You notice Linessa when she is walking down the street – her style is effervescent. But you remember her because of her heart. She is currently on the Topeka & Shawnee County Library Foundation Board and the board of directors of SENT Topeka, she’s active with the graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. and The Topeka Chapter of The Links, Inc.
Her career has always been around learning. First it was with corporations like American Century Investments or Payless ShoeSource. Then, she participated in a collaborative program between the Kansas Department of Education, the Tonantzin Society and Kansas legislators focused on culturally relevant pedagogy and discovered her purpose, not just in the learning process, but in education. She discovered a love for diversity, inclusion and equity in the education of all people, especially K-12 students, and now she’s with USD 437, where Linessa is an assistive technology assistant at Pauline Central Primary School.
She is a graduate of the Leadership Greater Topeka class of 2019, was the 2019-20 Classified Distinguished Staff of the Year for USD437, and is the national Bestselling Author of “The Life I Love” (2021). Having completed her Masters in Instructional Technology at Fort Hays State University, she’s preparing to begin her doctorate work in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in diversity, equity and inclusion.
If you get the chance to meet Linessa in person, ask her to tell you where her passion for equitable education really started. She’ll tell you about watching her mother, working in their church in 1960s South Carolina, stable boards to posters as they prepared to march. She’ll say her work “feels almost as if I’m returning home…only for a different generation.”
What’s your bedrock?
The foundation of all who/that I am is my faith. I absolutely love Jesus and I don’t make any apologies for that. It’s my love for Him that gives me the desire to serve, but it’s His love for me that actually moves me into service for others. I am so thankful that He doesn’t throw shade when I mess up, but allows me grace for restoration and realignment…and I need a lot of grace.
Looking back, what do you wish you could have skipped?
While I really have no regrets, I wish I could have skipped some of my years of wandering and wondering. Having had a career focused on learning and education, I sometimes wish I could have discovered my passion sooner and completed my post secondary education earlier. I mean, there is a thirty year gap between my Bachelors and Masters, for goodness sakes! I remember telling one of my graduate school teachers, as I was truly running out of motivation (because it was 2020 after all), that I felt as if I was in a ‘mental pause’. Fortunately, we were contemporaries and she totally understood. Nevertheless, she (I) prevailed!
How do you rock out?
Although I may seem like an extrovert, I’m really a closet nerd. My favorite things to do include listening to a good book or podcast (I have over 1600 books on my audible account and I won’t even discuss my library holds) and learning some new technology to use at school or in creating a video.
Where’s your ROCKING chair?
I am nowhere near retirement or a rocking chair. I feel as if I’m just getting my second wind. In the church, it’s tantamount to thinking the pastor is on the final stretch, but, in reality is just shifting into another gear. That’s me – I’ve got the clutch down and I’m rocking into fifth gear.
What makes you feel like a rockstar?
Isaiah 1:17 says “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” ESV). I feel that doing good is a learned behavior, not necessarily an innate one. Once you understand the ability to “do good”, you are given a mission of seeking justice, fairness, equity and are then given the responsibility of correcting the things that you see are wrong and making them just. Accomplishing this goal is a tall order, but the challenge of it and making small steps toward that goal is what makes me feel like a rockstar every day.