20 Female educators who remind us how teachers can change kids' lives

Oct 1, 2015 at 9:30 a.m. ET
Image: Karen Cox/SheKnows

Her name was Ms. Redmond. She had brown skin and glasses. And she was my entrée into “real school.”

An October baby, I’d attended one of those daycare-slash-preschools, but was really too young for second grade. I remember having to take a test (I learned later it was to ensure I was ready for second grade) and crying once I was done. I was scared. Scared of this new school. Scared of these new people. Scared because none of my best friends were there.

I don’t remember all the details, but I do know that Ms. Redmond made me less scared. And that even years later, when I saw her in Walmart (which is where you see EVERYONE in the city in which I grew up), it took me back, as though days or weeks — instead of years — had passed.

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Since then, there have been many “Ms. Redmonds.” Teachers who have sparked something in me, have made me believe in myself, even when I couldn’t. Ms. Dees, my Girl Scout leader. Ms. Manning in third grade. Ms. Hammack and Mr. Gill in high school. I’ve been thinking back on these formative years lately as my own children begin first grade and preschool. And I’ve been thinking about it even more as SheKnows introduces our first group in our new 100 Inspiring Women series.

According to stats from the National Center for Education Statistics, there are 3.1 million teachers in the U.S. teaching more than 49.5 million public school students. With those numbers, it's hard to believe it's actually possible for them to learn the names and quirks of each and every one of their students. Or that they can do both large and small things that impact not just their students, but their communities.

As most of our kids have gone back to school this month, it seemed only fitting that our first group in the 100 Inspiring Women series would focus on education.

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Our inaugural group of inspiring women was chosen by SheKnows editors, community members and participants in our signature youth education program, Hatch. We chose educators from around the world who have made — and are making — a significant contribution in the field of education. They are teachers, education administrators, and founders and administrators of schools and education-focused programs. What they all have in common is their commitment to, and excellence in, the field of education. In the coming months, we will feature inspiring women in tech/science, food, health and social impact.

Our team chose from hundreds of great women, and let me tell you, it was no small feat choosing just 20 to recognize in the field of education. Each woman was more impressive, more inspiring, than the next. And as many of us enter the end of our first few weeks — or months — of back-to-school, we know all too well that educating our children is much deeper than taking the perfect first day of school photo. We know that each time our children set foot inside of a classroom — whether it’s a traditional setting, special program or even a college course — that it is an experience that will stick with them for a lifetime.

We hope that our children will have their own “Ms. Redmonds” in their lives, and that those educators will be a positive influence on them. And these 20 women are just the tip of the iceberg. What teachers inspired you? Share yours using the hashtag #SheKnows100!

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Click below to find out more about all of our honorees!

20 Inspiring women who are transforming the way kids learn
Image: Karen Cox/Sheknows