Interviewing Carmen Ortiz-McGhee, Senior Vice President and Resident Sales Director for The Capital office of Aon Risk Solutions (ARS), is a journey into excellence. Reading her bio, you can’t help but be impressed with the number and caliber of her professional achievements as well as her passion to advocate for the growth and success of women and minorities in business.
Advocating for diversity, she has presented at many conferences across the country including Aon’s Women’s International Network, the Women of Color Foundation, Owens & Minor’s Healthcare Supplier Diversity Symposium, American Greetings professional development meetings, the New America Alliance Wall Street Summit and the Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council, among others.
However, Carmen spoke with LatinasinBusiness.us about her other interest, the challenges in bringing high quality education across the board with inclusion in mind. She is a board member of the NEA Foundation, an organization that supports student success by building strong systems of shared responsibility between public school educators and key community partners.
LIBizus: How did you become involved with the NEA Foundation?
Carmen: I am a proud member of the NEA Foundation’s board because the Foundation’s vision and mission reflect my own: to ensure that teachers can teach effectively, especially to children of color, and provide the support these children need to thrive academically and as future adult citizens.
The main concern today in education revolves around ensuring that teachers can deliver high quality instruction to an increasingly diverse and poor student population. Teacher’s preparation is the most important factor in determining how students do academically. What type of training content should they receive before obtaining their teaching certification? How do we support them in their professional growth, especially in the early-year placement in schools, and over subsequent years? These are among the biggest challenges public education is facing today.
Carmen: In the academic year 2014-2015, enrollment of white students is expected to be only 49.7 percent, which makes them the minority of enrollees for the first time in American history. Hispanics account for about 25 percent of children of color registered in public schools.
In this landscape, questions arise: can teachers and school systems provide effective instruction and support to these students? What kind of services such as health, legal, academic, social and emotional support do they need to thrive? How can their teachers—85 percent of the national teaching force is largely white and English-monolingual—tap the strengths and assets that these diverse children and their families bring? It’s a complex set of issues that must be addressed, and we must start addressing them now if we are to ensure the future will be bright for these students.
LIBizus: What is the NEA Foundation‘s approach on these topics?
Carmen: The NEA Foundation organizes its work around a core dynamic collaboration, to ensure high quality learning among students. In this model, teachers’ unions, districts and communities come together to tackle big problems such as quality and access to out-of-school learning opportunities for kids, disciplinary policies, teacher evaluation and retention. Teachers collaborate in new ways with parents in the same ways other professionals such as business people do routinely so that they can learn from each other. A great example is the parent-teacher home visit program.
LIBizus: How are these concerns addressed in an environment of poor cooperation between political parties such as the present one?
Carmen: With regards to the political divides you ask about, the NEA Foundation model could and should be the standard because it brings varied ideologies, perspectives and stances to the same table around that which matters the most: student achievement. Our legislatures, districts, unions, businesses, and community groups must begin to transcend their political differences and focus on the common goal—support all kids, not just some, to become successful members of our society.
LIBizus: How can Latinos make a difference?
Carmen: It is critical that our parents become more visible and engaged whenever possible in schools. Families and parents can make a difference by being more active in their children’s schools—attending parent-teacher meetings, school activities, and volunteering as often as they can. They can also encourage their children to develop relationships with their teachers and administrators so that they are known by those in positions of authority and influence. Moreover, knowing the students at a personal level allows authorities to become better informed about the ways they can help individual students achieve their educational goals.
Families can also make sure that their children have support at home such as an adequate time and a conducive environment to do their school work.
Lastly, we need to convey high expectations for our children, and keep them on track to achieve graduation and college goals, or other professional or vocational education opportunities.
Carmen was recently selected as one of Business Insurance magazine’s 2014 Top 25 Women to Watch. She graduated from University of Virginia where she received her BA in Psychology. She holds licenses in Life & Health and Property & Casualty brokerage. An Advisor to the Hispanic IT Executive Council, the former Chair of the Economic Inclusion Committee for the venture catalyst JumpStart, Inc., and a former board member of Discourse Analytics dba Votifi.com, she also is a past member of the University of Virginia Alumni Diversity Advisory Committee. Carmen lives in Virginia with her husband and their three children.