Philadelphia teacher boosts achievement in students and self: ‘She believes in you’
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After four years of teaching, Stephanie Hosansky felt prepared to tackle any challenges the new school year might bring. She had instilled harmony in difficult classroom environments, counseled concerned parents about their children's performance, and worked many late evenings creating lesson plans that would challenge and inspire her students.

As she entered her fifth year in education, she was confident and excited – especially since she would begin the year at a different school with a new group of eager, young students. However, after a few weeks at Hardy Williams Elementary in Southwest Philadelphia, for the first time in her career, Hosansky began to doubt her ability as a teacher.

Her students came from varied backgrounds, many from communities affected by violence and poverty. She quickly realized that these external factors, which were circumstances beyond her and her students' control, often impacted their ability to succeed in the classroom. Students had a hard time maintaining focus on their assignments, there were several incidents of bullying, and Hosansky sensed her new students were skeptical that she would stick around.


"My number one goal for coming here [to Hardy Williams] was to reach the students and help them become the best versions of themselves," Hosansky says. Although it was early in the year, she didn't feel like she was doing what she had come to do. At least not at first. "I had many moments where I wasn't sure that I was the right person for the job."

But she persevered. She was committed to bringing out the best in her students. The first months of the school year had taught her that each class is a unique environment.

"After winter break, I pretended it was the first day of school again," Hosansky says. She reviewed her expectations of the students' classroom behavior and made it clear she was taking these expectations seriously. "They saw that I wasn't playing around," Hosansky says. She also began checking in with her students every morning to ensure that she was helping them prepare for the day.

Her students saw their teacher overcoming her own challenges, which helped them believe they could do the same for themselves. She had created a model of personal success that the students could follow. For the first time, her kids were trying, even when things felt unbearably hard, both in the classroom and at home. By the end of the year, Hosansky's classroom was full of star students – many exceeding benchmark performance on their exams.

"Having 80 percent of my students grow academically was one of the most rewarding experiences I've had as a teacher," she says. But she'd gone above and beyond just helping her students ace reading, writing and math tests. They grew to trust her and rely on her to help them through their "bad days," as one student describes.

Hosansky never doubted their potential and always "showed up" no matter the challenge. In turn, her students wanted to show their gratitude and remind her of the impact she made on them. So they nominated her for the WE Teachers Award from Walgreens, which celebrates teachers who go above and beyond for their students.

The same kids who were unsure if they could trust Hosansky on the first day were now writing secret letters of support in hopes that she would win the award. "She will never give up on you," they wrote. "She will work with you to do better. She believes in you." These sentiments were echoed repeatedly by many of her students.

"Ms. Hosansky always has our backs," another chimed in. "She helps her students because she loves them like her own kids."

"She's more than a teacher. She's my best friend," another student added.

Today's teachers like Hosansky are more than educators; they are mentors, cheerleaders, and counselors, too. Yet at a time when more is expected, many teachers feel unprepared to address the critical social issues that are impacting their classrooms. That's why Walgreens has partnered with the ME to WE Foundation and Mental Health America to develop a new program, WE Teachers, which provides all teachers access to free tools and resources to address topics their students face, like youth violence or mental health and wellbeing. When you shop for back-to-school at Walgreens you join Walgreens efforts to support America's teachers. .

If you know a teacher who goes "above and beyond" like Stephanie Hosansky, you can nominate him or her for a WE Teachers Award; visit your local Walgreens store to learn how. A minimum of 500 recipients will receive a WE Teachers Award and each recipient will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card to purchase classroom supplies – an amount designed to help cover a year's worth of teacher out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies. Teachers can also apply directly. More information is available at Walgreens.com/metowe.

Check out the video below to see a special tribute from Hosanky's students, who share how she made a difference in their lives.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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