Finding common ground in a passion for education

From left: NILSL Fellows Jesús Sanchez and John Montoleone
From left: NILSL Fellows Jesús Sanchez and John Montoleone

John Monteleone and Jesús Sanchez are members of the same gym in Lorain, Ohio. Besides their shared affinity for physical fitness, you might not think they have much else in common. Jesús is originally from Puerto Rico, while John is a native Ohioan. Jesús is an environmentalist, having studied biology, wildlife management, and plant ecology and physiology, while John’s roots have been firmly planted in Ohio’s public schools; where he ascended from teacher, to principal, to assistant superintendent. It was when they finally struck up a conversation that they realized they had a lot in common. They share a deep history with Lorain City Schools – both attended during their childhoods, and Jesús’s mother was a teacher, principal, and deputy superintendent there. The two also found that they are both passionate about education and strong advocates for the youth in their communities. In the fall of 2015, they both learned that they would be participating in the two-year National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL) fellowship.

Currently, John is the Assistant Superintendent for Oberlin City Schools and Jesús is the Education Director at Cuyahoga Environmental Education Center in Ohio. Both are actively participating in NCLR’s NILSL fellowship; a program established in 2011 to bridge the divide between school practitioners and education policymakers. One of NILSL’s requirements tasks fellows with leading an advocacy project or policy-related activity related to the new education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), in their home state. A NILSL fellowship, though only lasting up to two years, is intended to provide the connections and training needed to create diverse education leaders for life. In the cases of John and Jesús, it appears to be doing just that.

Jesús and John presenting at a recent NILSL convening in Denver, Colo.

These two have had their fair share of successes in recent years. As principal at the time in 2015, John’s school received the Momentum Award from the Ohio Department of Education in recognition for their work improving students’ academic growth rates. Jesús has been invited to join multiple school boards, and he helped implement an emphasis on STEM education, global studies, teacher training, and facilities improvement. As a duo, they have carried out advocacy work by collaborating with El Centro de Servicios Sociales, Inc, an NCLR Ohio Affiliate, and both have been invited to join the Ohio Standard Coalition.

Additionally, thanks to stakeholder engagement supported by advocates like Jesús and John, the submission date of Ohio’s state ESSA plan has been pushed back to September 18, allowing more time for the plan to be thoughtfully constructed, and for meaningful input to be gathered.

Though their fellowship is nearing its end, these two have big goals to accomplish together as life-long education leaders and advocates for Latino students. Jesús will continue to be a voice for the underrepresented in his community and a mentor for young aspiring advocates. John will continue advocating for students on the state level and hopes to become a Master Fellow with the NILSL program.

Hopefully the team will find time in their busy schedules to continue visiting the gym. If their tireless dedication to education advocacy and their focus on school leadership is any indication of their commitment to leading healthy lifestyles, these two are on track to be in great shape as educators, advocates, mentors, and leaders for our students in Ohio.

Jesús and John recently attended a NILSL convening in Denver. See social media highlights from that convening. Be sure to visit the NCLR website for more information on the NILSL program.

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