If I Could: Lessons for Navigating an Unjust World is my legacy to my two children who I realize I only have for a short amount of time before they enter the world as adults. The idea to write the book for them was in response to the various conversations about race and injustice I have had to have with my children. I remember thinking how my parents never had to have these types of conversations with us. The first heavy conversation I had to have with my children was in the wake of the murder of Philando Castile. The hurt and pain of watching someone be murdered for complying was too painful to not be moved to feel like I had to empower my children to know what lies ahead for them in this world. It seemed like every other day a person of color was being gunned down by the police and I wanted to memorialize the advice I was providing to my children. The book covers various topics such as injustice, education, marriage, loss, and how to maintain joy amid pain.
This book can be read by parents, educators, or anyone looking for advice and inspiration at this time we are living in. I hope readers walk away feeling empowered and hopeful about the future. I also hope readers feel empowered to have conversations with their children and students about the various things happening in our society as a result of reading the book. I hope that my book reaches the hands of those who need it most. It does us no good to not deal with the reality of our past and present in the hopes of creating a better future for everyone. Children deserve to know the truth of what is happening in the world around them and what has created the conditions that we are currently living in. Ultimately, I hope it helps my children as they navigate the world.
I am an educator, author, speaker, and a renowned activist for student discipline reform. As the 2017 Teacher of the Year for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), I am the first person of color to receive the award in DoDEA’s 71-year history. An acclaimed author, I have published several books, including and If I Could: Lessons for Navigating an Unjust World . You can learn more about my work at www.kelisawing.com
I have been in education for 15 years. My journey into the teaching profession began after I was honorably discharged from the United States Army. I served as a Youth Consultant for the Self-Expression Teen Theater (SETT) under the United Way in Toledo, Ohio. After moving to Germany with my family, I began substitute teaching, then transitioned to a Special Education paraprofessional, was a school secretary, and eventually, an Administrative Officer. I then taught 8th-grade Language Arts and Reading to military-connected students at Faith Middle School in Fort Benning, Georgia, have been an Elementary School Assistant Principal in West Point, New York, and am now a Professional Development Specialist in Virginia. I honorably served in the U.S. Army for six years and attained the rank of Staff Sergeant. She is the author of ‘Conversations’ (2006), ‘Weeds & Seeds: How To Stay Positive in the Midst of Life’s Storms’ (2017), Promises and Possibilities: Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline (2018), ‘If I Could: Lessons for Navigating an Unjust World‘, and a contributing author of ‘Becoming a Globally Competent Teacher’ (ASCD, 2019). More recently, I published and served as content advisor of eighteen children’s books, the Racial Justice in America Series and Racial Justice in America: Histories, including What Is Anti-Racism?, What Is the Black Lives Matter Movement?. Desegregation and Integration, among others.
As the 2017 Teacher of the Year for the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), I am the first person of color to receive the award in DoDEA’s 71-year history. I am also a 2016 Association of Supervision, Curriculum, and Development (ASCD) Emerging Leader, and the 2017 University of Maryland University College (UMUC) Edward Parnell Outstanding Alumnus of the Year.
I serve on the Education Civil Rights Alliance (ECRA) Steering Committee, and am a member of the Leading Educator Ambassadors for Equity (LEAE) with the ECRA. As a member of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY), I have led efforts for mentoring teacher leaders through a partnership with 100Kin10, and am also a member of ASCD. I serve on the Advisory Board for the Learner Variability Project (LVP) & Digital Promise, ASCD’s Global Advisory Council, and the ASCD College Football Playoff Foundation (CFP) Diversifying the Teacher Pipeline Working Group. I speak both nationally and internationally about discipline reform, equity, student engagement, and many other topics.
I hold a bachelor’s degree in English from UMUC, a Master of Arts in Secondary Education, and an Educational Specialist degree with a concentration in Curriculum, Instruction, and Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. I credit my faith in God, and His grace, favor, and mercy as the key to my success. I live in Northern Virginia with my husband and children.