Episode 43 - LEAD on READ: Dr. Lakeisha Johnson on The Village and Community Impact
Lakeisha Johnson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Florida State University, Affiliated Faculty, Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR).
Lakeisha Johnson, PhD is an assistant professor in the School of Communication Science and Disorders and affiliated faculty at the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR). Dr. Johnson's primary research interests include language and literacy development and executive functioning in African American children and others from underserved populations. She is the Director of The Village and creator of Maya’s Book Nook, which seeks to promote language and literacy skills through diverse children’s literature.
Danielle Scorrano: [00:00:00] Welcome to READ, the Research Education ADvocacy podcast, where we connect you with prominent leaders, researchers, and educators who share their insights and work about education and child development. As you're tuning in, this is the second lead on read episode with Dr. Lakeisha Johnson and my co-host Jamie Williamson. I don't even know who to say hello to first. Jamie, since you're my co-host, welcome to LEAD on LEAD. Nice to have you here.
Jamie Williamson: Very great to be here. So excited to do this again.
Danielle Scorrano: And Dr. Lakeisha Johnson, my newest best friend from FCRR. Hello.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Welcome back.
Hello, internet friend.
Danielle Scorrano: Yes. At some point we'll meet in person.
Jamie Williamson: I love how many friends we have at the Florida Reading Research Center. Like I just, I think there's such a great pool of talent down there and I really appreciate you taking some time to chat with us today. So yeah, super excited.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me and inviting me back for a second time.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah, of course. There was just too much to talk about, I think for Danielle. So we had to we had to have [00:01:00] you back.
Danielle Scorrano: Yeah. Let's just start, I guess since it's all three of us, where we're at today. So Lakeisha how are you today? How are you approaching this conversation?
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: I am good today. It's been a busy, busy week here in Florida, as probably everyone is aware, but things are well. We are looking forward to all of the projects and activities that we have going on around the center. So things are really well.
Danielle Scorrano: Great. And Jamie, how are you approaching this conversation? I know probably just as busy.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah, no, it's been a, it's been a busy week. New York is experiencing what's probably been the mildest winter we've had on record, so I have a lot of like inflicted feelings about that. I'm really glad I didn't have to make a snow call just yet. But I'm also really sad that we've not had a snow day, so this is not typical. So it feels like spring out here, but, but yeah, no, I'm super excited to take some, take a pause in my busy week to sit down and have a really fun conversation.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Definitely. Are snow days really a thing anymore? Because now that we've [00:02:00] had virtual learning, or do we really still get snow days there, or?
Jamie Williamson: Wonderful question. So I am a big proponent of actually maintaining it because I think there's some nostalgia there, and we have some working families who that's like not having, the ability to kind of manage some of these pieces and sort of coordinate an at home, impromptu at home remote day. So we're trying to kind of keep a couple in our calendar, but just this year we weren't able to do that. So, yeah.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Absolutely, definitely the nostalgia, but also just all the experiences and things you can do at home on those kind of things. Yeah. So all things are important.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah, I would agree.
Danielle Scorrano: Yeah. Well, speaking of New York, I mean, we all know that New York has been busy too with dyslexia research and reading research and in the last episode, Lakeisha, you and I spoke about this integrated approach to addressing reading difficulties and reading failure through a systems, approach. We talked about ecological systems framework, and reminder to to all of our READers, Lakeisha, you had co-authored the paper with Nicole [00:03:00] Patton Terry, and others from FCRR, "Building a Framework to Understand and Address Vulnerability to Reading Difficulties among Children in Schools in the United States."
You should we have that article linked on the readpodcast.org. If they googled your name, Lakeisha, it would definitely come up. We also talked, oh my gosh, do you know what we talked about a lot?
We talked a
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: lot.
Danielle Scorrano: Oh my gosh. Yeah. We talked about The Village, we talked about Maya's Book Nook. And what struck me about your work is it intersects so many facets of a child's life and you also intersect a lot of facets of leadership. And so as soon as we got off, I think I called Jamie like six times and I was like, no matter what you're doing, all your important meetings, I need to talk to you about Lakeisha. And he was like, we have to do it.
Jamie Williamson: This is true.
Danielle Scorrano: And mm-hmm. Yeah. So true. So I think before we get into the conversation, I'll let Jamie start to ask you about some leadership questions. But for our READers that haven't tuned into Episode 41, I thought we would introduce you first, and actually why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself before we [00:04:00] jump into the conversation.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Sure. I mean, it's funny though, because I don't often see myself as the leader. You know, I kind of made a joke like, oh no, you should be talking to Nicole Patton terry, not me but in my own way. I am an assistant faculty at the Florida State University and the School of Communication Science and Disorders. My research focuses on African American children and language and literacy development, executive functioning, all the things that impact how kids learn how to read and how it impacts academic outcomes.
I'm also the Director of the Village, as you mentioned, which is one of FCRR's newest divisions, which focuses on community engagement and outreach. And like you also said, you kind of gave the rundown already. I also run a website, Maya's Book Nook that focuses on promoting strong language and literacy foundations through diverse children's books.
And so, it's been really nice being in a position such as this where I'm able to have that intersection, intersectionality [00:05:00] where a lot of the things that I am passionate about really get to come into play and intersect at work, at home, and everywhere, so both of my professional and personal life. So it's been really fun.
Danielle Scorrano: Thank you for sharing that. And I know Jamie, you had some questions for Lakeisha on leadership.
Jamie Williamson: So, yeah, I love talking about leadership and I also love understanding people's stories in the process. I have a dear colleague has always kind of pushed me to remind and reminded me that, you know, I have a story on my heart about how I kind of came into the work and everybody else has a great story in that process. And I want to make sure that we have a chance for you today to kind of talk a bit about that journey. Because I do think when you come into leadership sometimes there is, some people like to wait for kind of permission to lead. And one of the things in my work I've always tried to do is not have anybody have to wait.
I give that permission freely. I want to share that space with people. I want to empower those around me to kind of own and lead from their space. But also too, like you come to the work in a very unique way. I do believe there's a little calling here, right? So I'm a [00:06:00] psychologist by training. I worked in public schools. I used to evaluate children. And had you told me, when I was my 12 year old self that I was gonna be leading a school program in New York one day, I would've like rolled off a chair laughing at you.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Right, right, right.
Jamie Williamson: I didn't like school very much. I'm from Eastern Kentucky originally when even in the podcast where you talked about Appalachian dialect and all this, like, I'm actually, I'm a code switcher. I grew up in a space where I did not speak in the way that I get to talk on a daily basis now. And when I go home for a weekend or a couple days, and I come back, my accent is thick. The things that I say I've gotta pay a lot of attention to. And so I can really identify with some of that work. But coming into the, this work in education for me has been, you know, a big byproduct of seeing and feeling my experience in education and not wanting any child to feel that way, not wanting to put a child in a space where they don't have the resources to do not having things that they need. And I love when I get to hear a little bit more about other people's [00:07:00] story.
So, you talked a little about your journey and I loved when you talked to and reflected on your work in undergraduate school, seeing this clinic run and how that sort of changed your entire perspective.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: It did.
Jamie Williamson: So I'm going to let you pick up from wherever in that story you need to pick up. But talk about what called you to this work.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: I think it was really that experience in undergrad. I mean, I have been a person who I guess you could consider a natural born leader, even through matriculating through K through 12. I was always the one who was volunteering to be the president of the club or the vice president, always wanting to make a difference in that way to be able to rally everyone together. Even in a lot of my friend groups and circles, in one, I'm called the link because I'm like that person who makes sure we all keep it together like it no matter how far the distance now is between us. So I've kind of always had that personality.
But when it comes to that undergraduate experience, I thought I was going to be a [00:08:00] journalist. That was what I knew I wanted to do. And when that wasn't available to me, I had to figure out another path. And it just so happened that I met a professor, Dr. Regina Lemmon, who showed me the beauty in speech language pathology and communication science and disorders, a field that I really didn't have a lot of knowledge of. And as I began to learn more and more about the field, and when I went through my master's in PhD program here at Florida State, I just really started to see a lot of the inequities that were present within our educational system, specifically with children of color. Even more specifically as a person who's grown up in rural South Carolina. So I'm from a very, very small town called Lynchburg. Nobody's going to know where that is unless you have been through Central South Carolina, not too far right in between kind of Columbia and Myrtle Beach. So those are kind of your markers for it. But most people would've never heard of this really, really small town. And it was that the kind of place my upbringing was, the way that [00:09:00] I was raised, you didn't know what you didn't have, right? We never thought that we were growing up in this kind of lower class kind of poor family because we were surrounded by so much love and education and knowledge to where it really felt like when it gotten to experiences in my graduate degree, when I saw the differences in terms of how kids were performing, it really made me become more interested and invested around vocabulary, around literacy, around dialect and language. Why are all these things, why is it all so different, right? You could have two kids, same parents, same household growing up and have a completely different kind of linguistic system.
Like you said, Jamie, the code switching that we do, you will hear it here. I'm also in this season of life to where it comes out, and I'm okay with that. [00:10:00] I try to show up as fully as my authentic self as possible in all of these spaces because I think it's important. And if I go home, it will surely , it surely shows up if I go home for a week or two. But I think it's important. And when I was in my, graduate program, I was doing my dissertation around vocabulary and, no, that was my master's was around vocabulary, but my dissertation was really focused in on dialects.
And really I had this question, why do some kids do this thing? Like we're talking about code shifting, dialect switching, and some don't, right? Like my grandmother, my mom, nobody ever told me to do it. No, it was never something that somebody said, Keisha, when you talk to this person, you need to change the way you talk. But I saw that modeled. I saw that it was different at church than what it was when we were at home, different at school versus at home. My grandmother was a teacher, she was an educator. It was different at school than it was at this place, and you started to see some of those things. I was always really intrigued by [00:11:00] what were kind of these underlying characteristics and skills.
And then of course, I was doing work with a lot of the amazing people that you mentioned at the Florida Center for Reading Research, which has just been so impactful because of the interdisciplinary nature, being able to be around people who have different backgrounds and lenses for how we approach literacy has been so very eye-opening. Because as a speech language pathologist, I mean, pathology is in the name of our field. Very often we're thinking about things through this lens of fixing something, right? A nd being involved in a lot of this interdisciplinary work and also thinking about our more equitable approaches to even how we serve children. We can't have this approach that we need to treat before we even teach something, right?
Like we're constantly thinking about how to treat it, but it's, how do you know that this is even a skillset that's been taught? Who says it's one that needs [00:12:00] to be taught? Like all of these variables that play a role. So, in terms of where I currently am, I was given the opportunity to lead by my mentor, Dr. NicolePatton Terry. We have been a duo now for almost 10 years.
Danielle Scorrano: Power duo.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: We first worked together at Georgia State University in Atlanta at the Urban Child Study Center, which she founded with Dr. Gary Bingham. And she was doing a lot of work with Dr. Bingham, Dr. Julie Washington, who I did my postdoc with. And within that experience, I did both my postdoc and worked as a research scientist there. I had no clue, I did not want a tier one or a research one faculty position. I wasn't trying to be on anybody's tenure track. I saw. Dr. Terry and Dr. Washington, and I didn't want that for my life. I was like, nope. I don't want the pressure, I don't want the hustle. I really enjoyed that space of research science where I could just do the [00:13:00] projects, do the work, teach a class or two on the side, still have an impact on students. But you know how it goes. I think when you have, when your mentors see something in you, they give you more opportunities. So they see, very often they see more in you than you even allow yourself to recognize. And when we both left Georgia State at the same time, Nicole came here to FSU, I went to the University of the District of Columbia in DC where I worked for two years.
And that was my first tenure track position. And it just so happened my husband got recruited to come to FSU. It was nothing that was me. He got recruited to come back. And he came and she said, we gotta get back together. We're going to do this. And so that's how The Village was born, this coming back and being called to lead. I think has been one of the, it's such a humbling experience [00:14:00] when you see that people see those characteristics in you. But it's been an amazing opportunity to allow others to play a role in our shared vision for The Village and the work that we want to accomplish in our local community.
Jamie Williamson: Outstanding.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: It was a long, long way to say I was kinda voluntold.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: But also, it was definitely one of those experiences. It was where it was just all of these things that kind of came into place. That allowed me to be in this position.
Jamie Williamson: So Danielle's gonna have to work to keep me on track because there are so many things in what you just said that get me really excited. When I think about, and I want to come back to one, the thing you talked about earlier, this idea of seeing the need. And so in your work, you know, and I think in leadership, often leadership is this intersection between passion, people and purpose.
There's a why here, understanding one's passion and sometimes I think people think about passion from this sort of like inward birth of like I see [00:15:00] this thing I need to go do in the world. And I don't know that that's actually where it always comes from. I think it comes from seeing the need outside in the world and this desire to fill that need.
Right? That's the internal part for me. So when I hear you talk about seeing the need out in the community and the desire to kind of push into that, I get beyond excited. And then this notion of connecting to people and making sure you're doing this work and validating even bringing your whole self to the conversation. Because I do think it's such important part for us. And showing up as our truly authentic self in that moment.
And then when I hear you're talking about this notion of purpose and the work and moving that forward again, we could have a whole hour and a half conversation about those three things alone.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: I like your three P's. I'm writing that down. Passion, purpose, and people - That could be like a whole whole infographic. I love it.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. And then the other thing that I reflected on deeply with your sort of your upbringing and your experience because I came, like I said, I came from Eastern Kentucky in a really poor, super remote space. Like sometimes, sometimes I joke with [00:16:00] friends that like to, if we went home without getting gas in the car, like it was 45 minutes to get back. Like you had a drive to get to a gas station. But like there was such a level of love, such a sense of community. When I went to college, I remember, like, I went to college thinking, I'm from a middle class background.
And I get to college and I was like, oh, wait a minute, hold up. I'm. I'm not. That's not, My parents worked so hard. We had a great family and a great house, but like, it was on land my family had lived on for a long long time, probably a hundred years. And so, we had everything we needed.
We wanted for nothing, but like, when I think there was some pride in the sense of what we had and without having the comparison of what we didn't have, which I think is one of the beautiful things that's been lost in Appalachia in general. It's like now there's all this comparison of, which I think is often to the detriment of others, and the process of that. But I just so appreciate you sharing that about your story. And if you could think about [00:17:00] sort of a word or a phrase right now from a leadership perspective that's really speaking to or resonating with you, what would that word or phrase be?
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Hmm. That's a hard one. I think showing up. Showing up. It is so important for me as a leader to be visible. Be responsive. And as you've mentioned, to see the need and to be responsive to that need and no job being too big, too small. But then also showing up for my team, we've put together a really, really amazing team of people that have very varied background and showing up for them while also empowering them to figure out what they want? What are their paths? What are their strengths? How can we highlight them, ensuring they're getting the tools they need to be successful in all the things, [00:18:00] right? So, yeah. I think showing up is something that's so important and meeting whatever the present kind of a need or priority is. And right now there, there are lots of them. Yeah. And so just, I think I would say show up.
Jamie Williamson: I love that. So again, I feel like we could have an hour conversation on that topic alone. Because I do, I think in leadership, like there is, often we focus on the power in leadership, what I can do and I can say, and I can decide. But I think the other thing that we forget to talk about enough is this idea of responsibility.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Definitely.
Jamie Williamson: When you have leadership, when you're in a leadership position, it's not just, yes, I get the power to decide, and I accept that sometimes we have to make decisions, right? But it also comes with this incredible responsibility, and I would argue that this idea of showing up is one of the most important responsibilities we have.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Absolutely. We gotta show up for our people. We gotta show up for each other. We gotta show up for our mission, we gotta show up for our values. So I just, it's, I'm, I'm, you're filling my heart right now, so thank you for that. Yes, definitely.
Danielle Scorrano: I want to jump in with that too, because when you [00:19:00] talk about showing up, first of all, I love this because of the shared story. The shared story is just so dynamic and I love learning from both of you going back and forth. And when you talk about showing up Lakeisha, I want to dig a little deeper into the process of show showing up every day. Because when you talk about showing up, it's an everyday process. And from just today to as big as projects of showing up and how you created The Village. And what I'm getting to that is The Village, when you launched it with Nicole back in 2019, it was this project, this launching as a result of the two of you showing up every day to address the need.
And so when Jamie and I were talking about The Village, we thought to ourselves, well, how did they get there? Like how did you just start, The Village? Obviously when people see it and it's now out in the world, it's the consequence of so many things coming together. And so [00:20:00] what we're curious about is where did The Village, where did the vision for the village come from? And can you walk us into that process of how you were creating it from the ground up to tinkering to where it is today.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Right. Well, I'll first say that, The Village and its goal, this wasn't a new thing for us, so while the division and the name and all are new for FCRR, this was not necessarily anything different from the work that we had previously been doing at Georgia State, the Urban Child Study Center, The Village is definitely a model that we wanted to duplicate, that we saw there. How do you take something, where you are really meeting the needs of the local community? So a place-based approach, right? Really getting in, meeting the people, being there for the community stakeholders, identifying their needs, and then deciding how we can take this information that we have, these best practices, the skillset that you have of all of these people on the university side, [00:21:00] how do you get that to the people who need it the most? And how you change the messaging, because the messaging is completely different, right? How do you gain the trust? And for both of us, it was probably in 2018 when my husband was being recruited, we literally sat in a conference room and we sat and spent the entire day together and literally mapped out the core values that you current and the vision, and mission that you currently see on our website. And we knew that the first part had to be that we have a responsibility to our community. Most specifically, we are invested in terms of ensuring African-American kids, kids who are growing up in poverty, kids who have disabilities.
We both come from backgrounds as special educatorsas an SLP, and she was a special education teacher. We both come from these backgrounds that focus on vulnerable populations. And if you think about where we're [00:22:00] located, I think I mentioned this in our last episode, but the poorest zip code in Florida is located right where we are. So while our kids may go to a really great school, that is not the same for every school I have to pass to get to the FCRR office. And so while there have been really, really amazing strides that have taken place when we got here in 2019, I'll be honest and say that as you see in probably any research town, or college town where there's a big research university, there are research harms that take place.
You have to work to build relationships. And so when we got in that conference room, we literally mapped out what do we want to see? And the thing that kept resonating with both of us, and you know, the old African proverb, it takes a village. That's where our name comes from. It is literally more than just us.
It can't just be us. We are an n of 2. So we have to also sell people on this idea that it [00:23:00] takes the entirety of our team to be able to do this work and to make that shift, which is the culture shift, among many and for many people. So we really wanted to sit and kind of think about what were the things we wanted to accomplish the most.
And the first one was always, we have a responsibility to the communities that we live in. These are the communities that our kids are being raised in, and we want to act accordingly. We want to support the things that are happening in our community. We also believe in just this whole thing of, it's a full community effort, in order to ensure academic success. And we know that this is not something that stops at K-12.? Like what happens in these years, you know, what happens before school entry? All of these things set a child up for the trajectory for the rest of their lives. And so we're not just focused on just the kids in the classroom, it's also families, the school as [00:24:00] a whole, the community as a whole. So those were some of the things that we wanted to kind of center, and of course, always remembering for researchers. You have to also do the research, but do the research in a way that answers the questions that the community partners have and it meets their needs.
And so while we value all types of research, we value all of the things, me personally, I am most interested in the projects that are going to help this kid, this school year, this teacher, this family right now. So I can do a lot of amazing things that will inform theory and we are very fortunate to be in a center to have people doing that amazing work, that is massive RCTs and all the things that I don't necessarily do in my workour work is quite different, but I think they all [00:25:00] serve their purpose and we have to have people who have those kind of differing values, and not necessarily differing values, but differing approaches to get us to the same end because our values are still the but we have different approaches and I'm very much focused on ensuring that everything I do has this immediate impact. So how can we see that this has actually made a difference?
Danielle Scorrano: Yeah. I wish I was in that boardroom with the two of you. I'm like, oh my gosh.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: It was messy. It was a very, very messy board. And Nicole is one of those people she writes only with a pencil, so she's the person who, if she's taking notes, yeah, it was just us throwing out our ideas, and really thinking about what can we do that will bring together community partners, researchers, and all to really make the biggest impacts for our local community.
Danielle Scorrano: Yeah, I, I love that. And what the word [00:26:00] that kept coming to mind was social entrepreneurship. And I think when we think about entrepreneurship in the sense of education, I was reminded of an article I read at Hopkins during my doctorate work, and I'm like, pretending I'm in comps right now. It was, Battilana, Leca, and Boxenbaum, 2009, and they talk about this aspect of institutional entrepreneurship.
And I think some of the things that people may underestimate in terms of entrepreneurship is that you can disrupt the status quo, but you have to have that sustainability and that buy-in and at the same time, how you're setting up that culture so that the entrepreneurship and the changes that you are making last.
And I say that because when you were in that boardroom, you said, you talked about the mission statement, you talked about values, maybe at that time you talked about the tenants of connect, champion, collaborate. How did you ensure that those tenants that you came up with were shared around the culture? How did you build that culture so that [00:27:00] everyone around you could then also see themselves in the work and buy into the work that you two were creating?
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Well, the first thing we did was we went on a listening tour the entire first year of the village's existence had nothing to do with research. It was literally cold emails. Because I did graduate school here and I also worked as an SLP at a local elementary school, I knew a few people. I'd lived in Tallahassee for six years. So I knew a good amount of people through the district, but not enough. And she didn't know anybody. So we were literally kind of cold emailing principals and we started visiting the ones who responded, literally saying, hi, we're Nicole and Lakeisha.
And we went on a listening tour. We went to breakfasts and lunches and always started with tell us how we can help. So tell us the things, the issues, the concerns, the needs of your schools, [00:28:00] and doing it from a way that understanding that, every school will see there, even though as from a researcher's perspective, sometimes we can kind of lump all these things together.
But for this individual administrator, this community advocate, this grassroots leader. And we didn't just meet with schools, we met with community advocates, other organizations, our local library, PBS, we met with everybody. And Nicole was, I mean, she is very much, her style of leadership is very much "we" focused.
So how can we help you do this thing, which has been something that's just been an amazing model for me in a lot of the work that I've done. So we did a listening tour where all we did was talk to people, introduce ourselves, and find out what we could do to help meet their needs the most. And so then that's how we came up with those three tenants, which is really connect, champion and collaborate, as you mentioned.
And so the connecting is really, us serving as a thought [00:29:00] partner, right, us being able to provide information around evidence-based practices where if you have a question about something related to this curriculum, you're using this strategy, how do I know so and so, how do I get this thing? I'm looking for this book.
We can answer those questions. We can point you in the right direction. We can find the research, we can let you know those things, right? We're just going to connect you. And if we don't know the answer, it's a whole university. Somebody knows, right?
And then the champion also being, uh, very well cognizant that we can't do it all. And that there are already people working in this community doing amazing things. There are administrators, there are family members, they are the experts in their communities. I'm an outsider, right. I've been here in six years. I'm an outsider. And while of course a lot of the work that we've done have been in title one school schools with a majority, African-American student [00:30:00] population, Black and Brown students, I'm still an outsider, right? And so building the capacity for those relationships to involve trust means I'm gonna champion what you do. I've judged spelling bees to speech contests. I've gone to parent literacy nights. I've gone to block parties, right? We've done some amazing work that really centers around the ideas that partners have established.
We don't need to come in and run the show. because first of all, we don't have the capacity for that nor is it our place. Right? But what we can do is provide this feedback, provide this one thing we did. We have some students from our team. We have some really amazing doc students, and they have been so excited to learn more about these research-practice partnerships.
And a part of that is building the relationships. And so one of our community partners, we did a block party last year for Halloween, and we [00:31:00] made a literacy corner for the block party, right? It was music, DJs, food kit, and it was a legit block party. And here we are with a story time corner, and they loved it, like the community. It was amazing because we've now established a presence of when you call us, like somebody's gonna show up, like we said earlier. Our style is very much how do we show up? How do we show that we also value the things that are important to you, right? And so the last C is collaborate.
We have to remember that we're a research center. And so when you've done the first two C's really well, connect and champion, it's a lot easier to collaborate on research. People are a lot more willing and they seek us out for the research opportunities and so, I don't know if this curriculum that we've been using in kindergarten is adequately preparing our kids later down the road. So when we will create and [00:32:00] design a study that looks at, or is this one working well? Is this one really helping get them where they need to be around readiness? What's the evidence behind this one? Because we've had some curricula that's being used that has not been maybe created by some local people.
And, and you know how that happens with educators? Stuff tends to stick around, right? It may not be any strong evidence around it, but it sticks because it's worked for a few. Or maybe it's worked for many, but it's important to be able to collaborate on a lot of these projects that allow us to also keep the research moving.
And when we've done the first two, it makes our job so much easier to do research and also they're willing when then we have ideas. Like, let's say I am passionate about children's books, super passionate. So they come to us and say, Hey, we heard y'all are doing so and so at the library. Why aren't y'all doing that at our school? Because I've been doing [00:33:00] this, I've been doing some trainings with our youth services librarians around increasing language and literacy strategies during story time, and they're like, we need this at our school. Like, what are you doing? Why are you doing it out there? Come here and do it. Right. That's the part of when you've established these kinds of connections, they then look for other opportunities and it's not our core tenant, one of our Cs, but it's really one of the things. Tiffany Hogan brought it up in a podcast. I know y'all are familiar with Tiffany, she brought it up when I was doing a talk with her, a podcast with her on her on her show: commitment. She was like, it really sounds like y'all need a four C because the fourth is commitment, right? It is literally, this is an authentic partnership. It is mutually beneficial and it goes both ways. You have a seat at the table, you help make decisions, you drive help to drive the show. It is not just Lakeisha come in and say, this is what we're doing for this project. You have an actual role and [00:34:00] we need you to play your role. Right. And then also know that we're committed to you. We're not gonna not show up when you ask us to be there.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. There's so much here so, forgive me, I'm going to go a little off script here Danielle, so just forgive me because there's so much that I think are so important and like just near and dear to my heart. Coming out of undergraduate, I wanted to be a researcher. I loved science, I love contributing to research. And I worked for the FDA for a couple years doing crack cocaine addiction research. Yeah. And I realized I actually want to be around people more than I want to be in a lab . Right. So, I sort of shifted the more applied side of things.
So while I love research, I love reading research, and I love, you know, when we contribute on the base side of science to advancing and understanding, but I think so often I, and I so appreciate that you brought this idea of research harm, like popping into these places where we do some research to advance our sort of piece here, but we actually [00:35:00] don't think about the kids and the systems that we're coming into in a way that sort of shows a lot of respect and a lot of support for them. So I just, I so appreciate that. That's a big piece of this.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: And I've been on both sides. Jamie. I was the student, I was the doc, the grad student who had to go and collect all that data. I knew that I was never going back to that school again. I wasn't go, I wasn't going to do no PD. We weren't going to follow up with reports and say, hey, here's some changes you can make that could really have an impact. We weren't doing any of that stuff. Right. And that's not necessarily a fault to the researchers who working that with because we need that science we need that because it does, as you mentioned, advance. But I just knew that that wasn't what I wanted to contribute to.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. And I think schools and communities are such complex spaces here and when we think about some of the applied side of the research like what research are we putting into the world? And sometimes this is harder [00:36:00] research to fund. So I totally, I think there's some conversation we need to have at like that funding level, right, to kind of push more dollars towards some of these more applied pieces that help us not only think through the strategy that's being applied in a classroom, the ecosystem that thing exists in. But how do we then support that system from a longer term perspective in this process?
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: And it's the higher education side. Right? Oh, it's also not the research that's valued in terms of tenure and what is viewed as rigorous.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. Right. So there is work on all sides.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Completely, completely agree.
Jamie Williamson: And I remember I was up at Harvard with Bob Brooks, who, I don't if you've read any of this stuff. It was like you jokingly call him Uncle Bob, right? Because he's like this sweet, sweet guy. But he asks a question a lot of times when we're doing this work and I love the question and is, what are we going to do and say when we're in front of that child on Monday? Like, what about this is going to give us the insight to actually make this child's experience better when we're in front of them?
I think it's what teachers want. I think it's what parents want. I think it's what educators at [00:37:00] large wants so often. And so I think the more we can do to help get that sort of space there, I think the better off we are. I also love your focus on this idea of gaining trust, this listening tour.
Having done some outreach work, I think so often people want, and I had a real good conversation with the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club in Columbus. I, we started some work there when I was living in Columbus to help partner with that organization. And I went to and asked a question like, what do you need? Like, help me understand where your pain points are, what keeps you up at night? What's kind of driving some of the, the challenges for you? And she,
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: And it throws them off when you ask, doesn't it?
Jamie Williamson: It totally did. Yeah. It stopped her in her tracks, and she was like, you know, no one asked that question. And she said, people want to dump something on my lap. I've got this thing to give you, let me help you with this thing that I've gotten here. Let me just put it on your doorstep. She's like, I need more people to ask me that question. Because I [00:38:00] think when you ask the question, you don't always get the answer you thought you were going to get. Because I think it's from our perspective, we see one thing from the outside, but on the internal side, maybe an entirely different set of challenges that are on the table or that are really top of mind, that need to be addressed in order to get at the root cause of whatever is happening. So, I so appreciate what you said.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: I mean, I go into places, especially in the schools that we particularly are strategic about partnering with, but the building is on fire, right? Like there are so many issues. Academics is just one. Reading is just one, right? We have to get them here. We have to make sure that they're attending. We have to make sure they're fed, right. What if they get there? Yeah. You know, we've had schools start to create community and parent resource rooms that are there with one of our schools. They have a laundry service, a laundromat and everything in the school. So then in their parent resource room, which we then stocked with materials for when you come. You have some stuff to [00:39:00] do with your kid while you're waiting. But it's one of those things that's where it's not just the Minutes of the 90 minute reading block that we're concerned about. It is definitely all of the things happening in this stratosphere that’s surrounding the child. And when you have those ways of thinking, it allows you to to change your perspective. It changes the viewpoint in which you take, when you actually walk into those schools.
And when they do start to answer about what are some of my pressure points or what keeps me up at night, you have to be willing to say, okay, I don't know if I can do anything about that. Or when they say, hey, we are having this issue around, you know, kids. Okay, well if y'all do this, here's what we can do to support that parent.
How can we then tie into what meets that? Because clearly I [00:40:00] I can maybe try to connect you to some people who may be willing to donate some expertise but that's not my area. But what we can think about is how, now that you have these families here, what can you be doing to make an even bigger impact while they're here in your building on campus with their kids?
Jamie Williamson: When I think about education as a field and what we as educators, and what sometimes we are being asked to do in these spaces, the work that you're just highlighting here is how fundamentally important it is for us to see the educational institutions in as foundational for supporting the health and success of that community. No longer are the days where I think kids come in, they sit down and we're going to teach them how to read, how to spell, how to do math, how to write, how to be better scientists, sociology, whatever it is we're doing. But there are so many more layers to how do we support family systems?
How do we make sure we [00:41:00] make these things more accessible? How do we make sure the kids and families feel safe in our presence? All those things that I think go to the laundry mat sort of in the school. I'm just like why doesn't every school think about it or ask those questions? Because I think there's so many spaces where you know that even the idea of putting that into effect, you have to ask a pretty fascinating question. And not being afraid to say like, wow, like what's the role of the school? And if you put like cleaning your clothes totally outside that circle, you don't get there. So, do you see yourself as somebody and as a school system that's trying to support the health and wellbeing of families. Literacy is part of this. Making sure they have access to some of these services and then utilizing the space in a way, and in a very creative way to really bring some people closer to the school in that. So just can't begin to applaud you enough for that conversation.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: And not even that two gen approach, right? What are you then doing? Because it may also be how are we ensuring that families are getting what they need. [00:42:00] Because sometimes it's literally also how can we connect the family members, with the right partners in other organizations. So absolutely.
Jamie Williamson: Because this work is bigger than me. This work is bigger than you. This work is bigger than all of us, and I so appreciate that you pointed out the end of two. You know, sometimes there's some magic alchemy happening when you get a really positive sort of connection with somebody, That can really have this multiplying, uh, amplifying effect. And I just so appreciate the two of you have been sort of pushing on this in such an important way for your communities down there. So, so thank you.
Danielle Scorrano: Can I ask a question though about communities and families? I love how you two are bringing out about asking the right questions. And the thing I keep coming back to is, How do you build that trust? So often, sometimes our families come in, and I think of our families who have been in school systems where their children were told they couldn't read or they couldn't do well, or [00:43:00] so many other countless experiences where families, beyond reading ,that they just didn't feel like they had the support. So Lakeisha, what is it about and how do you approach families or even community partners to build that trust first?
So some of our READers on video may see that our lights have changed a little bit because of some home recording issues, but we are good to go. Lakeisha and Jamie, you were talking about bringing in communities, bringing in families, addressing the needs of families. And Jamie and Lakeisha, I love how you both talked about asking the right questions and I'm wondering how do you even get to those questions? And what I mean by that is how are you even bringing the trust to families and communities when you're talking to them and specifically families in order to get the answers that they feel vulnerable enough to share about their experience?
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: I think, for a large part, it helps that I am a [00:44:00] part of the community in which I serve. And so for a lot of the families, for a lot of the people there is initially a comfort simply because I am coming as another young Black woman who also has a child who's school age, who may be dealing with a lot of and perhaps maybe similar kinds of issues. Or at least I can, there's some shared background around something so that, that does not hurt, right? But then I think the other part is being honest enough to ask the question in a way without making parents feel as if they aren't the experts on their children, or teachers, or admin. That they are the experts of whatever arena that they're serving. And I think a part of that is, is not coming in with this savior complex that we've got [00:45:00] this thing that's going work. We're very honest and like, hey, this is what the evidence says, we're going to do our best. We are going to do the things, and this should be what happens and can shift. But we know that there's no magic pill. There's no thing that's going to come in here overnight. But here's what we can do and how we can do this in a way that's going to move us closer to where we want to be.
So I think it's honesty, it's transparency, it's showing up in a way that's respectful and culturally sensitive that does not make parents and families feel as if they've wronged their children by what they don't know or do, all these things. Or even teachers, teachers don't know what they don't know, right? They don't know what they don't know. And that could be due to pre-service training or we know now teachers come into classroom settings in so many different paths. So they could have not even gone to school to be a teacher. [00:46:00] But approaching people, I mean, I often say just as a kind human, right, like first let's just be good people to start with, and not feeling like they have to do this thing for me. I think oftentimes, sometimes as researchers, we have this air of, but I have this thing that can help them. I don't know why they just won't let me do it. This is the thing that's going to be great for them. And that's not necessarily the approach that's most valued, especially in vulnerable populations and especially in communities where there has been research harms that have taken place, where they've seen these names and, and when you have an organization and a center that's as big as FCRR, it's 20, 30 different people who could have been at that school.
So it's important that what we do and how we show up reflects [00:47:00] everybody there. So that's been another part of the work is around ensuring that once we go in and build these relationships, If other people from our teams also go in, hey, this is what's been established here and we've been doing some amazing work around, even a lot of our other colleagues are thinking about even, as they write new grants, what are we adding in around community engagement? What are the ways in which The Village can support this project or the people who are on including what the project coordinators are thinking about a s well as students a part of the research assistants roles. They're volunteering at these schools, and we're doing these things. It's helping people be more purposeful and intentional because you still have to do your research.
We get that. You still have to do it. But if you're doing a research project at a school and they reach out to me and say, [00:48:00] Hey, it would be so cool if we had somebody from FCRR who would do this Black History Month reading. Right? Like, we're just doing books. I don't need to come. You go, you're the one that's collecting data at this school. It's important for you to have a presence there, right? So I think, um, because of our way of doing things. I can't say we changed. It's just been a few years, but I think people are more cognizant. People are more familiar of our way of work and people are willing to be more purposeful.
And I think that that's all Nicole and I really wanted because it can't just be the two of us. I know I have a team, it's like seven of us now, and we've got some amazing doctoral students, on some training grants that are being prepared to then be this next set of researchers who will be doing this work.
But I think it's even more [00:49:00] important to us that even all around us are seeing this model for how you can do this. And that's some of our current projects we're doing something very similar with the connection we now have with our local school district. This is the first time, in FCRR’s 20th year as a center, having an actual data sharing agreement with our local school district.
Jamie Williamson: Outstanding.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: And so we're modeling how to do the same thing at our local HBCU FMU and their research laboratory school. How do you have this model of support coming from the college system that actually makes a huge difference and impact in what's happening in these schools and communities around them?
Jamie Williamson: So thank, thank you. And there's a little bit here that you touched that on I want to highlight for just a moment here is that you coming in from the Florida Reading Research Center, you have a lot of experts down there. [00:50:00] right. And I think the way you're sort of positioning it is less about being the expert and more about having expertise. And I think maybe it's semantic and I'll accept it.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson No, no, it makes a difference.
Jamie Williamson: I think it's a really important distinction for me. Because expert leaves very little room for humility, leaves very little space for others into the conversation, versus I think expertise can be shared in a way that brings a lot of humility, a lot of respect for the other person sitting across the table, and a lot of compassion for the entire system that we're both existing into this moment, right? And so when we talk with our external partners in this work, or even in I'm trying to kind of actively shift how we talk about this work how we want to bring expertise to the table, but I also want to make sure that I leave room to grow and leave room to learn and leave room for everybody else around me to kind of also share in that expertise. So thank you so much for sharing that.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: That's such a great point. And because [00:51:00] we can't be looked at, and very often you're called to the table as the expert, but I have not practiced speech therapy in anybody's school for 10 years. Things have changed. And that's important for me to be aware of and know that you are the expert at this school. And very often what we find as we do a lot of our work with these trainings and professional development is, a large part of it is building capacity. So a large part of our research practice partnership work with our respective stakeholders is how do we build the capacity for you to believe that you can go now do this with your people? You don't need me to come in because they can't always have that. It went, at first it was like they only wanted Nicole. Then they only want me. And we're slowly shifting this narrative. You won't always get one of us. You may not always get one of our team members. [00:52:00] But you now have the capacity to be able to do this work. Um, and we want to equip them with that as well.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. And I'm just thinking about how empowering it is to show up to a school and sort of really let them know they are the experts and they have expertise in their space and even from a parenting standpoint, sitting across a parent to say, your child better than I ever. So you are the expert in your child. So bring that expertise to us. I'll bring my expertise on the reading and language development systems, impact, and ecological thinking on that. And we're going to come together to do something really good for your community.
And that's where I think the magic, if there's magic here. Right. And I hate to, we talk about all these things. It's good research, right? It's good practice. Yes, but it's a little bit like magic. It is, which I love, I love that interesting sort of mystical intersection there.
Danielle Scorrano: I think we could talk forever, and speaking of magic, I think we could talk about this for hours and hours on end. And Lakeisha, I mean, we would love to sit down with you in person at some point, [00:53:00] but being respectful of your time, I think we now have to get into some, not rapid, not so rapid fire, but some leadership reflection questions about where you are now and how you're reflecting on your leadership. And so you talked a lot about mentorship and Nicole being a mentor for you. Has there been anyone else in your journey who's been a mentor? What have been those values of mentor that you have found so valuable as you've grown as a leader?
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Definitely Nicole, but also every person that I've worked with, I have been very fortunate to have all of my mentors be other Black women in this field. And I know that is not something that I can take for granted because there are so few of us, especially in communication disorders, in a field that is, 93% white. I know that. I'm very fortunate. I know you're, yeah. I was like, whoa. Only 3% [00:54:00] are African Americans within our field and even fewer that have PhDs.. So I have been extremely blessed to have Dr. Regina Lemmon, who showed me the field, um, Dr. Shurita Thomas-Tate, who I worked with did my PhD with, Dr. Julie Washington, who I did my postdoc with. And then, Dr. PT, who has been just this mentor that has been through so many different stages that first, from graduation up until, now we're like colleagues and partners in this work. And so, what I've learned from each of them, which took a little bit for me to be comfortable with what, but was really how I started off Jamie, when we talked about dialect and code switching, but was to always show up as my authentic self, and to not water down the work that we do.
For a very long time. I would say when I was introducing myself that [00:55:00] I’m Lakeisha Johnson, I have expertise in culturally and linguistically diverse population. That's not true. My expertise is in African-American kids, African-American English. I don't need to water down the fact that I have this niche area because it would be no different than someone who focused on Spanish speakers or someone who's focused on whatever population or people who have discipline, whatever it is.
That’s one of the biggest things that I've learned from them was being as authentic as possible about how I show up in the work that I do but also, bringing people in after me. I now have three amazing young Black women who are my doctoral students. And I sit there and think, I don't even, I'm still figuring out my life, and here I have three students, and a handful of master's students and undergraduates. But it has been an [00:56:00] amazing opportunity to be able to provide the same mentorship that was given me to my own students and to see them kind of walk these same kinds of paths. And then I think the other thing that I've learned from them, my mentors are pretty dynamic speakers. So being able to watch any of the ones I've named. If you've ever seen Julie, Nicole, you've seen them in a presentation, they command a room, right?
Jamie Williamson: 1000%
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: That part is, I'm very fortunate to have worked with some of the best in our fields.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. And knowing a fairly sizable amount of the folks you named personally, you have an all-star slate who've been I'm lucky.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Well, I'm blessed. I'm fortunate, because like I said, it's really so few of [00:57:00] us. Yeah. It's so very few of us.
Jamie Williamson: I’m going to ask a question that I have some really good friends and colleagues as a head of school, the work can be a little lonely. There's a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, a lot of demands from every single, kind of facet of the world from parents, to students, to leaders, to teachers to the community at large. And so I have some really good friends and colleagues who remind me sometimes that, Jamie, you have to take care of yourself. Because I think it's something that this idea of self-care is not one that, especially when you are hard charging, you've got work to do. We've got passions we need to work on and some needs in the community we need to fill. Sometimes it's hard to take a pause and reflect on that.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: What's that? What's work-life balance? That's a great question. That’s another hour and a half podcast.
Jamie Williamson: S what are you doing right now to put your own oxygen mask on to take care of yourself and the work to make sure that you're able to show up and be your best, authentic self for everybody. [00:58:00] I
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: I am an avid Pelotoner. I enjoy working out. I am in my second trimester of pregnancy, and it probably been the most challenging that I'm not able to do as much as I could. But I love cycling and yoga and I love it all. But I found I have a newfound love for even just outdoors, and walking. I I'm a country girl. I'm not an outdoorsy country girl. . But I think the pandemic really gave me value in just getting out for walks. And so my day does not feel right if I don't at least get a little bit of sunshine or get a little bit of a walk in outside by myself. My daughter was here for virtual school for like almost all kindergarten, and my outside walk was my only time alone. Mm-hmm. So that's been something that I've been doing for the last three years. And it's really [00:59:00] a way that I can pour into myself. And the other thing is we have a group chat. We have a group chat that we can just laugh and share jokes and memes and I think you need that other side. You have to have balance because that leadership role can be so heavy. And especially in a time to where a lot of what we do is, it's honestly being criticized. Right. You have to have some space for some levity in life. And so, working out, you'll have to give me your Peloton name, Danielle, so we can follow each other.
Danielle Scorrano: Oh, I will email it to you.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: We can follow each other, and then just having that support group. They want the kids to learn how to read, but they don't care how we get there. Right. They know it's important, but they, they are so focused on, and just a good, good girlfriend group that can really help support.
Jamie Williamson: Good friends, great [01:00:00] activity, and I love that. I like to ride, I'm a cyclist. I ride most and spend my time outside on bike. So I have a lot of love for Peloton. I'm more of a Zwift guy.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: We all got bikes during the pandemic. My daughter was learning how to ride. She learned how to ride a bike. She was maybe three or four, like, she was four at the beginning of the pandemic. So we all had to get bikes and that was really when we then got to Peloton because it was like, okay, we want to keep doing this all year round. And I mean, Tallahassee, the weather is relatively mild, but you have to deal with the pollen and all the other parts of being outside all the time when it gets super hot here.
Danielle Scorrano: Yeah. I love that. Well, I can't wait until we have a group ride together or something like that.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Post baby, I'm done on the bike. .
Danielle Scorrano: Yeah. You know, when you're ready, just let me know. I'll share my account with you, Jamie, you know, I have a family account on Peloton. [01:01:00] I can create something like, I don't know, JamieHOS or Jamie Head of School?
Jamie Williamson: I'll think something . I probably should give it a try.
Danielle Scorrano: Absolutely. I am struggling to pick our last question today because there's so many other questions I'd love to ask. You know, we talked about Maya's Book Nook a little bit. I think it was integrated in this conversation, but I think we more explicitly talked about it last time. In talking about all of the things that we talked about from community engagement to partnerships, to equity approaches to integrating the ecological framework again, I also wanted to ask you about your curiosity and your learning as a leader. And so, Jamie, I'm going to give you the opportunity because I'm struggling to ask the last question. I want to give you the opportunity to ask any of the last leadership questions for Lakeisha (1:02:00).
Jamie Williamson: So I want to sort of pick up on what you were sort of putting down right there, this idea of learning and reflection., I've been reading, and Danielle and I are big fans. I don't think this is a secret, but we are big Brené Brown fans. We love her work. I've been reading a ton of her books, and I've been reading Atlas of the Heart and loved the idea of kind of trying to figure out how to organize and name our feelings. I read Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett not too long ago and this idea of like, I think during the pandemic we've all been sort of experiencing so much right, and we don't have the best vocabulary when it comes to our emotions and our feelings. And I think most of those books for me, were just really at the right time and they're sort of the right content. So that's what I've been sort of thinking about. As I lead, how am I sort of being aware of my own emotions in the process? How am I thinking and reflecting and sort of naming them, kind of putting them on the surface and kind of honoring them in a lot of ways? So as a leader and as a researcher, what are you [01:03:00] really thinking about or reflecting on or reading about right now in your leadership space?
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: What I'm reflecting on in terms of the leadership spaces, right now top of mind is I'm going to be out for a period of time. I'm fortunate that baby comes over the summer, so I'm going to essentially get half the summer and the fall semester off, which means I'm going to be gone for quite some time, which is nice for us. But, as a leader it does make you feel like we have to make sure all these things are aligned. So I've been thinking a lot about how do I elevate the people on our team. Everybody has their unique strengths, and I’m figuring out how they can use this opportunity as moments to walk in those spaces where they really have these strengths of being able to dig into them over the next few months so they feel well-equipped for that part. Because a lot of them are like, what are we going do? They only want you guys, and I’m like, no,[01:04:00] we’re preparing for this, right. In in terms of reading, and how I keep growing as a leader, I love the National Network of Education Research Practice partnerships. I think it's important to see how others are doing this work, to see the models that they have. What I've been reading right now, I've been reading pretty much only children's books. The last book that I I read is, Michelle Obama's The Light We Carry, which was at the end of the year, which was a phenomenal, phenomenal read, of course. A lot of my reading right now is focused over on Maya's Book Nook. We're doing the ABCs of Black History Month. So Maya has helped me select these changemakers, leaders, and icons. We've been finding children's books written by Black authors about these people, which can be a whole other podcast about how challenging that can be.
[01:05:00] So I've been reading a lot of children's books lately. But I do love Brené Brown, so I do need to check out her most recent book because she has some good stuff. And one you talked about the, the naming of feelings and all, Morgan Harper Nicholls, she is a poet and an illustrator, I found her on Instagram. She just released the book that came out on Valentine's Day. I cannot think of the name of it, but I'll have to look it up so you can add it in the notes. But her thoughts around how we are showing up in spaces, but also how we are thinking about how we go into each month. She has these keys kind of questions you can reflect on and ask yourself at the beginning of each month. And they've now all been compiled into these forms in an amazing book. It’s been really fascinating because she's also a black woman who has autism.[01:06:00] She talks a lot about her story, but how she uses poetry and all to really allow her to show up as her best self but to also give others the strategies that they need in their toolbox to then show up as their best selves in whatever spaces, professional spaces, personal spaces. So yeah, that's kind of been what I've been reading lately.
Jamie Williamson: Well, thank you. Thank you so much. I'm going to name a feeling I'm feeling right now and that feeling is awe. Because I don't think we talk about this feeling enough, right? When you run into somebody who's doing such incredible work, who is living and leaning in to their points of passion, talking about the way you connect with people, the way you're serving your community, and the purpose behind this. I'm just left here today with nothing but an, an incredible sense of we. So thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story, everything that you've shared today in terms of the work that you and Nicole are doing. I would love to at some point to come down and check and see some of these spaces that we [01:07:00] schedule a visit. Have you up here to New York?
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: It's been a mild winter, I would say. You need to get away, but it's been mild.
Jamie Williamson: Yeah. Yeah. It's felt, it's felt like we're Northern Georgia right now. Like it's not warm, not cold.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Yeah. Well, thank you both so much for having me. I mean, I appreciate your kind words. It has not been easy getting to this base of being able to merge all of the things. And a lot of people often ask like, how do you do this stuff to where you are doing this work that you're really passionate about, but also being able to meet the requirements of what we need to do on the university level. And it's challenging. It is a struggle that I deal with. I don't spend nearly as much time writing as I should because, Jamie, as a leader, you spend so much time in meetings and showing up. Part of what we do is show up and so, [01:08:00] I don't have it all together, but I think that being surrounded by a strong team allows us to continue to push forth and do the work. I've been intentional around trying to merge these passions together so that I'm able to do the work in a way that still feels true to what I feel is my purpose.
Danielle Scorrano: Oh, I love that. Ah, yeah. Well, I think there's no better way to close this episode. I know that this just has some thought and reflection for future, and so I do hope and I know that we will all be speaking again.
That was our second episode of LEAD on READ. Jamie, thank you so much for your hosting, your co-hosting presence. And Lakeisha, thank you for just showing up with us today and offering so much that we can continue to hold onto over the next several months.
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.I appreciate you both and your time. [01:09:00] T
Danielle Scorrano: Thank you so much and thank you all our LEADers on READers. I tried calling our listeners LEADers on READers last time and it didn't work, and it's still not working. So thank you READers for listening to this episode of the LEAD on READ podcast. As always, you can check out all of our bookmarks at readpodcast.org, or you could find the READ Podcast through thewindwardschool.org/wi.
Feel free to follow along with The WI and all of our social media platforms. And if you have any thoughts or questions or ideas of next topics and speakers like Dr. Lakeisha Johnson, you can always email firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also have all of the links to find out more about Lakeisha on our website as well.
And that's it. I'm just feel so humbled. I just feel so great. Oh, I love this. I think that's it. So our last official sign off, Lakeisha, you did a such a great job last time. Would you like to do, “until next time, READers” again?
Dr. Lakeisha Johnson: Until next time, READers!
Jamie Williamson: Thank you. Thank you.[01:10s:00]
Lakeisha Johnson, PhD, returns to the READ Podcast for the second episode of LEAD on READ. Dr. Johnson, Director at The Village at FCRR, associate professor at Florida State University (FSU), and creator of Maya’s Book Nook, shares her leadership story from her childhood through her professional career.
Dr. Johnson tells more about her partnership with Dr. Nicole Patton Terry in creating The Village to support and empower communities and schools. She cites stories and examples of how she has cultivated trust, shared ownership, and impact amongst stakeholders and partners. READers will gain actionable insights on
- showing up as an authentic leader,
- empowering teams,
- engaging in moments of reset and restoration, and
building collective impact for the communities we serve.
Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.”
1. Lakeisha Johnson’s Leadership Story
Listen to 7:11 – 14:18 to learn more.
Dr. Johnson reflects upon her journey to leadership, from a young child through her professional career. She shares stories of growing up in rural South Carolina, recalling instances when she needed to code switch in her school and community. She further discusses how her personal and early professional experiences influenced her work with African American children speaking African American English and students in vulnerable populations.
“When I went through my master's and PhD program here at Florida State, I really started to see a lot of the inequities that were present within our educational system, specifically with children of color.”
Dr. Johnson’s leadership story intersects her personal and professional experiences, relationships, and professional work at various universities, leading to her current role as Director of The Village.
2. What it means to be an authentic leader
Listen to 16:57 – 18:58 to learn more.
In reflecting on what it means to be leader, Dr. Johnson shares that it is important to fully show up.
“It’s so important for me as a leader to be visible.”
Showing up means being responsive, seeing the need in the community, and empowering and lifting up others.
“We have to show up for each other. We have to show up for our mission. We have to show up for our values.”
3. The Village: From vision to sustainable actualization
Listen to 19:08 – 25:26 to learn more.
The story of The Village originated from the work Dr. Nicole Patton Terry and Dr. Johnson had established at Georgia State University. When they envisioned successful university-community partnerships at Florida State University, both researchers believed that “it takes a village” to create collective impact.
“We have a responsibility to the communities that we live in. These are the communities that our kids are being raised in.”
The work of The Village prioritizes collective impact and is driven by three C’s: connect, champion, and collaborate.
“I am most interested in the projects that are going to help this kid, this school year, this teacher, this family right now.”
4. Social entrepreneurship in education
Listen to 25:58 – 34:07 to learn more.
Social entrepreneurship requires navigating the tension of disrupting the status quo to fulfill a current need while envisioning what is required for future sustainability.
To be successful in understanding and addressing their community needs through The Village, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Patton Terry went on a “listening tour” at school, community, and family partners.
5. Cultivating trust with partners
Listen to 43:29 – 49:46 to learn more.
“It’s important that what we do and how we show up reflects [the entire community].”
Building relationships requires prioritizing trust. When Dr. Johnson connects with families and communities, there is an understanding of their shared experience and her positionality as a member of the community.
“I think the other part is being honest enough to ask the question in a way without making parents feel as if they aren't the experts on their children.”
Building trust also requires
- asking the right questions,
- maintaining transparency and humility about supporting community partners,
- valuing shared expertise of stakeholders,
committing to showing up authentically.
“I think it's honesty, it's transparency, it's showing up in a way that's respectful and culturally sensitive that does not make parents and families feel as if they've wronged their children by what they don't know or do.”
Past LEAD on READ episodes:
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About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests and does not constitute an endorsement by The Windward Institute or The Windward School.