Nancy B. Gutierrez, Ed.L.D.’13, of East San Jose, Calif., arrived at HGSE ready to be part of the first cohort in a newly developed education leadership degree program. At the time, she couldn't know in what direction this new experience would take her, how her perspective would broaden, or the extraordinary network of educators and friends she’d meet along the way.
On Commencement day, she represented her class as the first ever Ed.L.D. marshal — voted on by her peers for outstanding leadership, involvement in the life of the community, service to the community and others, and for being an exemplary representative of HGSE. In her eyes, there is no greater honor than being recognized by peers. “It is only through my cohort’s belief in me that I have learned to honor and celebrate my own potential — thank you Ed.L.D. Cohort 1,” Gutierrez says. “As we say, ‘We are one cohort and we are Cohort 1.’ I don’t take this opportunity for granted and I know that I represent each one of you in accepting this privilege.”
Gutierrez answered some questions about her time at HGSE, the Ed.L.D. experience, and life beyond.
When did you first come to HGSE and why? I arrived in the fall of 2010 — scared, vulnerable, and excited. I didn’t know one person in the Boston area and now, this is home. I moved across the country to attend HGSE because I knew that it was only through discomfort and vulnerability that I would become a stronger force in the field. I didn’t know it then, but now I know that I came here to be with and learn from my cohort.
I was immediately drawn to the Ed.L.D. Program: three years, practice-based, interdisciplinary, a cohort full of successful and diverse practitioners from across the country. Who wouldn’t pursue such an opportunity? I also remember walking away from the full-day interview process thinking, “This is it! This is exactly where I need to be.”
And now you’re finished… On day one, we were asked to step back from "doing" and begin reflecting. We were asked to experiment with the freedom afforded to being a student and a learner. To fail. To be disturbed. To suspend judgment. To be resilient. To forge genuinely unaccustomed relationships. To give attention to what feels most uncomfortable and stay there. To leave our shoes at the door and pick them up on our way out in three years.
I was hesitant to take off my shoes on day one. Today, I am hesitant about putting them back on! I can't believe it’s over.
What would you say was the best and worst part of the experience? The best part was witnessing the power and promise of a group of individuals unapologetically focused on improving outcomes for students — particularly in our most under-resourced communities. It meant pushing each other to the limit in the name of growth.
As a cohort, we experienced the power of our collective voice several times, and most prominently, when a member of our cohort was unexpectedly in great need. We responded in unity — launching a Harvard-wide initiative and building robust concentric circles around her. And while dedicating our time and energy to a highly successful initiative, we continued to excel in all other aspects of our individual work. There is nothing like effective teamwork.
The worst? I am hesitant to leave. I will greatly miss being with the Ed L.D. and HGSE family.
How did you stay inspired? I stay inspired by remembering how it felt to have low expectations placed on my friends, my family, my community, and me. My Capstone dedication reads: For East San Jose — the most beautiful community I’ve ever known. Let this shine as an example of our potential — the potential that schools have the responsibility to nurture and develop, and never doubt. Our struggle is our motivation. Our resilience is our strength. This is for us.
How can you sum up the residency experience? I spent 10 months with the New York City Department of Education as a resident for the Division of Academics, Performance, and Support’s (DAPS) Office of Leadership. I worked under the leadership and grace of a New York City legacy: 32-year veteran and deputy chief academic officer for leadership, Anthony Conelli. I am indebted to the largest school district in this nation for all it has taught me — nothing short of a powerful and amazing learning experience.
What are your post-graduation plans? I always thought I’d return to my home community immediately following graduation, but NYC has a hold on my heart. I have just accepted a role as the executive director of advanced leadership strategy with the DAPS Office of Leadership. Although I am open to where life will take me, I hope to return to California to lead a school district in the near future.
Any advice for students who want to pursue the Ed.L.D.? If you are ready to transform yourself to transform schools, join us. We need you!