The Heart of Innovation | By: Mia Doces This March, Committee for Children is celebrating Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day with a series of reflections from our Executive Leadership Team on their career journeys, the women who’ve shaped them along the way, and how they’re working to break biases. This post is from VP of Innovation Mia Doces. They say innovation is seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. In my role as VP of Innovation, a great deal of my work is centered around leading an incredible team of creative individuals who do just that: develop unique products that redefine what’s possible in the field of social-emotional learning. On the Innovation Team, we like to say we make something out of nothing, which takes creative spirit and a passion for innovation—traits I saw modeled throughout my life by my mother, who was an elementary school teacher. I’d describe my mother as a delightful, divergent thinker, and a trailblazer in her own right. Her teaching style was innovative, student-focused, and truly before its time. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the lessons she taught were principles of social-emotional learning. At the time, there were no social skills programs, no curricula that focused on child safety or promoting well-being, no professional training for educators. She intuitively created a safe space where each and every student felt special and had the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. On the first day of class, she would say to her students, “I like every single one of you, and by the end of the year, I’m going to love you.” Her entire focus was on the kids and supporting the whole child. She had such a meaningful impact that she still receives letters from former students who are now adults—and even an occasional wedding invite. My mother always knew how to focus on the heart of an issue, and she didn’t care about school politics. Going against the grain inevitably invites pushback, but she felt her purpose was to enrich the lives of her students and ensure each day was a magical, immersive educational experience. She brought in guest marine biologists and took the class on weekend-long excursions to experience pioneer living. Instead of dining with other colleagues in the teachers’ lounge, my mother would set up her classroom so each child got a turn to have a special lunch, complete with candles, chinaware, and personalized name cards. She wanted her students to encounter a diversity of perspectives and invited family members to share stories about their careers. Most importantly, my mother believed in strengthening parent-teacher relationships and inspiring families to become active partners in their child’s education—a core aspect I champion in my own work. Years later, when Washington State Governor Booth Gardner awarded my mother the Excellence in Education Award, there was overwhelming validation that showing creativity and compassion and nurturing social-emotional development is just as critical to a students’ growth as teaching reading and writing. My own career in education came after leaving a career in film and video production. After raising my son and receiving master’s degrees in education and school counseling, I spent time volunteering for environmental causes, youth initiatives, and local theaters. I had always loved working with kids, but I was uncertain if education was the right space for me—until I heard about Committee for Children. A researcher at Committee for Children said something to me that changed the trajectory of my career path: “As a counselor, you could help a handful of kids. But here, you could help millions of kids.” And he was right—in the nearly 16 years since I joined Committee for Children, I’ve had the privilege to be part of a team that has researched and piloted dozens of extraordinary products that help millions of students and educators. Innovation will always invite pushback, but like I learned from my mother, we must stay focused on the heart of the issue and remember our purpose. At Committee for Children, that purpose is to blaze our own trail to enrich the lives of children.