Position: Third Grade Teacher, CEO of Lady Bound
School: Euclid Park Elementary School
School District: Cleveland Metro Schools
City, State: Cleveland, OH
Tequila Pennington-Calwise was nominated by her colleague, Alice Ruffin.
Ms. Pennington-Calwise not only volunteers to help organizations, but she also founded her own non-profit organization, Lady Bound, to mentor teenage girls in grades 6-12 and help them develop leadership skills. She currently has two chapters of Lady Bound active in Cuyahoga County at Euclid Park Elementary and Brush High School. She also serves on the Advisory Board of Cleveland State University's Office of Field Services for the Department of Education. Ms. Pennington-Calwise is a member of the State of Ohio Range Finding Committee for Third Grade. She is also an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
As the founder and CEO of Lady Bound, Ms. Pennington-Calwise has given hundreds of teenage girls experiences and exposure outside of their urban neighborhoods and classrooms by utilizing her own personal funds to take them to leadership conferences, girls' health summits, minority teen conventions, and fun-bonding trips to help them learn how to build healthy, friendly relationships. She has purchased books and folders, rented vans, ordered cabs, bought food, provided clothing, and guided girls to a vision of a future they never thought they had.
Ms. Pennington-Calwise uses her after school hours to hold weekly Lady Bound meetings with over 40 teenagers twice a week in two different locations. She uses her Saturdays to take them on field trips, or to exposure activities and teen summits. She also collaborates with other girl leadership organizations to provide additional exposures to celebrities, local business people and outside organizations. These additional collaborations are scheduled to meet the professionals' work or travel hours and often times occur Thursdays, Fridays or again on Saturdays. Meeting these students' needs takes a tremendous amount of her personal time and family money. She does this in addition to helping meet the needs of her third graders, volunteering and being active in her professional organizations, and attending out of town meetings for the State of Ohio Department of Education.
Ms. Pennington-Calwise was awarded Master Teacher status by the state of Ohio, The Hardest Working Women in America Award from Essence Magazine (the largest international African American themed magazine in the world), Verizon Wireless Everyday Hero Award, the Salute to Excellence Award, the 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers EveryFan (given to only one person in Northeast Ohio per year), WKYC -NBC Affiliate Community Hero Award, and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Salute to Excellence Award. She has spoken at conferences and has been a guest speaker on national syndicated radio shows, including one where she appeared on the panel with former Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan. She improves the lives of her third graders by providing fun, engaging activities and lessons. Ms. Pennington-Calwise is also a beacon of support for parents at her school by providing fun, engaging and helpful family engagement events like Literacy Night, Open House, Math Night, Disney Musicals and fundraising opportunities. She is a member of various school committees and has served on district committees, as well.
Her reputation among the children is amazing. The children of her school love her to pieces. They feel comfortable talking to her, and she can step in and help calm them or guide them when there is an issue.
"I've worked with Tequila at two different schools, and her reputation with the children glows. It is truly her highlight," said Ruffin. "She also has an amazing reputation with our parents. They love how open and friendly she is to them, often times describing her as 'helpful and down to Earth.'"
Ms. Pennington-Calwise's communication and willingness to meet parents more than halfway is commendable. She keeps parents informed about their child's progress much more than the average teacher. Parents are able to communicate with her on several different mediums, including social media and her personal cell phone. She has a great reputation in her district and in the community. Her collaboration with community stakeholders merges Euclid Park School with several community agencies and provides amazing opportunities for or students.
"Tequila demonstrates all of these criteria and more on a daily basis. The manner in which she cares for, nurtures, guides and encourages our children at many levels is inspiring as a professional and colleague," said Ruffin. "She demonstrates high moral and ethical standards as well as high levels of professionalism. Tequila is a gem in our school, our district, our city, county and state. She holds an important part at each level that shows her commitment to educating and developing our future."