Author Technology and Engineering Teacher - Volume 79, Issue 7 - April 2020
PublisherITEEA, Reston, VA
ReleasedMarch 18, 2020
Technology and Engineering Teacher - Volume 79, Issue 7 - April 2020

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WOMEN IN STEM: Anna Sumner

TETApr20Anna2TETApr19Anna1Responses from Anna Sumner, DTE, NBCT, Einstein Fellow

Former Classroom Teacher and ITEEA Past President


What has been your secret to success as an educator and educational leader?

During my 34 years as an educator, I have tried to model lifelong learning. I often told my students, “I don’t know, let’s see what we can find out,” and included them on my journey as I took classes. My journey was not to just teach but challenge myself as I grew in my teaching. Taking on new challenges kept me energized. Often these challenges were out of my comfort zone, but I persisted even if I knew I might fail. When I attended professional development sessions, my goal was to find at least one “thing” I could use to improve my teaching.

I also wanted my students to know I was human. I arm wrestled them, went to their dances, events, and even their funerals. I laughed with them, laughed at myself, and smiled a lot, for each day was a new opportunity.

To keep professionally charged, I not only belonged to professional organizations, I participated in them. This allowed me to network with exceptional educators around the world. These experiences gave me the courage to evolve and change my classroom to meet the needs of the learners.


What lessons from your parents have you carried through the years?

I was fortunate to have grown up in an extended family where life lessons came from many generations. Technology lessons came from my great-grandmother. I will never forget when she said, “To think I came across South Dakota in a covered wagon and now I’m watching a man walk on the moon.” My grandmother taught me the importance of listening without judgment. My parents were consistent with their lessons, too. They often reminded us that: “Life is not fair. Sometimes you just need to work a little harder.” And, “Everything can be taken from you except your education. So, keep learning because life has no guarantees.” Most importantly my parents taught me, “Never judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.”


What have you learned that you would want to pass on to younger generations?

•     Life is a system. Everyone’s job is important.

•     Be an active participant in life and know that it gets messy.

•     The golden rule works.

•     Be humble, grateful, and kind to everyone.


What special challenges have you faced as a woman in a mostly male-dominated field?

Strong female role models in the technology and engineering field were almost nonexistent. It was also a challenge to find supportive male role models. Some people did not realize I was serious about what I chose to teach. Often, finding men were promoted before women, I had to work twice as hard to be considered for the same promotion. Today women still face the challenge of fair pay and benefits. Sadly, there is the mindset that women do not face these same challenges today. Many times I feel women have made progress only to find my daughter, who is also in a male-dominated field, encountering the same challenges in her career as I did in mine.


Do you have any recommendations for creating a more inclusive community/classroom or words of advice for working with underrepresented populations?

Equity in the classroom starts by seeing the individual—not the color of their skin, their intellectual capability, the clothing they wear, nor their spirituality—look for the person. When teaching, use your strengths and work on your weaknesses. Be consistent: “Say what you mean. Mean what you say.” And above all, treat everyone with respect.


What are you looking forward to next?

We have impressive leaders in ITEEA. They are devoted to providing an array of opportunities for students and teachers. I am honored to be a participant in the Standards Revision Project. I look forward to the results of this collaboration. And as always, I look forward to the smiles of children every day.