Reflecting on the Past and Our Collective Strength & Influence as IRT Alumni

Mayra Canizales Cruz, IRT ’07

It may be hard to believe that in just 3 months we will welcome 2022. For many educators, 2020 was the year that flipped our lives upside down and forced us to (re)discover elements of ourselves as people, family members, teachers, and leaders. We tended to others before tending to ourselves and had little to no opportunity to stop and reflect about all that we had learned and unlearned in the months of a global health pandemic and the racial justice movement of our lifetime.

A year ago, I was a 7-year veteran principal in the nation’s capital and was launching the first-ever virtual school year.  It was both exciting and unnerving and I struggled to find my new leadership voice in a virtual setting.  My superpower was leading with love, justice, and vulnerability- everything else felt like a test or like I was functioning off gut instinct.  Throughout the months, we heard scholars, organic intellectuals, elders, parents, and students alike say the same thing, “We can’t go back to what was normal.  Normal wasn’t working for our Black and Brown children.” Families were officially seen and acknowledged as co-educators and the school and family partnerships were stronger than ever. We finally saw a light that felt bright enough to follow, one that would lead us to deconstruct, reimagine and rebuild a new (a better) educational system for our children. This was the chance and for a large part, it was not taken.

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