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Meet MAEC Staff – Kelly Ocasio

At MAEC, collaboration and shared learning are key as we work towards education equity. It is our privilege to nurture a team of innovative, dynamic leaders and rising leaders in this field. In this blog series featuring members of MAEC staff, meet Data and Evaluation Consultant, Kelly Ocasio!

Who is an advocate or activist that you admire, and why?
The activist that I admire most is my wife, Desiree. She has walked in this world in very different shoes than me and has taught me to see the world through new eyes. She was the first person to make me think critically about injustice, to take me to the State Capitol for my very first protest, to participate in organized advocacy activities. While she may not have national recognition, I believe that everyday activists like her are truly the backbone of our country and are the ones who change minds on a daily basis. She knows how to interrupt bias, navigate difficult conversations, and change hearts. I admire her and her bravery every single day.  

What does education equity mean to you?
Education equity is about creating a system where ALL students get the tools, resources, experiences, and knowledge they need to thrive in the world. It’s about creating authentic opportunities for learners to see themselves and their lives reflected in the curriculum they use and projects they dive into, but also providing experiences where students can practice empathy and perspectives-taking to learn about how people walk in the world very differently from them. It’s moving away from standardized measures of success and embracing holistic and innovative learning strategies that truly center student agency, choice, and voice. I’m also a systems-thinker and believe that, while the student experience and learning is the “north star” that drives educational equity, there are other important factors to consider, such as ensuring a diverse, high quality, and properly compensated teacher and administrator workforce is in place to empower learners. It’s also about ensuring that policies help facilitate equity, inclusion, and justice – systematically and within a student-centered curriculum.  

Tell us about a book in your office you think everyone should read.
I’ve gotta go back to the OG…Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire. I read this book for the first time during my undergraduate career (skimmed it in my teacher education classes) and then in more depth during graduate school. When I first read it in its entirety, it was the first time I felt like someone put words to the way I viewed the world, seeing oppression play out first hand. Freire’s beliefs about education and how to design education systems in a way that combats oppression, cultivates criticality, and empowers people has helped cultivate the foundation of my work toward educational equity today.  

Tell us about a book on your bedside table you think everyone should read.
One book that has been transformational for me is The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (narrated by Douglas Abrams). As the world and my life have gone through intense change over the past 3+ years, this book has reminded me to prioritize and find joy in ways that I hadn’t considered before. It’s made me pause, practice gratitude, and work on mindfulness. This has had a profound impact on my mental and emotional health, which in turn helps me navigate all aspects of my life with more ease.  

What is one thing that brings you joy?
My kids! Without a doubt, my three kids bring me joy every single day. They are the reason I live and the reason I am passionate about equity in the world, and in education. Navigating public school spaces as a parent is the greatest challenge (and privilege) I have, and seeing their faces every day reminds me why I fight and pushes me to make changes that I want for the world that they will inherit.   

MAEC's blog is designed to engage hearts and minds of school and district leaders across the country to engage in issues that you have identified as being essential in education. Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

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