UMSL alumni Sharonica Hardin-Bartley and Doris Graham honored for excellence in education
On the surface, teachers spend their days instilling knowledge in their students – grammar, equations, important dates in American history. But that’s only a minute part of an educator’s role.
Skilled teachers use their influence to equip students for success – imparting confidence and preparing them for the future.
On Saturday, two University of Missouri–St. Louis College of Education alumni – Sharonica Hardin-Bartley and Doris Graham – were honored by the St. Louis American Foundation for their positive impact on students at the 33rd Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship & Awards Virtual Gala.
Since 1988, the event has recognized outstanding educators and provided funding for St. Louis area schools. This year, the foundation and its partners awarded $1.95 million in grants and scholarships to African American students.
The St. Louis American Foundation named Hardin-Bartley the 2020 Stellar Performer in Education. She earned her PhD in educational leadership and policy studies from UMSL in 2014 and has served as superintendent of University City Schools since 2016.
“It’s every position I’ve held and more,” she said. “I’m a teacher. I’m a principal. I do human resources. Sometimes I put on a counseling hat. Sometimes I have to be a social worker. It’s very multifaceted and ever-changing.”
She began her career as a special education teacher and later became principal at Adams Elementary School, then served as chief human resources officer for the St. Louis School District and assistant superintendent for the Ritenour School District. In 2019, after joining UCS, she was named New Superintendent of the Year for the St. Louis District.
“The teachers that I’ve had in my life had the most significant impact on me outside of my mom, my grandmothers and God,” Hardin-Bartley said. “It was a natural fit for me to go into a career that served others and served a population that’s very vulnerable – our young people.”
As superintendent, she emphasizes social justice and is a strong advocate for student voice and student choice, working to ensure that income and family structure are not barriers to opportunities for students within the district.
Outside of school, she serves on boards for the United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, Alive and Well Communities and more to create added opportunities for children in her community.
“Serving the students and families throughout St. Louis truly is enabling me to fulfill my purpose, my ‘why,’” she said. “I strive daily to live the values that shape my life: high expectations for myself and others, empathy, resilience and unwavering commitment to disrupting systems of oppression, discrimination and inequity. Receiving the Stellar Performer in Education honor is humbling and affirms my commitment to this amazing community, particularly our children.”
The St. Louis American Foundation named Graham the 2020 Lifetime Achiever in Education. Her earliest experiences with education were as a student in a one-room schoolhouse called Attucks Elementary, where a teacher named Mrs. Jackson made a positive impact on her.
Graham earned her master’s in elementary education from UMSL in 1970. After graduating from UMSL, she achieved a doctorate from Saint Louis University and spent 38 years as a teacher and administrator for the St. Louis Public School District.
Throughout her career, she fought for equity. In 1979, she was a negotiator in a St. Louis Teachers Union strike, which lasted 56 days. Ultimately, the union’s efforts were successful in increasing benefits for teachers.
As an educator, Graham focused on reading and was part of a local radio program titled “The Reading Is Terrific Show.”
“If you can be the vessel that God can use to help somebody go higher in life, please do it,” she told The St. Louis American. “You have a mouth – open up your mouth and speak. But speak with love and encourage them.”
Watch a recording of the 33rd Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Virtual Gala.
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