Empowering Futures: A Conversation with Educator and Advocate Alison Hawley

Alison Hawley
Photo: Unsplash.com

By: Alison Hawley 

Alison Hawley, hailing from Evanston, Illinois, is a distinguished Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, celebrated for her unwavering dedication to educational excellence and equity. With a rich background in public service, Alison’s career is defined by her innovative approach to teaching, advocating for methods that foster student independence and engagement. Her commitment extends beyond the classroom through her work with the ETHS Foundation and Evanston Scholars, where she champions initiatives aimed at narrowing the educational divide. Alison skillfully balances her professional pursuits with a personal life enriched by family and community, embodying the principles of work-life harmony.

Q&A With Alison Hawley

Alison, could you share how your journey in education began and what inspired you to become an Assistant Superintendent of Instruction?

My journey in education started from a deep-rooted belief in the transformative power of learning. Growing up in Evanston, I saw firsthand the disparities in educational opportunities and the profound impact that dedicated educators could make. My inspiration to become an Assistant Superintendent of Instruction stemmed from a desire to scale that impact, to innovate within our schools, and to ensure that every student has the chance to reach their full potential.

You’re known for championing creative and innovative teaching methods. Can you give an example of such a method you’ve implemented or supported in your district?

One approach I’m particularly proud of is the integration of project-based learning across our curriculum. This method allows students to engage with real-world problems, collaborate with their peers, and develop solutions that have a tangible impact. It not only fosters academic skills but also critical thinking, creativity, and personal responsibility, truly embodying our emphasis on student agency and voice.

Empowering youth is a central theme in your educational philosophy. How do you ensure students feel empowered to become engaged and autonomous citizens?

Empowering students starts with listening to them and valuing their perspectives. We’ve established student-led councils that have a say in school policies and curriculum development. Additionally, we encourage self-directed learning opportunities, where students can pursue their interests and passions, supported by mentors. This approach helps them see themselves as capable individuals who can effect change, both within their school environment and in the broader community.

Your involvement with the ETHS Foundation and Evanston Scholars highlights your commitment to educational equity. Can you talk about a particular initiative or program you’ve worked on with these organizations that you find especially impactful?

One initiative close to my heart is the mentorship program we developed with Evanston Scholars, aimed at supporting first-generation college students. We pair students with mentors who guide them through the college application process, provide academic support, and offer career advice. Seeing these students thrive and break cycles of educational inequity is incredibly rewarding and reinforces the importance of community-based support in education.

Balancing a demanding career in education with personal life can be challenging. How do you manage this balance, and what activities do you enjoy in your personal time?

Balancing professional and personal life is indeed a constant juggling act, but I believe it’s essential for well-being and effectiveness in any role. I make it a priority to spend quality time with my family and friends, whether it’s enjoying the outdoors, exploring new culinary experiences, or simply unwinding with a good book. These moments of relaxation and connection are crucial for recharging and maintaining perspective.

Key Takeaways

  • Innovative Education: Alison Hawley emphasizes the importance of innovative and creative teaching methods, such as project-based learning, to enhance student engagement, agency, and voice, ensuring a more interactive and impactful educational experience.
  • Empowerment and Equity: Through her roles both in the school district and with community organizations like the ETHS Foundation and Evanston Scholars, Alison is deeply committed to empowering students, particularly focusing on educational equity for underserved populations, ensuring all students have the opportunity to succeed.
  • Balance and Community Involvement: Alison underscores the significance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, highlighting how personal well-being contributes to professional effectiveness. Her involvement in local community initiatives reflects her belief in the power of community support in fostering educational success and equity.
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