Posted April 9, 2019 – After witnessing her students engage in a mock election, wanting their voices to be heard, Kristian Lenderman knew she wanted to dedicate the rest of her career to working with children.
It’s clear she found her calling.
Lenderman, a doctoral student at the University of Houston College of Education, has won a statewide award from Humanities Texas, a nonprofit focused on educational excellence. While teaching at Northbrook Middle School, she received the organization’s 2018 Julius Glickman Educational Leadership Award, honored for her “exceptional leadership.” Lenderman, who’s pursuing an Ed.D. in professional leadership – special populations, was honored by the Spring Branch Independent School District board in January.
At Northbrook, she helped develop a restorative justice system, an alternative response to conflicts that includes meetings between students and teachers to resolve problems rather than just suspending students.
Lenderman took a moment to answer some questions.
Q: Why did you choose the UH College of Education?
A: It is a well-known education department, and leaders from my district have been through the same program and recommended it to me.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in education?
A: Education is the force of change. If we want anything in the world to be different, it starts with education. We raise the students for the world they are going to be in and to become critical thinkers. Also, it is the place where you can impact the lives of students and see the most change happen. It’s very magical to see students say they want things to be different and see it all play out.
Q: What has been the impact of restorative justice?
A: Our approach to restorative justice was really to help teach skills so that students can go back into the classroom and make better choices. We decreased the suspension rate by 50 percent in the first year of the programming. And it’s still amazing to see students opening up and gaining skills on how to talk about conflict without removing the kid from the school environment.
Q: Your future goals?
A: Finishing my doctorate is the number one thing right now. However, the thing that motivates me is students and knowing that they feel loved and cared for. I want to push them to be better people. That really is my only other big future goal.
Q: Your biggest inspiration?
A: When I think about the leader I want to be and the types of conversations I want to be pushing and having in terms of social and racial justice, I think of Mary González. She is now a state representative, but she was the assistant dean of multicultural affairs at Southwestern University. She pushed this mindset to be brave and have these conversations that might make people uncomfortable. Sometimes the right conversation isn’t going to be fun and easy but it will change the status quo and make things better.
Q: Most memorable moment at the College of Education?
A: I have loved all the events that the special populations program has hosted. It has been really nice to see students who have already completed the program and learn from their advice and wisdom.
Q: Any advice for undergraduate or graduate students?
A: Reach out to people, apply and try! The worst they can say is no, which is what you would hear if you don't try. I have gotten where I am from reaching out strategically to mentors and going after things that seemed really far-fetched. You never know who or what will get your foot in the door. So, take time to reach out to people doing what you want to do and apply to as many programs/fellowships/awards as possible. You will always learn something new in the process.
Q: Favorite UH hangout?
A: Pinks Pizza. Got to love good local pizza!
–By Alberto Huichapa
–Photo courtesy of Spring Branch ISD