Stephanie Wood-Garnett was managing director of the Learning to Teach Fund at NewSchools Venture Fund and served as assistant commissioner of teacher and leader effectiveness in the Office of Higher Education at the New York State Education Department. Before participating in a panel on what it takes to make a great teacher, she explained why she eats bacon and eggs for breakfast—every day—in the Zócalo green room.
If you could take only one more journey where would you go?
I’d go to Sicily. I went there once; it is beautiful. The people are so genuine and cool and kind, and the food’s amazing. I felt at home there. And that’s not something I say often. I keep meaning to write a book about what it’s like to travel as an African-American woman internationally, and Sicily was one of the places where I traveled that it didn’t seem to matter.
What do you eat for breakfast?
I like to have bacon and eggs. [Laughs.] Every day. I’ll probably die young. I like to have a nice big breakfast to get myself going in the morning. I’m not a yogurt person or a toast person. I like to go for it in the morning.
What was your worst subject in school?
Science. I think it was partially because I was often afraid of my science teacher—it often seemed like the science teachers were the teachers who looked sternest. They didn’t smile until June, and I really needed that connection with my teacher, for confidence.
What was the last thing that inspired you?
I think being in a classroom. Every time I’m in a classroom I’m inspired. And because I’m not in classrooms every day, I’ve tried to make a commitment to be in classrooms once a week or several times per month because it helps me remember why it’s so important that we improve how we educate all kids.
What’s the strangest item in your medicine cabinet?
Eardrops for my dog. I keep meaning to throw them away, but somehow they’re in the medicine cabinet where the human medicines are, and my dog has ear infections a lot, so I’ve kind of just left them there. But it’s kind of a weird place to put them.
Were you a bully or bullied as a kid?
I was bullied.
What frustrates you?
Mean people. Mean kids, mean adults. I think that it’s really important that we’re civil to each other. Even if I don’t agree with someone, that I can have a dialogue that’s respectful, and we can respectfully disagree. It’s almost a lost art. And I love—maybe I’m a Pollyanna—I love people. I love being with people and meeting people, so I get frustrated when I see people being mean to other people.
What’s your favorite plant or flower?
I like my herb garden. Typically I grow rosemary and basil and thyme and parsley. And I like to take the herbs we grow in our garden and cook with our kids. We make yummy things, and we store them up over the winter, and it’s fun. And they smell good.
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
When I was in high school, I worked for a paper product factory, and I worked on the assembly line. You know the Scott tissue that’s individually wrapped? I wrapped toilet paper on an assembly line. I assembled file folders—the kind you put legal papers in—on a factory line in Toledo, Ohio. My college admissions essay was called “All Wrapped Up,” and I described working in a factory with many adults who had not received an education that allowed them to go further in their lives. They were my biggest supporters, and they were so proud of me. They’d tell me stories and cheer me on. They were adults, and I was this 18-year-old kid trying to save up enough money to buy my books freshman fall. It was pretty cool.
How would you describe yourself in five words or less?
Passionate, friendly, entrepreneurial.