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Graduate School

Today, I begin graduate school, again. My Masters will be in Educational Leadership and Policy. This program is intended to be completed within one school year, but I pressed pause on grad school this time last year. This was when Maggie got diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and I needed to lighten my load. I only have a couple of classes left and I should be graduating this spring.

As an online program, every class always starts with an Introduce Yourself Discussion Board Post. Here’s mine:


My name is Vanessa Forisha and I’m originally from Miami, Florida. I taught high school English for three years in Florida after earning my bachelor’s in English from F.I.U. I moved to Seattle for five years, then moved to Texas and came back to education. I worked for Dallas Independent School District for six years. I taught middle school Language Arts and became a Campus Instructional Coach, then became an Instructional Lead Teacher, which was a hybrid role between being a CIC and classroom teacher.

Last year before COVID complicated everyone’s life, my husband got offered an incredible opportunity to teach mathematics at the United States Naval Academy. He accepted and for the next three years, my family will be residing in Annapolis, Maryland. I’m also not working at a school right now.

This decision to move was greater than a career opportunity for my husband. My oldest daughter, Magnolia, got diagnosed about a year ago with a rare condition called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. It is a severe form of childhood epilepsy that has a damning prognosis and is associated with many co-morbidities and complications. She is 3 1/2 years old, developmentally delayed, recently diagnosed autistic, and is nonverbal. Moving here allows us to receive treatment and services through Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

When she was first diagnosed, I was working towards campus leadership. The reality of uncontrollable seizures and recognizing the severity of my daughter’s condition made me re-evaluate my career trajectory. The initial plan was to complete my masters during that school year, but I had to put it on hold for the sake of my family. Now, I can restart and finish strong.

Right now, my full time job is raising Maggie and my almost two year old Hazel. Maggie juggles three medications, the ketogenic diet, ABA Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, and we’re now beginning the process of building Maggie’s IEP with the local school district. Although I may not be in the classroom or working as an administrator at this time, being a parent of a special needs child and navigating the school system and outside resources for services gives me a greater perspective of education than I would have if I just stayed working in school. My other daughter, Hazel, is showing me everyday how children acquire language. She will point at everything, asking its name, and I can see her absorbing this new vocabulary even if she’s not saying it all back.

When I started this program, my goal was to become a principal. I wanted to grow students and teachers to be the best they could be. Now, I think my path in education is through writing and advocacy.


Vanessa Forisha


It does make me think what my intentions are with respect to my career. When my girls are older, when they’ve begun school, and especially when Maggie is doing better, I would like to have a career. My ambitions are not to be a stay at home housewife. It doesn’t suit me, and I definitely crave the intellectual stimulation that comes from adult interactions. Right now, it’s necessary for me to be home. The logistics of Maggie’s treatments requires someone whose schedule can be devoted to a plethora of appointments, never mind the paperwork and at home tracking for her therapies and diet.

For now, my motivation for completing my Masters is to have options, to be able have the educational credibility to speak out on issues that are important to me in the field of education. You can’t pull a Jerry Maguire from the inside. A raucous mission statement that does not support mandates is nothing more than insubordination when coming from the inside. From the outside, it just sounds like noise, but it’s a start.


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