On Thursday, March 24th, 2016 Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera, participated in an EDtalk, coordinated through the collaboration of Dr. Lori Shorr, Associate Professor of Urban Education and Mr. Jason Bozzone, Assistant Dean for Career and Student Development & Special Events. This student centered led talk focused on education and career development while sharing his personal story of growing up in Philadelphia and establishing a career in education.
Secretary Rivera started as a middle school and high school teacher in the School District of Philadelphia, where he taught bilingual Hispanic students and those who were learning English. He served in various administrative positions before becoming Lancaster’s superintendent in 2008. Joking he explained his interview process in Lancaster as an outsider—A Philadelphian, urban educator wanting to lead a district in the country side of Lancaster! There, he led the development and implementation of a new PreK-12 curriculum and worked on an aggressive professional development plan and the development of teacher observation tools.
Secretary Rivera was raised by his mother in Philadelphia, and his late grandmother. His grandmother moved his mother to Philadelphia from Puerto Rico when she was a young girl.
“My mother was extremely hard-working and on top of me all of the time. My grandmother was actively involved in my life as was my aunt. What we lacked in resources we had in family,” he informed the students.
As an educational leader, Secretary Rivera relies on the advice his mother has given him about opportunities through the years. “She kind of instilled in me that you follow your heart and you always do what you believe is right.”
As an educator and now as Secretary of Education, Pedro Rivera’s focus is on promoting a mission of giving and engagement. He strongly believes that no matter what an individual’s position is, they have the ability to be an advocate for equity in education. He answered a variety of questions ranging from educational policy, how to identify a mentor, to balancing work life expectations. Secretary Rivera offered practical advice on how College of Education students can become more career ready while advocating for equity. He strongly encouraged students to connect with organizations, volunteer, and immerse themselves early in their professional growth in order to build personal connections with the community. He also pointed out that while it is important to be open and take everything in, there still needs to be a balance between your personal and professional life. Secretary Rivera was an engaging and dynamic speaker who connected with students of all programs and backg rounds. Not only did he take the time to answer multiple students’ questions during the event, he stayed after to meet, take pictures, and talk with several college of education student leaders, faculty, and staff.
The Office of Career and Student Development followed up with these students to get their impressions and reactions to Secretary Rivera’s EDtalk. We asked Jaymarie Santana, a junior majoring in Secondary Education English, what stood out most about his EDtalk? Santana stated, “Secretary Rivera’s sense of compassion and how he incorporated it into his position while still maintaining his work life balance resonated to me”. William Pestcoe, a sophomore majoring in Early Childhood and Special Education, shared, “I will take away from Secretary Rivera’s talk, the abilities and methods to positively impact people on a district level, through aspects such as policy and budget; but, also on an individual level by impacting students, families, and teachers’ lives”. Sophomore Evelin Martinez and senior Andrew Dale, both majoring in early childhood education, thought it was extremely motivating to hear from Secretary Rivera because of his vast experience in the field. They also said it was clear to them that Secretary Rivera is very giving of himself and continues to have a strong passion for his work in education.
“I believe I can speak for all who attended our EDTalk, this was truly a wonderful event. Having a key educational leader like Secretary Rivera that takes time out of his busy schedule to meet with our Temple Owls shows his dedication to future students pursing positions in educated related fields. Secretary Rivera inspired us to continue to be more fully engaged with our community both inside and outside the classroom walls while ensuring to be the positive change agents needed to make education equitable and accessible,” Assistant Dean for Career and Student Development, Jason Bozzone.