Inside ECS: Tessa Sutton

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As a child, Tessa remembers a very pretty girl moving to her town, and the girl being excluded by the other kids. Tessa befriended her and it became a lifelong friendship. “I was recently given a surprise birthday party, and my friends were sharing moments and telling stories. This friend of mine told a story about how in school I went up to her and talked to her when she was new. This moment meant so much to her. Our actions can be so powerful for others.”

Growing up, Tessa Sutton was inspired by the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “He was intellectually responsive to individuals’ attitudes and beliefs. As a kid, I thought it was incredibly important and I strived to be more like him.”

Tessa became an educator because she wanted to be an inclusive role model for everyone, for all kids. “Every person is diverse in endless ways. Exclusion happens to all of us in some way based on this diversity. I wanted to work in education, so I could help support inclusion, help positively change it, help people talk about it. There’s no one greater than our next generation. We just have to give them the tools to see it.”

In her role as Supervisor of Connective Leadership and Inclusion, Tessa leads the way for inclusion at the district, both from a staff and student perspective.

“Every living person is diverse. My goal in life is to reclaim the word ‘diversity’. There is a belief that diversity is a ‘group of people’ but EVERY person is diverse and valuable. Diversity is a reality, inclusion is a choice. It’s important for us to know and be the difference.”

“In practice, it’s about creating spaces and systems that help people to cross dimensions and develop intercultural abilities. It’s the ability to navigate across all dimensions of diversity – internal dimensions (things people can see), external dimensions (choices people make), organizational (the role a person plays), and more – how do we ensure EVERY person is a part of the process? Everybody is important and we can’t do what we do without people. We have to understand it from a theoretical perspective, but also in practical application.”

Tessa has earned master’s degrees in education and intercultural relations, and is in the process of attaining her PhD in educational leadership. Her goal is to hone her skills in organizational development and school culture.

“Schools are a social system. In our social system, we have teaching and learning, cultural systems, individual systems, and political systems. We have to think people first because nothing gets done without the human element. We have to understand the dimensions of expectations and roles, and how they align. This is how we ensure student achievement and job satisfaction.”

At the end of the day, being in the schools and with the kids are at the heart of what makes Tessa love her job. “Kids learn through relationships. There’s nothing better than a hug from a student who respects you because you have given to them. There’s an importance in being open to people and being a real person.”

Outside of work, Tessa is committed to continuously learning. She says she enjoys spending time daydreaming, letting her mind wander and be free. Her goal is to be a global citizen, to be able to go anywhere and navigate that space. She enjoys time with her friends and family, and is currently hosting an exchange student from Italy who is attending Elkhart Central High School, who she says is brilliant and brave to explore the world.

Tessa is currently reading: Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind by Geert Hofstede