I was never supposed to go into education. My mom was a teacher, who I watched week after week spend long hours planning and grading papers at the dining room table. My dad was an intermediate school principal who would often come home from school and extracurricular activities just as mom finished grading. On occasion, our home’s overnight quiet would be interrupted by a phone call. Dad would have to rush back to school, perhaps to board up windows that had been vandalized. I wanted no part of it. I was going to attend law school, be an attorney, make lots of money, and live good. My path was clear.

Or so I thought. A college friend who was failing English asked me, as an English major, to help him with his paper. We worked through it for a while, and a few days later he ran back to me with an astonished grin. He got a B. Could I help his girlfriend with her paper, he asked? I did, and word spread until I found myself enjoying my new role as the class’ de facto writing tutor. And then I understood. My parents’ long hours and the late nights were spent in service of others, helping people overcome challenges and become their best selves. To my parents’ delight—and maybe a bit to their amazement—I decided to shift my path to education. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Each of us has a story. The details will differ, but somehow we all arrived at this same place where we put in long hours under tough working conditions with shrinking budgets and scarce resources, but we do it because helping our students and fellow educators become their best selves is worth it. Servant leadership is desperately needed right now. Teachers and staff are strained to their limits and need your reassurance. As I write this, a new spike in COVID-19 cases threatens our students and families—especially our neediest. Our kids can’t get through it without you. And they certainly can’t become their best selves without you. You know that. That’s why you’re not wealthy attorneys either.

So before I ask you to rise up with us to fight for what every child, every family, every educator, and every school needs, my first message as NASSP CEO is a simple one of thanks—for all you are to your kids, your teams, your communities, and your peers. Please know how honored I am to serve in this role of supporting and elevating the incredible work you do each day. I look forward to meeting each of you and hearing your stories.

Ronn K. Nozoe