Superintendent Elizabeth Giacobbe oversees a school district where 70% of students live below the poverty line. During her first teaching position 20 years ago, Giacobbe said, she grew passionate about the “plight of the urban student,” and eventually went on to become superintendent of Beverly City School District, located in Burlington County, where it’s not uncommon for students to begin the school day already tired and hungry. Last month, she participated in Boston’s Grow Your Value bonus competition as part of the Know Your Value nationwide movement to empower women in the workplace. Here, she shares what she learned.
Knowing your value is a lifelong journey:
I am survivor of domestic violence. While it was a one-time, horrific experience, it forever changed my life and governs my every day. I am very successful in my professional life, but as a result, I’ve always struggled to know my value within my personal life. I am a superintendent of school district and am almost done writing my dissertation to complete my doctorate. Despite what my resume says, I’ve somehow always felt inadequate. Because of my professional achievements, I went into this whole process thinking I knew my value. Sadly, I didn’t. It is a journey - which I think is the case for a lot of women. I need to remind myself every day that I am worthy and have value, not just in the workplace.
Knowing your value is knowing yourself:
The greatest gift of the entire Know Your Value experience was the opportunity to go to Orlando and attend the Human Performance Institute. The lesson I learned was that our most valuable resource is our energy. The experience gave me a 360-degree profile of myself and taught me that in order to be my best self, I need to take better care of myself. This starts with the basics of eating less and eating often, getting a good night’s sleep and simply moving more. HPI also taught me about finding my true passion in life and not letting anyone or anything stand in my way. It is non-negotiable. While obstacles can and will get in the way from time to time, it is imperative to stay the course.
Knowing your value is finding a tribe of women:
The Know Your Value experience introduced me to one of the greatest tribes of women. While some of the relationships may be fleeting, I’ll always remember their wise words. Ambassador Samantha Power advised me not to let “bats of doubt” cloud my mind when going after a dream. Meredith Vieira offered me a hug of encouragement prior to going on stage. Michelle Smith of MILLY made me feel like a rock star. Other relationships will hopefully be longer lasting, like those with my fellow contestants Ebony and Jill, and with my coach Lynn Seth, who was such a huge cheerleader during the entire process and still is. The lesson I took away is that some people will support all your endeavors and pick you up when you fall. There will be others who judge you, but what other people think of you is, quite frankly, none of your business. Knowing my value helps me recognize value in others and grow value for some where none exists.
Knowing your value is about chasing opportunities:
I competed for a $10,000 prize, which was going to be used to support the many students in the Beverly City School District who live below the poverty level and often go without the basic necessities every child deserves. I lost the competition. However, I still feel like I won. One of the judges, Robin Young, mentioned that she would like to share my mission on her radio program on NPR, which could help catapult my cause to reach an even a greater audience. Secondly, an assemblyman in my school’s district, Troy Singleton, was so disappointed in my loss that he is donating $5000 to help meet the needs of my students. And most importantly, I was able to serve as a role model for my students. They watched me go after a goal, but also saw that I was able to be able to hold my head high with dignity and grace in the face of defeat – a priceless lesson for us all.