So here is the thing, if you would of told me four years ago, my job was to empower women in educational leadership, I would have looked at you and said, nope not it.

Over the 14 years of my career in education, I personally have experienced struggles and frustrations simply because of my gender, however, upon reflection, I was also gifted with some amazing mentors along the way.

Going through the College of Education at Central Michigan University, I wanted to teach high school Social Studies. My mentor at the time asked if I was sure, as this was a field dominated by male athletic coaches. It was at that time that I thought perhaps I should change my mentor and was able to discuss my concerns with a professor, Norma Bailey, who encouraged me to stick with my passion and I never regretted. I was lucky enough to receive a position at Mt. Pleasant High School, where the Social Studies Department was filled with some amazing female teachers. I owe a shout out to Sarah Gilbert my mentor, Linda Spycher, Karen Caldwell, Sue Hoeft, Christine Knapp, and Kathy Ling for empowering me to become the passionate and focused educator I am today. After five years of teaching, I moved into an Assistant Principal position at Durand High School. My three years in this position was faced with adversity thanks majority of the male staff not trusting my ability as a female administrator and referring to me as “girl”. Once again, I had a great mentor. Doug Lindsay, taught me how to see beyond the biases and focus on what was best for kids. He indicated that patience, hard work, focus, and consistency would get me far and he was right. He may have also pulled a line directly out of A League of Their Own and said to me that “there is no crying in baseball.” It had been a rough day….

After three years, I was ready to run my own building. Once again, I made another move and landed at Freeland Middle School, where the superintendent, Matt Cairy provided me with the necessary support and free range to do my work. Being mentored by Matt reinforced my dedication to education and understanding around what is best for kids. After three and half years, I was encouraged once again to take the next step in administration and landed at the Saginaw Intermediate School District as the Director of Instructional Services. It was here that under the guidance of Dr. Kathy Stewart, I became a mentor instead of the mentee.

Four years ago, I came to the Saginaw ISD with only one other department team member, Amy Wassmann, Coordinator of Health and Drug Education. I was given the challenge of rebuilding the department and the services provided to local school districts. Piece by piece, grant by grant, I gradually built a team of strong, passionate, and highly driven women in educational leadership. Currently, the team is made of coaches, consultants, and educational leads. These women are why I come to work everyday. Their intellect is jaw dropping and their call to action is phenomenal. They will change education in Saginaw County and beyond. My position over the last four years has shifted from a jack of all trades, providing services where I could, to empowering a team of women to do amazing work in our schools. That shift for me was both challenging and a little shocking. Someone recently told me that I am able to hire these amazing women, because of the work that I do to empower the team. My response was this…

At some point along the way I was empowered by strong mentors and women in education. I was blessed by the best in other words. The women on my team are encouraged to try new things, serve on committees outside of the organization, and to learn from one another. We have a firm understanding that we do nothing alone and do everything as a team. They know that I will celebrate them when they succeed, catch them when they fall, and brush off their knees and tell them to stand tall.

In order for women to empower other women, they need to have been empowered themselves. A colleague of mine recently gave me a sign for my office that was entitled just that….Empowered Women Empower Women. I look at it everyday as a reminder in hopes that my team members are able to do the same.

And the real story if you read this far:)….Just trying to be a fruitloop in a world of cheerios with my husband and son Miles. Farming, tractors, and balancing admin & mommy duties at the same time.

Written By Guest Blogger Rebekah Hornak
Rebekah Hornak is currently the Director of Instructional Services at the Saginaw Intermediate School District and has been with the SISD since 2014. Prior to her role at the SISD she held the position of K-12 Curriculum Director and Middle School Principal at Freeland Community Schools. In addition, she spent three years as the Durand High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director. As part of her current role as the Director of Instructional Services, Rebekah Hornak is responsible for a wide variety of programs that impacts various demographics throughout the county. Her department oversees the Great Lakes Bay Early College, Saginaw County Juvenile Detention Center, and the Holy Cross McGivney School for foster youth. Her personal goal is to empower every educator in the county one step at a time. Rebekah holds a Bachelor Degree from Central Michigan University in History and English with an emphasis in secondary teaching and a Master Degree from Central Michigan University in School Principalship.