5 Stories That Give Thanksgiving Extra Meaning This Year



I have always loved Thanksgiving. Spending time with family I haven’t seen all year, smells from the kitchen gradually filling the house, the crackle of dry leaves underfoot… what’s not to love?

Over time, the literal meaning of the holiday has grown in importance to me. And headlines notwithstanding, there is much to be grateful for.

Case in point: over the past year, as I have hosted Field Trip — Frontline’s podcast that explores the incredible work being done in schools across the country — I’ve had the privilege of speaking with leaders from California to New Jersey, private schools and public, large urban districts and tiny rural ones. The stories they’ve told differ in the details, but they share a common thread: making schools better for students, and for the educators who work there.

So on this Thanksgiving Day, we wanted to say “Thank You” to each of you working in education. Here are just a few of the stories that spark gratitude in our hearts for educators, leaders and the amazing work they’re doing.

  • PURSUING EQUITY — Dr. Talisa Dixon, Superintendent, Cleveland Heights University Heights City School District.

    With a district that spans two very different communities racially and economically, Superintendent Talisa Dixon shares the journey to ensure all students get a great education. [Listen to Dr. Dixon describe her push for equity in her district.]

  • PROMOTING WELLNESS — Dr. Andy Koenigs, Emporia Public Schools.

    Tasked with employee recruitment and retention, Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Andy Koenigs started an employee wellness program, leading to a 30% drop in employee absences due to illness. [Hear our interview about why employee wellness is great for the district.]


    Principals Nick Indeglio and Jon Ross found themselves regularly having deep and valuable conversations about education, and they decided not to keep it to themselves. Through their podcast, they’ve built bridges with principals and listeners all over the world, bettering not only their own schools, but countless others, too. [Here’s how they are using technology to make connections and advance their schools.]

  • WORKING WITH ENGLISH LEARNERS — Tere Masiarchin, CESA 6, Wisconsin.

    Tere works with educators in numerous schools who teach English Learners, providing professional development and program support. We’re grateful for her proactive work in the lives of families from diverse backgrounds. [Listen to Tere describe why she’s passionate about working with linguistically diverse learners.]

  • MAKING A SUBSTITUTE’S DAY — Barbara Valencia, Spring Grove Area School District.

    Let’s face it, substitute teaching isn’t easy. Walking into an unfamiliar building every single day can be exhausting and emotionally fraying. Barbara Valencia, serving in HR support at her district in Pennsylvania, is working to change that. [Hear how Spring Grove is reinventing the substitute experience.]

There are many other people who have warmly shared your stories with us on Field Trip (too many to list here!), and so to each one of you — and to everyone who shows up day in and day out for our kids and their teachers — thank you. And cheers! We raise a glass to you!


Ryan Estes

Ryan is managing editor for the global award-winning creative team at Frontline Education. He spends his time writing, podcasting, and creating content for leaders in K-12 education.