Grow Your Value finalist Joanna Schwartz of Philadelphia, PA is a family counselor and the founder of Toolbox for Teachers. You can watch Joanna and her fellow finalists compete for a $10,000 bonus onstage this Friday, April 10 during the kickoff Know Your Value live event in Philadelphia. The contest is part of the nationwide Know Your Value effort to provide dialogue, training and resources for women to learn and communicate their value.
Why are you a believer in the Know Your Value movement?
Joanna: I think we are each others’ teachers. If I can see you learn about your own value, you can touch my heart and make me believe in the possibility that I can be of value, too. That of course requires that the participants do the brave work of bringing their own vulnerability to the process. I believe that there is enormous strength in vulnerability.
You and two other women were chosen as finalists in the Grow Your Value bonus competition. What made you decide to enter the contest?
Joanna: I heard about the competition when my mother, who watches Morning Joe religiously, sent me a bunch of urgent texts about the competition. She said I would be a shoo-in! I summoned my resolve, and recorded the video.
In supplement to your work as a holistic counselor, you created Toolbox for Teachers, a series of trainings that promote teacher resiliency and prepare educators to work with children's social emotional needs. What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Joanna: This past summer I read an article in the Inquirer in which the superintendent of Philadelphia asked what teachers needed to have to prevent them from quitting. That night I walked around my house muttering answers to myself. Finally I decided to sit down and write out a thoughtful response to his valid question. That response was published in the paper and I was subsequently approached by the school district to do a training for about 200 teachers. That experience taught me that you have to get off your butt sometimes and do something about the problem so that you don't become a part of it.
What advice would you give to young women who are just beginning their careers?
Joanna: My mentor, Ike Johnstone, always used to give the simple piece of advice to me for every problem that I had: love yourself.
You and the other finalists completed a physically and emotionally rigorous "Corporate Athlete" course at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida. What were the highs and lows of the training?
Joanna: My favorite part actually came after the training when myself and the two other participants were able to sit down together without any cameras on us and have a meal. The whole process can be a little bit overwhelming and I think that I really needed the sustenance that came from being able to connect with the other girls. The hardest part came when I had to look at my own doubts about myself and decide to create a new story for myself.
In your submission video, you mentioned that you want to improve your self-confidence. Why do you think so many women, across generations, struggle to believe in their professional and personal worth?
Joanna: I think that in America, as in much of the world, women struggle to feel as valid as men. I think we see this all the way from classrooms where boys tend to get called on more, to unequal pay, to who is in a position of power to make laws and policies.
The Know Your Value live event is four days away. How do you feel about being onstage in front of hundreds of people?
Joanna: Terrified but determined. I am trying reduce my anxiety by remembering that there is a mission. My determination to go through with the speech anyway also comes from my hope that others will feel inspired by my willingness to push through my fear to do what I think needs to be done.
What will you take away from your experience as a Grow Your Value finalist?
Joanna: Personally, I would like to be able to look back at a situation which terrifies me (the competition) and see that I had the heart and guts to go through it anyway. I am also excited for the opportunity to change my habitual lack of self-confidence and learn a new, more self-assured way of being. I think that this is also an opportunity that not many people get—for not only the $10,000 but for self-growth, which is priceless.
Check back tomorrow for a preview of our other Grow Your Value finalists. You can also watch a video of our three finalists here.