Celebrating Former Executive Director Kathy Ennis

29 July 2014

Kathy EnnisIt was a summer institute 15 years ago that first brought Primary Source to the attention of Kathy Ennis. As both an educator and administrator, Kathy instantly recognized kindred spirits. "Primary Source's mission of opening hearts and minds to the world was a good fit for my interests," she says. "I was excited to get more schools and districts involved in our programs." Though initially hired as Director of Outreach, Kathy soon found herself moving into the role of Executive Director (ED) of the then 10-year old organization.

What was it like to usher Primary Source into its second decade?
I spent my first year as ED building the infrastructure of a young organization and expanding program areas. Anna and Anne [Primary Source founders] had a vision for helping teachers create a multicultural, global curriculum. They spent the first decade building a foundation to do just that, starting with China and African American history. I knew that my first order of business was to shore up our programming and diversify our funding to ensure that teachers had access to information and resources on all major world regions. Incidentally, our first expansion was a seminar series on the Middle East, which we developed and offered shortly after 9/11.

How did Primary Source partnerships get off the ground?
When I started, Van Seasholes and John Watt had already developed the concept of partnership with schools. Thanks to a grant from the Freeman Foundation, we were able to offer educators high quality professional development on China, including study tours, at little or no cost. As a result, thirteen school districts committed to getting China into their curriculum, and we made sure they had the tools they needed to do so. As we worked to diversify our programs, I approached these same districts to offer them the opportunity to bring a greater number of world regions to their curriculum – at a cost. I remain grateful to the "original thirteen" for their understanding that an organization like Primary Source requires a regular stream of earned income to remain responsive to the needs of schools into the future. During my tenure as ED, we successfully broadened our regions of study, and crafted a menu of professional development offerings that truly enables teachers to bring the world to their classrooms. By 2010, we were working closely with 50 schools and school districts!

How important was advocacy to your success?
Relationship building was integral to my time at Primary Source, not only with funders but also with the business community, state government, and partner organizations that shared our mission. We launched an advocacy initiative called MIIS (Massachusetts Initiative for International Studies), later re-named GEM (Global Education Massachusetts) that began with an annual global education conference in 2003 that brought business, policy and education leaders together to discuss the importance of global education. Several years later, we proudly accepted the Goldman Sachs Prize for Excellence in International Education on behalf of the State of Massachusetts. Inspired by the people and the conversations of GEM, we created two signature summer institutes that, in my view, truly reflect who we are as an organization: Teaching for Global Understanding which helps teachers bring the world to their classrooms, and Cultural Proficiency for Today’s Diverse Schools which provides teachers an opportunity to reflect on the complex realities of working with culturally and linguistically diverse students.

What is your hope for Primary Source in its 25th year?
It's very exciting to see the organization move into its next growth phase. Advocacy, outreach, and the expansion of our online offerings and digital resources are all going to be key to increasing our presence and meeting the needs of educators who are unable to attend face-to-face programs. Our programs have touched the lives of over one million students to date, and I look forward to watching that number continue to grow.




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