Sometime in the late '80s, I was a seventh grade student at Andersen Middle School in Omaha, Nebraska. As was the case for many kids my age at the time, I had just gotten my first Nintendo Entertainment System, and was spending most of my waking hours playing Super Mario Bros., Tecmo Bowl, and Ikari Warriors.

One fine spring afternoon, I was sitting in my living room defending myself from evil guerilla warriors when my kind, loving, 4-foot, 11-inch mom entered the house with an unexpected fury (which happens to be the Japanese translation of Ikari). She had just returned from parent-teacher conferences where she learned that I had been getting C-level grades in science class. I had never seen her so angry ... apparently, the time spent on my new video games was taking away from my study time. She threatened to throw away my new Nintendo unless I improved my grades immediately. Needless to say, I was scared straight, and by next parent-teacher conferences, I had improved my science grade from a C to an A. I guess this is a simple story, but the lesson always stuck with me: It's OK to have fun, but take care of the important stuff first, or else mom's coming to get you — and your Nintendo.

Meisha Pon, director, channel operations

When I think about the women in my life who have had the biggest impact on my education journey, several come to mind, each having played a unique role: my mother and aunts, for example, educators who introduced and placed a high value on education in my early life. They instilled the notion that education is the passport to a meaningful and productive future. And my college mentors and sorority sisters, who taught me that education is broader than knowledge gained from a textbook and encompasses lived and shared experiences.

I can't say one effect has been greater than the other, but I am grateful to have the perspectives and influence.