Tiffani Peguese is a Black student achievement liaison at Patuxent Valley Middle School in Howard County and a member of the Howard County Education Association. Using three grants from Howard County’s Horizon Foundation, she helped fund and stock libraries with inclusive and diverse literature. She recently completed a two-year fellowship with the foundation, where she received additional program funding. Tiffani created FLY Love and Learning Labs for students in the hopes of advancing individual and collective wellness.
RADICAL SELF-REFLECTION I ensure that every interaction with me is an opportunity for students to develop positive feelings about themselves. Choosing my words carefully, while upholding their dignity, has proven to go a long way. Intentionality is my bedrock principle. This is the guide I use to check my tone, gestures, and non-verbal body language when interacting with students. Not only does this help foster positive relationships, it models emotional maturity and builds trust, which cultivates a climate for learning, growing, and educational risk-taking.
POWER WITH VS. POWER OVER I recognize the power my position holds. I use that power to amplify student voices and cultivate safe and brave spaces where students can harness their innate gifts and build that emotional maturity. When students learn that their voices matter, that we embrace autonomy, and value their opinions, the result is a shared commitment to a caring, supportive, and accepting school community.
BUILDING POWERFUL POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS When students feel supported, they are more likely to engage positively even when it’s challenging. Humans have conflicts, that’s a fact. How we move through conflict is what matters. Relationship restoration is more available when powerful positive relationships are already in place.
MIRRORS, WINDOWS, AND SLIDING GLASS DOORS Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop coined this term to explain the importance of children seeing themselves in the books that they read. I applied for and received a Horizon Foundation grant for small libraries for both students and staff with books featuring diverse characters, points of view, and issues that may be unfamiliar to them. I also ensure that I tell diverse stories that not only include struggle, but promote hope, empowerment, and joy. What a wonderful representation of the duality of life.
WORK-LIFE BALANCE What fills your bucket? I continually remind myself to fill my own bucket. When my bucket is filled, I show up whole—joyful and content. I teach children how to fill their buckets and what it looks like to fill each other’s buckets. What’s stopping me from using the same philosophy in my own life?
PROGRESS OVER PERFECTION As an educator, modeling the importance of progress over perfection supports student learning, encourages autonomy, and activates the desire for students to reach for excellence. When a student comes to me stressed about what they perceive as an insurmountable and daunting task, I share with them the example of the staircase—one step at a time. By practicing this approach, students discover just how resilient they are by striving for incremental (or exponential) growth and continuous improvement and, ultimately, their goal. It also provides the opportunity for them to realize that focusing on progress and continued growth is a way to hone their innate skills and abilities. This, of course, is true for adults as well.