NJACTE Welcomes Its First African American President
The New Jersey Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (NJACTE) is proud to introduce Stacey Leftwich as its first African American president. Leftwich steps into this leadership role at a time when racial and ethnic inequities and other issues of social justice are in the news every day. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified these disparities, making this a truly historic and challenging moment for the field of educator preparation. It is also moment in which NJACTE is grateful and honored to have someone as remarkable as Leftwich serve as president.
Leftwich originally hails from Atlantic City, NJ and has spent the past five years as the executive director of the Office of Educator Support and Partnerships at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ, where she previously held a faculty position for 18 years. Her educational background is testament to her longtime interest in education, as she holds a B.A. in Education from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University – yes, she is a proud alum who works where she went to college!), an M.A. in Reading Education from Temple University, and a Ph.D. in Reading Education from the State University of New York, at Albany.
Leftwich became a member of NJACTE when she stepped into her role as executive director at Rowan. Since her position oversees teacher preparation and national accreditation, she was encouraged by her dean to become an active participant in the New Jersey state chapter. Reflecting on this advice, Leftwich agreed that her dean was right, because “Much of what I have learned has really helped me to do my job effectively. Knowing about regulation codes, legislation that impacts EPPs, and state requirements has made me very knowledgeable, and I have become a resource for many of my colleagues.”
When asked why she decided to enter the field of educator preparation, Leftwich recalled that she decided to go into education, and particularly reading education because she struggled in literacy as a child. The teachers she had saw her potential, and with their help and hard work she was able to overcome her literacy challenges. In her words, “I wanted to pay it forward and help children like me, so I became a classroom teacher and later wanted to help future teachers teach literacy to children who were like me.”
One admirable quality in Leftwich is her generous spirit, and her ability to bring new voices into the conversations. As she states it, “I believe in paying it forward. I’ve had several educators who believed in me, and this carried over into my career. I have learned the importance of mentoring others because so many people have mentored me.” When it comes to the NJACTE chapter, she elaborates, “I am proud at the way the membership at large has begun to become more involved as leaders in our committee work. I am of the adage, it takes a village and the work in our organization doesn’t happen by one person, but the whole village must be involved, and we have to work together to support each other to get the job done. I look forward to working as a village.”
Under Leftwich’s leadership, the NJACTE is mobilizing to face the tough issues of the day. As she explains, “With the state that our country is currently in, I think it is imperative to have an anti-racist, social justice and equity stance. This is a huge priority for me.” Part of this work comes through in the NJACTE Annual Convening on Diversifying the Teacher Workforce – a state conference that Leftwich has helped organize for the past four years. On this topic, she states, “I think knocking down barriers that prevent our candidates, particularly our candidates of color and other marginalized groups from moving forward in becoming a classroom teacher is important. I think of myself as that struggling learner so many years ago, many of the requirements in place today would have prevented me from becoming a teacher and I was/am a phenomenal teacher, but no one would have known if I weren’t able to move passed and successfully completing a state exam.”
In closing, Leftwich offers the following advice for those entering the field of teacher education: “The field is not an easy one. One should not go into this field if they do not have a passion to help or a caring disposition. As for African American and/or women, we need to be given chances. African Americans, people of color and women need opportunities to show their abilities to lead. Those who are already leaders, need to mentor the next wave of leaders.”