By Dr. Sharon H. Porter | August 26, 2023 | 3:13 pm ET
Black Women Education Leaders began as a social media outlet created by Latrese D. Younger in November 2019. The space was created to amplify the voices and celebrate the accomplishments of Black female education leaders. During the pandemic in 2020, Younger began raffling and mailing out leadership books when follower milestones were reached, emailing a weekly newsletter to subscribers with inspirational messages and free professional development opportunities, and sharing words of wisdom provided by other Black female educators across the country.
Younger shared with her friend and sorority sister, Regina Turner (founding Director of Operations), her desire to provide support to Black female education leaders through additional services and programs by establishing BWEL as a nonprofit organization. Turner immediately began drafting the initial BWEL Bylaws and galvanizing some of her closest friends who would be interested in the mission and vision of an established organization to help bring it to fruition. On May 28, 2020, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, eight ladies (Latrese Younger, Regina Turner, Crystal Pope, Dr. Shauna Mayo, Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammad, Dr. Yvonne Smith-Jones, Latosha Branch, and Shonda Thompson) would become the voices and faces of BWEL as founding board members. BWEL was legally incorporated by the State of Virginia on June 1, 2020. On August 1, 2020, BWEL received status confirmation as a national, 501C3, non-profit organization.
I had an opportunity to talk with BWEL's Founder, Latrese D. Younger:
What was the motivation behind creating Black Women Education Leaders (BWEL)?
BWEL was created from a place of loneliness. I had great colleagues in my predominantly white school district, but no Black female leadership to connect with, which during the pandemic and racial unrest period, felt very isolating. I started a Twitter page in November of 2019 and I decided I wanted to make an incorporated organization by March 2020. A beautiful cohort of seven ladies accompanied me on a mission to create a sisterhood through membership intake by January 2021. What do you feel are the top three issues facing Black women in education leadership today?
I think Black women are dealing with social climate concerns, financial turmoil, and severe academic deficits across the nation. My present response revealed that historically, Black female education leaders are assigned to hard-to-staff and high-poverty schools, which also may mean high-stress, low-morale environments. Black female leaders must have district-level support and investment in their leadership development.
Tell us about your current research in pursuit of your doctoral degree.
I am in pursuit of my Ed.D in Education Leadership and Policy from Virginia Tech University. My topic and area of interest is the perceived impact of mentoring for Black female assistant principals' leadership and self-confidence. Research suggests that Black female leaders have acquired the life skills and experiences to strategize and navigate through racist and sexist tensions by being solution-oriented, aspirational, and determined to make a positive change within their role. In your opinion, for Black women in educational leadership, what is the greater barrier, gender or race? Why?
I will always stand firmly that race is the greater barrier. Referred to by my soror, Shirley Chisholm as our “double handicap”, I am convinced that being a Black female has more ramifications than just being female and research attests to this. A study conducted by Bailes & Guthrey (2020) revealed that the average number of years from assistant principal to principal was widened by race and significantly widened by both race and gender for Black females. How can others who do not identify as black women educators engage with BWEL?
It’s easy for any person to engage with BWEL. We ask that you read and understand our mission and vision posted on our website. So long as the work and values of that person align with those aspects of the organization, they are most welcome to engage. BWEL was never about exclusion; we exist to amplify and edify the work and value of Black female education leaders.
BWEL just recently held elections, naming new officers since its inception.
Executive Director, Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed
Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed is a 31-year educator who faithfully believes in Servant Leadership. Shonda has served as a mathematics teacher, math specialist, curriculum specialist, compliance specialist, testing coordinator, summer school principal, and currently the Coordinator of Pupil Personnel and Hearing Officer for Southampton County Schools, Virginia. She is a hands-on educator who firmly believes in an "all hands on deck" approach to service our students. Her motto: At the end of the day it is about children.
She is the Founder and Executive Director of Northside Coalition for Children, Inc. The purpose of NCC is to ensure any student and teacher in need of school supplies receive them at no cost. Dr. Shonda currently serves as the Richmond School Board Representative to the Sixth District in Richmond, Virginia.
Shonda is married to her college sweetheart, Demetrius, and they have two children, Anthony and Khadijah.
Dr. LaTonya B. Sibley, National Past President
Dr. LaTonya Barnes Sibley leads as an independent national educational consultant, focusing on influencing positive educational change and improving student achievement. Her areas of expertise include designing innovative learning experiences, professional learning, and community building within educational settings.
She also serves as a professor, state director, speaker, writer, and professional educational consultant who specializes in working with other educators to find innovative ways to transform teaching and learning. During her professional career, Dr. Sibley has served as an early childhood, elementary, and middle school teacher, curriculum coach, as well as a testing and assessment coordinator. She has also served as the Alabama Site Director of the Network to Transform Teaching (NT3) with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).
Dr. Sibley earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communications (2004), Master of Arts in Education (2010), and Doctor of Philosophy in Education (2017) degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Dr. Sibley is also a National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), holding an Early Childhood Generalist certificate (2014) with the National Board for Professional Standards (NBPTS).
Dr. Sibley is a proud product of Selma City Schools, located in the historic Selma, Alabama. She’s married to her best friend, Dr. Michael Sibley. She enjoys playing with her fur babies, Diamond and Pearl, teaching Sunday School at a local nursing home, mentoring students and educators, researching, reading, as well as vacationing with family.
Trelane Clark, President
Ms. Trelane Clark is the principal at Hooks Elementary School in Chelsea, Massachusetts, a city adjacent to Boston. She has been serving in education for 24 years. Trelane began teaching in the Boston Public Schools has since served students in public, private, urban, and suburban schools.
She believes that building relationships is central to the work that educators must do. Her professional mission is to inspire educators to Teach from the Heart, model Resiliency, lead with Integrity, Value relationships, and ensure Equity for students, families, and educators (T.H.R.I.V.E.).
Cynthia S. Jewell, National Vice-President
Cynthia Strickland Jewell is a well-respected leader in the field of education. She served as a building-level principal from 2012-2019 in the metropolitan Atlanta area. During her tenure as principal, she led by investing in a team of educators, a laser focus on students, and a relentless commitment to quality planning, teaching, and assessing to ensure that each child was learning on a daily basis. Following the principalship, she served for two years as a principal coach for 14 elementary principals. Mrs. Jewell provided modeling, coaching, and strong feedback guiding the development of systems for teaching and learning in each of the 14 elementary schools of her portfolio. She recognized the principal as a key lever for leadership in a school system. She developed the coaching and development model resulting in increased student learning outcomes during a pandemic. She served as Executive Officer of Schools in Griffin-Spalding Schools. She implemented innovative programs including a monthly phonics data cycle, formalized the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) block, and implemented daily reading of lexile passages.
Dr. Moira Sweeting-Miller, National Secretary
Dr. Moira Sweeting-Miller is an Assistant Principal/Intern Principal at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, Florida. She has been serving in education for the past 27 years and has worked in both public and private education. She has served as an educator, department chair, and the district and state advisor for several
Career Technical Student Organizations. She has also worked at the college level as an Adjunct Professor. Dr. Sweeting-Miller earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota, Morris in Business Economics, with a minor in Speech Communications. She earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Barry University, Miami Shores, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Barry University in Leadership and Education.
Dr. Sweeting-Miller believes that building relationships is the key to student success and that as leaders we must foster this with the educators in our buildings. By building relationships we are helping students to be MVPs. We are Motivating Students with the Vision to Progress Forward. Dr. Sweeting-Miller is the CEO of TheEduLeader Consulting Solutions, LLC in Plantation, Florida focusing on mentoring aspiring leaders, and educators, and developing ways to improve student outcomes and increase student achievement. She is an avid reader and holds the philosophy that everyone should be a lifelong learner.
Danica Millner, National Treasurer
Danica Millner is currently a Supervisor of Virtual Education for a local school district in Virginia. She has served as an Assistant Principal, Instructional Assessment Analyst, Advanced Placement IB Chemistry Teacher, and a Clinical Residence Coach at Virginia Commonwealth University. Millner is a mom of one son and believes in allowing her faith and passion to drive her. She is a servant leader and a willing learner.
Membership in BWEL offers opportunities to connect with professional women of color and use collective strengths to educate, advance, and improve the conditions of the communities its members live, work, and/or serve. Scholarships and Mentorship programs are available to members. Membership applications will resume in the Fall of 2023.
About Latrese D. Younger
Latrese D. Younger has over sixteen- years of education experience across several different school districts. She began her journey as an English Language Arts teacher in Dinwiddie County, VA, which she credits with firming her foundation in education excellence. Throughout her career, she has taught ELA for grades 6-12. She possesses a Bachelor of Arts in English Education from Virginia State University and a Master of Educational Leadership with a concentration in Technology Education from Strayer University Henrico Campus. Currently, she is pursuing her doctoral degree from Virginia Tech University. She is the content curator for and founder of the non-profit, Black Women Education Leaders, Inc (BWEL).
As an educator, she has also been privileged to serve in several leadership capacities such as Effective School-Wide Discipline Incentive Coordinator, School Newsletter Advisor, Teacher Appreciation Committee Chair, Mentorship Director, Administrative Intern, District-Wide Professional Development Presenter, In-Service PD Coach, Cooperating Teacher of a Practicum Student, ELA District Representative, former Virginia Teachers of English social media curator and current board member, and an ELA curriculum writing partner for two districts.
As a teacher leader, Mrs. Younger has served as Director of Achievement in Literacy, an Instruction Assessment and Data Analysis Specialist, and an Assistant Principal of two middle schools and one high school, where she worked collaboratively with her administration teams to shift culture and build teacher capacity.
Mrs. Younger currently serves leaders across the state, via the Virginia Department of Education as a School Quality Specialist. She believes the perfect recipe for teachers is a beautiful blend of empathy, resolve, content knowledge, and student passion. Her work is driven by the virtuous quote: “Intelligence, plus character…that is the goal of true education”- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She believes that her role is to serve and attributes that to her active membership in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and her undying faith in Christ.
She resides in Virginia with her husband, son, and English bulldog.
Dr. Sharon H. Porter (Dr. Sharon), educator, author, publisher, and host, is the President of SHP Enterprise, the umbrella entity of Perfect Time SHP LLC, Publishing, SHP Media and Broadcasting, and Vision & Purpose LifeStyle Magazine and Media, LLC. She is the Executive Director and Founder of The Next In Line to Lead Aspiring Principal Leadership Academy (APLA) and The New Principal RoundTable (NPR).
Dr. Sharon is the owner and Editor-In-Chief of Vision & Purpose LifeStyle Magazine and Media and is the host of The I Am Dr. Sharon Show. She is a founding partner and Vice-President of Media and Communications for WNM Ventures LLC.
She also currently serves as an elementary school principal in Maryland.
Dr. Sharon is a graduate of Howard University, Walden University, Johns Hopkins University, National-Louis University, and Winston-Salem State University. She is a part of the 2019 Harvard University School of Education Women in Leadership Cohort and is a 2023 graduate of the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center (Circle 128). She is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, 2023 Member Leader of the Forbes Coaches Council Podcasting Group, Forbes BLK, International Association of Women (IAW), American Business Women's Association (ABWA), Black Women Educators Leaders (BWEL), Black Girls In Media (BGIM), National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), Black Speakers Network, The Black Podcasters Association, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She serves on the Board of Advisors for The Women of Prince George’s and served as the very first BWEL National Secretary from 2021 to 2023.