Fear is born from ignorance.

The string of hateful acts across the country over the last several weeks and months has been overwhelming: Eleven people murdered while worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh –because they were Jewish, said the killer. Two people shot while shopping at a grocery store in Kentucky –because they were black, said the killer.

Our hearts go out to the families and communities of those lost. As we all try to grapple with these devastating events, I have appreciated and valued some of the public responses: criticizing hateful speech, calling for stronger gun laws, and getting out the vote.

Given this country’s, this planet’s, long, dark history of hate – of gruesome attacks against particular ethnic groups, religions, races, sexual identities — education is our most powerful weapon against history repeating itself again and again.

We are not born fearing and hating those different from ourselves.  Hate is learned. As educators, it is our responsibility to teach young people of all ages to recognize, respect, and celebrate our differences. It is our charge to see, name, and talk about the richness in our difference.

I am inspired by the examples of this work that are already taking place in our schools. There are educators teaching students of all ages to understand and honor our differences, to know what stereotypes and biases are — to understand that while we all have them, it is important to recognize and   address them before they cause harm.  Teachers are inviting Holocaust survivors to share their stories with students, they are reading and meaningfully discussing biographies of leaders with identities across intersections, like American novelist and influencer James Baldwin, a gay black man. For resources about discussing bias and building a culturally responsive curriculum, see Teaching Tolerance.

At the NYC Leadership Academy, we focus on helping educational leaders to identify and address their own biases and to understand the importance of understanding how those biases influence decisions, policies and overall leadership moves. As part of this work, it is also important to discuss how leaders create systems across schools and districts to recognize and celebrate differences. We must approach undoing or preventing hate from all sides if we are going to make an immediate and long-term difference, and we must be able to see and name what doing this looks like in our own contexts and on a day-to-day basis. It is not about celebrating Latinos in September or attending the Gay Pride parade, it is about daily actions and interactions.

As we have seen, the consequences if we do not educate and lead with intentionality around difference are dire. Consider the Anti-Defamation League’s Pyramid of Hate. At the very base of the pyramid are stereotyping, making insensitive remarks, and fears of difference. If those behaviors are not squelched, if they are not prevented, they can escalate into acts of bias like those violent incidents we have seen.

Let’s each take the lead on teaching appreciation of those different from ourselves, so that the lives we have lost of late will not have been completely in vain.



Nancy B. Gutiérrez, Ed.L.D.

Lead Executive Officer & President

Dr. Nancy B. Gutiérrez is President & Lead Executive Officer (LEO) of The Leadership Academy, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and developing culturally responsive school and school system leaders to create the conditions necessary for all students to thrive. Since 2003, The Leadership Academy has done work in more than 375 school districts, state education departments, and education organizations across the country, reaching over 12,000 educators in 39 states.

Nancy began her career as a teacher and principal in her home community of East San Jose, CA, where she was the founding principal of Renaissance Academy, the highest performing middle school in the district and a California Distinguished School. Nancy also led the successful effort to turn around the district’s lowest performing middle school. She was named the UC Davis Rising Star and Association of California School Administrators’ Region 8 Middle School Principal of the Year in 2010. In 2014, Nancy joined The Leadership Academy and served in various roles before being named President & CEO in October 2018. Prior to her tenure with the Leadership Academy, Nancy launched a program for executive leadership advancement for the New York City Department of Education that led to superintendent certification.

Nancy is a Fall 2019 Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and was named one of the top 100 most influential leaders in education in New York in 2020. In 2023, Nancy was named San Jose State University’s Distinguished Alumna.

Nancy is a graduate of the inaugural cohort of the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Doctor of Education Leadership (Ed.L.D.) program and is a graduate of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) Aspiring Superintendents Academy. She has served as an adjunct professor for NYU, Teachers College and American University as well as an expert guest at various Harvard Principals’ Center Institutes. Nancy is a frequent keynote speaker and has authored numerous pieces on education leadership for publications including Education Week, Kappan, The74, Learning Forward’s Learning Professional, District Administrator, and Hechinger Report. She is also the co-author of Stay and Prevail: Students of Color Don’t Need to Leave Their Communities to Succeed, a revolutionary guide to disrupting harmful mindsets and practices in our schools to ensure that students can thrive in their home communities.

Nancy is a member of the Board of Directors at the Hunt Institute, brightbeam, and Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), and serves on the Latinos for Education teaching team.

Find Nancy on Twitter @nancybgutierrez or LinkedIn.