To celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Kenyon, we’re profiling 50 Kenyon alumnae during the 2019-20 academic year. These 50 women, merely a small sample of the thousands of female graduates who have earned Kenyon degrees since 1969, will discuss their undergraduate experiences and how their education in Gambier prepared them for their lives and careers.
The third alumna in our series is Hope Harrod ’98, a fourth-grade teacher in Washington, D.C., who was honored as the District of Columbia Public Schools Teacher of the Year in 2012. A history major at Kenyon, with a concentration in African diaspora studies, Harrod went on to earn a master’s in education at Boston College, and currently serves on Kenyon’s Board of Trustees.
How do you prioritize your life and get things done?
I’m a teacher, and my priority is always with my students. I build my life around my work, and I’m lucky to be able to do so. I work as hard as I can every day. My mission is to get every one of my students to understand that they have a voice and it is essential for them to use it to articulate their thoughts and ideas. I need them to know that the world needs them.
Where did you first discover your power?
That’s a big question. I discovered my power at Kenyon, when I learned to use my voice and not to be afraid of it. I discovered that I could use my power when one day, several years ago, I couldn’t talk because of a jaw problem and my fourth graders held an hour-long seminar where they were discussing the meaning of the word ‘guilt’ as it connected to characters in a text, all while I watched. I learned then that I could pass this power on to others. It was my job to give them the tools and let them go.
Who at Kenyon inspired you?
[Professor of American Studies] Peter Rutkoff. He saw a light in me that I didn’t know was there. But he did, and he used all of his energy to cultivate it into a flame that burned bright. I took that light and have been trying to spread it as far as I can to as many kids as I can, ever since.
How has your worldview evolved since leaving Kenyon?
I stopped telling kids that they would always be safe in school. On Sept. 11, I told my students that they were safe because no one would ever kill kids in a school. I believed that, and so did my students. I’ve stopped saying that.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My principal during one of my first years as a teacher told me, on a day when I was feeling overwhelmed, that there would always be so many things that so many people would want me to do. She said I had to decide what was important and what was bullshit. Do the important stuff (things that are direct service to kids), and leave the rest behind. Also, that it’s always better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Read about the previous woman in our series: Larae Schraeder ’97.
Read about the next woman in our series: Bi Vuong ’03.