Nikole Y. Hollins-Sims, Ed.D., is the senior educational consultant & strategist for Hollins-Sims Consultation and lead author of Creating Equitable Practices in PBIS. She formerly served as a technical assistance coordinator for the Midwest PBIS network and is a former Special Assistant to the Secretary of Education at the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). We sit down with Nikole to talk about her accomplishments and her drive to give back.
What drives you to give back?
I am driven to give back by the foundation shaped by my parents. Each of them taught me from an early age that it is better to give than to receive. In addition, my Christian faith has influenced the importance of giving back. In my youth, participating in church-based events that gave to charities or ensured others were fed, clothed or housed became very valuable experiences in shaping my life. Now, as a parent of a kindergartener, I want to instill similar values and expectations into his life to show that to whom much is given, much is required. We have been blessed in our lives and it is not for us to be selfish or ignorant to those in need. Need is a broad term that extends to lacking positive experiences and access to physical, emotional and psychological safety. My background, coupled with my professional credentials sustains my drive to give back.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I have been blessed with many opportunities to influence and impact educational systems, from a school, school district, regional, state and national space. My proudest accomplishment has been serving as a special assistant to the Pennsylvania secretary of education. While in this role, I was given the trust and autonomy to build and shape how equity, inclusion and belonging would be communicated and implemented across the Pennsylvania educational ecosystem. With the full support of the education secretary, I was able to develop the PDE Equitable Practices Hub, as a one-stop shop of resources, tools, and infographics for the field. In addition, being able to develop relationships with many key partners who shared the mission and vision of creating equitable educational systems for learners to experience belonging was one of the most fulfilling components of the role. Prior to my departure from the PA department of education, we were looking to create a roadmap for Pennsylvania that described the educational ecosystem as a neighborhood, where early learning, elementary and secondary education, post secondary education and libraries are connected and embedding equity, inclusion and belonging in every piece of their work. While that work is still in progress, it's connection to my role as special assistant secures it as part of my greatest accomplishment.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
If I had the opportunity to give my younger self advice, I would be sure to tell "young Nikole" that you may feel like you aren't enough, or you'll never reach your dreams, but I want to encourage you that the challenges you'll face, the rejections you'll experience, and the people who will disappoint you were there to strengthen your purpose, ignite your desires, and remind you that you are a light to many and remember that you are a force. Continue to dream out loud!
What’s an urgent issue facing education?
An urgent issue facing education is inequitable educational experiences. This threatens student's feelings of connection and belonging. Research suggests that lack of connection to school increases the likelihood of school drop-out. Systemically, inequitable access and opportunity to academic, behavioral and social-emotional outcomes has sadly created generations of students who have not been able to engage in an educational climate that is available for them to thrive. Inequities in education range from societal inequities, socioeconomic inequities, cultural inequities, programmatic inequities, staffing inequities, and assessment inequities. Educators are in need of professional learning to increase their awareness of these important inequities.
After professional learning, coaching and job-embedded strategies are necessary for new and responsive practices to actually take hold and make a difference. My passion is to offer professional learning and leadership coaching to help create these opportunities for transformative educational change. Hollins-Sims Consultation is my vehicle to shape the content and effective practices provided to educators centered in equity, inclusion and belonging and through a practical approach.
What is one thing that inspires you?
My mother, Yvonne Hollins, inspires me. I consider her my "first teacher" and the epitome of a caring educator and difference-maker. She grew up in the housing projects of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and was told during her junior year of high school that she shouldn't consider being a teacher, but rather become a clerk based on where she lived. Thankfully, she ignored that advice and proceeded to follow her dream by attending college and obtaining her teaching certificate. She returned to the same school district where she was told she didn't belong in education and taught for decades. She eventually became an assistant superintendent in a local school district and closed her career as the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Harrisburg. Watching her in her recent role inspired me to focus the majority of my educational efforts in making better systems for young people. The families and communities she served benefitted simply because she was there as a servant leader. My mom has demonstrated to me that all things are possible, and do not allow ANYONE to deter you from your destiny. She has instilled in me a "blueprint" for how to be a powerhouse, while remaining humble and committed to the bettering of educational systems. I always share her story when I offer keynote addresses to educational organizations as a way to demonstrate the power of dreaming out loud.
Check out the book, co-authored by Dr. Hollins-Sims:
1000 Spotlights: Why We Give reflects our mission of giving back, to mentor and to inspire those around us. Through a series of interview questions, we explore intrinsic motivations behind why we give, and talk with those inclined to make a difference in the lives of others. If you are involved in charitable activities, volunteer and paid academic engagements or in community service, we want to talk to you.
Write to us to nominate someone exceptional who is making a difference in extraordinary ways.
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