His View: Meet Secretary of Education Miguel A. Cardona

Secretary of Education Miguel Angel Cardona serves ­as the 12th United States Secretary of Education. Following are excerpts from an interview discussing his insights and priorities.

1. How did you become interested in education? I became interested in education from teachers who asked me to consider the profession as a career. When I went to a technical high school, I thought I would follow the automotive technician track. While I had a great education and an amazing high school experience, I learned early on that I wanted to serve the community. Between the encouragement of the teachers, and the love of service and community, I gravitated toward education. Thanks to the guidance and encouragement of my family, teachers, and mentors, I was the first in my family to graduate from college. It was a big deal, and I’ll never forget the sense of pride I felt getting to share that day with my parents. After college, just like Ms. Ransom had suggested all those years ago, I became a teacher. I devoted my career to education because I was inspired by educators, family members, and role models who encouraged me, challenged me, pushed me to dream big and give back. Through teaching, and later through educational leadership, I could pass on the same support and mentorship that I’d been given.

2. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to Advancing Educational Equity, can you talk about how you will influence decisions made by the Administration? There are long-standing gaps in opportunity in our education system that lead to gaps in outcomes for our students. Our students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, for example, often have the least access to the supports and resources that they need to thrive in school: outstanding teachers, rich coursework, safe environments for learning, strong pathways to college and careers. At the federal level, our expectation is that the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan funds will be used to close those gaps. American Rescue Plan funds can be used by states and school districts, for example, to equitably expand opportunities for students who need the most support, including students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, and students with inadequate access to technology. At the U.S. Department of Education, we have made an ongoing commitment to provide technical assistance and resources, and to share promising practices. We also have a “Return to School Roadmap” with tips and strategies for safely reopening schools, because the best path to education equity across the country is through in-person learning.

3. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage month this year, we are faced with a global pandemic, how will you reflect on your background and Hispanic Heritage? I think about this one moment in seventh grade. Throughout school, I had always been called Michael, even though my birth certificate says, “Miguel Angel Cardona.” In seventh grade, I asked my mom, “Mami, why do they call me Michael?” She didn’t know. The next day, I walked into the school office and asked the clerical staff to change everything on my paperwork to Miguel. I was 12 then. I’m 46 now. I’ll never forget that experience because that was me affirming mi identidad Latina and being proud. It’s like I tell Latino educators now—embrace your “Latino-ness” as your superpower. These are the moments I think about and want to share during Hispanic Heritage Month.

4. Share your vision for the future of Latinos in education. The success of Hispanic Americans is integral to the economic future of our country. As America becomes ever-more diverse, Hispanics are one of the fastest-growing populations in the country and our youngest major racial or ethnic group. We know that education is the great equalizer—the force that enables every child to become whatever they dream. We must provide the best education opportunities for our Hispanic students, who are our next generation of leaders in every field. Despite challenges, including the pandemic, the Latino community has always shown its resiliency. At the U.S. Department of Education, we remain committed to supporting the success of Hispanic students as we work to advance a more equitable and excellent education system for all students, from preschool through college. This is so important, as the Hispanic community’s success is America’s success. To read the full interview visit www.latinastyle.com

Dr. Miguel A. Cardona was sworn in as the 12th Secretary of Education on March 2nd, 2021. Secretary Cardona previously served as the Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, a position he held after being appointed by Governor Ned Lamont in August 2019. In this position, he faced the unprecedented challenge of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and led the safe school reopening efforts in Connecticut. Secretary Cardona has two decades of experience as a public school educator from the City of Meriden.
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