Many of us are aware of the inequalities in our judicial system, but what about our educational system?

Did you know that Black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers, according to the U.S. Department of Education? Furthermore, noted in a recent article, a 2016 report published by the American Educational Research Association found that black third graders are half as likely as whites to participate in gifted and talented programs.

Dowan McNair-Lee’s career and life’s purpose is to combat and shatter the social and racial inequalities within the educational system. She is currently a doctoral candidate at The George Washington University in Curriculum and Instruction with a specific interest in the various factors involved in the retention of Black women teachers.

Her career has easily recognized by the acknowledgment of her effective teaching. During her first year of teaching, she was nominated for a district-wide First Year teacher award. She is also the recipient of the prestigious David Rubenstein Award for Highly Effective Teaching. She has also served as a grade-level team leader, content area team lead, student teaching cooperating teacher, and program administrator of accelerated education programs at the elementary and middle school levels. She also teaches at the collegiate level at both Howard University and formally at Trinity Washington University. 

Dowan and her husband, Steven, are the founders of McNairLee Consulting, which use their combined interest and experiences in education to advocate for students and families while elevating marginalized voices in all facets of education.

Learn more of her self-love story below.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?

When I look in the mirror, I see a woman whose hair tells her story. One day it’s curly, one day its wild, one day its bigger than any other day. That’s how I feel. Some days I’m quiet, some days, I’m wild and unrestrained. All of those are me.

What do you do for a living?

In my day job, I teach Reading and English Language Arts to 7th and 8th graders. I am also an adjunct professor at Howard University. My husband and I are also the co-founders of McNair-Lee Consulting, where we specialize in educational advocacy. While not a paid position (it should be), I am also a doctoral candidate in Curriculum and Instruction at George Washington University.

How do you think self-love plays a role in success?

Self-love propels my journey. Self-love makes me disciplined, but it also allows me to give myself grace. It helps me to find people and things that bring me joy and also hold me accountable to meet my goals. It causes me to see myself as a reflection of my creator and that everything I do is a manifestation of His good work.

How do you think we, as women, can work together to lift each other?

I don’t know where I would be without my community of feminine support. From my mother and my aunties to my sister-friends and sorors, their love buoys me and I can rely on them for a pat or push on the back. We can share ideas, foster each other’s dreams, and provide the tissues for joy or weeping. We can be to each other what we need for ourselves and grant grace when someone isn’t able to be all that you need them to be. We can call each other beautiful and curate images that affirm that not just for ourselves but for our daughters.

From your experience, how is our self-love connected to our children?

Our children observe how we love ourselves. They hear how we critique ourselves. It is important that we are affirming because they will reflect what they see and hear.

Have you had any adversities that you’ve had to overcome to achieve success?

My life has been filled with peaks and valleys. One internal adversity is a constant battle with debilitating anxiety. I realize now that I’ve always struggled with it, but did not have a name for it until recently. Therapy, physical exercise, and medication when needed have been helpful.

What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?

Wow, God has been good to me, but my greatest accomplishment to date was that five years ago, I was able to be the living kidney donor for my mother, therefore keeping her from having to begin dialysis and according to her doctors, saving her life.

What inspires you to keep growing?

My faith, my family are my biggest inspirations. However, I am also inspired by the generations to come, the young people who are so bold and brave. I work hard to try to dismantle systems so they won’t have to fight some of the fights that I did.

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