Grasmick Still Breaking Education Barriers: “If You Rest, You Rust”

When it comes to public education in Maryland, there may be no one more respected and more influential than Dr. Nancy Grasmick. At a time in her life when most people would retire, she just took on what may be the biggest role of her career.

In three years, Dr. Grasmick will mark 60 years of shaping public education in Maryland, but she has no plans to slow down.

“If you rest, you rust,” she tells Project Baltimore.

In 1991, Grasmick made history, becoming Maryland’s first female state superintendent of schools. During her 20 years in that position, she guided Maryland to a national #1 ranking in Education Week. Now, she’s made history again, becoming the first woman to chair the board of the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

“You feel this huge responsibility to continue the excellence of this institute; to grow it, to make it even larger and better,” Grasmick says. “The work we do is absolutely critical to our child population.”

As an extension of Johns Hopkins Hospital, Kennedy Krieger treats 24,000 children and families a year from every state and dozens of countries. It’s methods and strategies touch millions more around the world. As its new chair, Grasmick plans to expand that global reach with a heavy focus on and teaching teachers how to better teach.

“I have sixty additional credits on top of my masters, but I still don’t know how to be a great teacher. So, I had to leave the classroom and come here to prepare myself to be a better teacher,” says Darrielle Sarnovsky, a fellow in the program lead by Grasmick, that educates teachers on the neuroscience of learning.

“It’s going to teach me about how the brain develops, and how brain development impacts children and their ability to learn. How events in children’s lives such as trauma, which is very important to me can impact the brain,” says Alexandra Chissell, another Kennedy Krieger fellow.

“I believe in the potential of children and I believe in every way possible to break down the barriers to the success for every child and that’s been my life’s work,” says Grasmick.


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