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Featured Article

For the Love of Education

Article by Danielle Tepper and Deanna Hartzman

Photography by Jack Hartzman

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

Dr. Claudia Warren-Taylor, DNP, FNP-BC is a family nurse practitioner with a strong background in healthcare. She grew up in Jamaica and now has roots right here in Potomac where she has established herself as an active voice regarding senior caregiving through her ownership of five Serenity Gardens Assisted Living communities (read more on page X). She is also the proud founder and CEO of House Call of America; serves as chair for the Olney Home for Life; offers her expertise as the subject matter expert on aging and disabilities for various panels; and conducts educational seminars for hospitals, rehabs and government agencies about the importance of improving long-term medical care policies.

Why is it important to you to be an advocate for seniors?
All seniors are someone’s mother, father, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, wife or husband, as well as contributors to our society who have made this community and country what it is, so they deserve a good life in their golden years. I see myself as a senior someday and would like to improve on the standards that help govern their care.

What do you do in your spare time?
Besides being a soccer, tennis, swimming, basketball, track and field, and baseball mom, I am an avid gardener. I catch up with my colleagues and friends at dinners, brunches, movies or planning our girls’ getaway trips.

What is one lesson you wish you could teach your younger self?
Enjoy life at its fullest. Travel more, understand cultural diversity at an earlier age and build a really good support structure that can help you weather the challenges and navigate a future professional life.

What lesson have you learned that you think other women in Potomac could benefit from?
There are still barriers that exist in our society to professional and personal development and to community diversity that may represent the status quo—but, as women, we can educate a generation and in so doing, change or break down many of these barriers and enrich everyone’s lives. Women in Potomac must know that they have the power to change their community into one that is more inclusive and informative, which will translate into opening up a space for everyone.

Montgomery County Board of Education

This year, for the first time since its inception in 1817, the Montgomery County Board of Education consists solely of women. The board, which comprises elected citizens, reflects on female leadership, teamwork and the inspirations that have led them to this point.

What do think is the most positive impact of having an all-female Board of Education?

President Shebra L. Evans: The image of women in leadership is powerful. For young girls to see [all members] being female, conducting business and making decisions sends a message that women belong in these roles. As importantly, it explodes the myth that women cannot work together in a constructive manner, having robust and sometimes contentious conversations without it being personal.

What made you want to run for the Board of Education?

Vice President Patricia O’Neill: I am a product of Montgomery County Public Schools, as are my two daughters. We all received a great educational experience. I spent 12 years as a Parent Teacher Association leader. Following a contentious boundary change, my friends in the PTA convinced me to run.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school?

Jeanette Dixon: My favorite subject has always been U.S. history. Growing up, I read all the books on U.S. history and imagined myself doing great things like the subjects of those biographies. As a student at American University, I took the first Black Studies course offered. I live and breathe the history of women, African-Americans, immigrants, presidents, the Constitution and all of those who fought for social justice in our country.

What is the one lesson you wish you could teach to your younger self?

Judith Docca: I did not always have the confidence in my abilities, and several opportunities passed me by because of this. My advice is this: If a person asks you to apply for something or to take leadership, do it! All experiences are learning experiences.

If you could have dinner with a famous or important person, past or present, who would it be and why?

Karla Silverstre: I would have dinner with Abigail Adams. We would talk about demanding equal rights for women in the Declaration of Independence. Women have come a long way in achieving equal rights under the law.

What is one piece of advice you have for a young woman that you wish someone had given you?

Rebecca Smondrowski: Never underestimate [yourselves] and believe that you are capable. It is easy to doubt yourself and shy away from taking chances because you are afraid of failure. Regrets are worse than failure, [but] the payoffs can be greater than you imagine.

What do you think the most significant barrier to female leadership is?

Brenda Wolff: Societal expectations, stereotyping and bias still operate as significant barriers to female leadership. Leadership qualities that are typically ascribed to women, such as collaboration and coaching, are often viewed as weaknesses in a leader. The goal must be societal acceptance of an effective leadership model that encompass a myriad of characteristics.

What is one lesson you have learned that you think your peers could benefit from? 

Ananya Tadikonda:I have learned the importance of collaboration and teamwork with others who may not agree with all of your ideas. I have also seen and understood the importance of standing your moral ground and values when discussing issues or ideas. I understand the importance of maintaining focus on the larger purpose for which you are engaged in service, as this can help you continue moving forward through difficult issues or circumstances.

Inja Stanic, Founder of the International School of Music

What inspired you to open the International School of Music?

My inspiration for opening a music school stems from wanting to share my experiences of wonderful and diverse music pedagogies that I was exposed to. I wanted to create a program that is for all students, regardless of their talents, goals and learning abilities. Music education brings so many positive benefits from learning how to express yourself to analytical thinking, focus, discipline. For adults, music helps with stress, PTSD, preventing arthritis, Alzheimer’s and more.

Coming from a very old-school, rigorous education, I wanted to offer a more flexible education to the new generations, where students get to be matched with an instructor that fits their learning style, so they are more motivated and experience joy learning an instrument.

Where does your passion for music stem from?

I don’t come from a musical family; but ever since I was 4 years old, I wanted to play the piano. Music was always one of my biggest strengths, and I believe it continues to be. I love music because of the way it makes me feel and how it serves as a personal connection. Music can bring out the best in people and brings people together. Also, music is an international language which does not know borders, and it is a great vehicle for bringing all cultures, races, nations and generations together.

What is the one lesson you wish you could teach to your younger self?

To not be so hard on myself, to be patient with the process, and to appreciate the small victories and accomplishments.

  • see notes for names
  • see notes for names
  • Brenda Wolff (District 5)
  • Vice President Patricia O'Neill (District 3)
  • Rebecca Smondrowski (District 2)
  • President Shebra L. Evans (District 4)
  • Karla Silvestre (At-Large)
  • Jeanette E. Dixon (At-Large)
  • Judith Docca (District 1)
  • Board of Education with Chief of Staff Lori-Christina Webb
  • Dr. Claudia Warren-Taylor
  • Dr. Claudia Warren-Taylor
  • Cara Stuart, Early Childhood Director
  • Inja Stanic, owner and CEO
  • Inja Stanic, owner and CEO
  • Student Member: Ananya Tadikonda (photo courtesy Montgomery County Public Schools)

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