For my entire life, I have been passionate about aviation and, especially, space travel. I distinctly remember as a kid not wanting to be taller than six feet, as that would mean that I could not fit into the Apollo capsule, as I dreamed of being an astronaut. My mother let me stay home from school to watch the first space shuttle launch. I also vividly remember how excited I was to learn that the first U.S. woman to go into space would be Sally Ride. Once her name was announced there were many news stories about her and who she was as a person. I was heavily engaged, learning everything about my new hero. Where did she grow up? When did she know she wanted to fly in space? I thought I knew everything about her, but the story was not complete. It was only after her death in 2012, that I learned that Sally Ride was part of the LGBTQ community. 

I immediately started asking questions: why did I not know this before? Was the information I acquired incomplete? Then I reflected and realized that I was looking to explain something that needed no explanation. The fact that Sally Ride was a member of the LGBTQ community, should not have been the only thing that I was focused on as I marked the end of her life. By focusing on this solely, I missed seeing all of who she was and what her life meant to so many people. Our identities are important, but they are not the sum of who we are, only a part of who we are. 

Sally Ride was a towering American hero who increased the representation of both women and the LGBTQ+ community beyond this world. As a lifelong NASA fan, she was not only one of my favorite astronauts (my favorite being Jim Lovell, who is from my hometown) but one of the people I have admired since her flight, 40 years ago. This month, I have asked my colleague and accomplished practitioner, Jennifer Lopez to join me to share part of her story with us. Please see Jennifer’s words below.

Please tell us something about who you are and what you do for LISD.

My name is Jennifer Lopez. I am honored to serve as one of the secondary science curriculum specialists. I just completed my 23rd year in the district. During my time, I have had the privilege of serving Leander ISD in many different roles through the years. Leander ISD is very special to me.  I’ve grown up here professionally and have learned from so many wonderful educators.

And, this is also where I met my wife of 16 years.  We were married in 2016, the year it became legal in Texas. We are blessed with two children, a 12-year-old son, Gabriel, and a 5-year-old daughter, Quincy.

Looking back over your journey, what advice would you give your younger self? Why?

I would tell myself not to hold on to things. Everyone makes mistakes; nobody’s perfect. You will do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing. Own it. Learn from it. Then, move on and let it go. Be kind to yourself and give yourself grace. 

I think I would also tell myself to stop comparing myself to others. Everyone is on their own journey, and you should keep the focus on yours.

Oh, and start saving 10-15% pre-tax earnings for retirement in your early 20s! Ha ha… but seriously.

Who did you admire when you were growing up? Why this person?

Like any kid in the 80’s and 90’s, I admired Michael Jordan.  I loved his drive and desire for personal and team excellence.  He made everyone around him better and I wanted to be that kind of leader.  However, my real heroes are my mom and dad.  Everything I am today is because of my parents. They love with everything they have, and they do whatever is needed for our family. 

My parents taught me the value of hard work, to “say what you mean and mean what you say”, to love fully, that family is everything, and to love and respect ALL people.  No one person is better than anyone else. They also taught me that everyone needs help at some point. When you are in a position where you can lend a hand, do it. Lastly, they taught me to stand for what is right, even when it’s hard.

As the nation and our community observe LGBTQ+ Month, why is it important to do so?

LGBTQ+ Pride Month is a time to celebrate the diversity of our community and to promote acceptance and equality for ALL. It’s a time to celebrate the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community and to raise awareness of the challenges that we still face. It is important that I be seen as any other person and that my family be seen as any other family.  It’s important for my kids to be accepted for who they are and where they come from.  I want them to be able to talk about our family as any other kids talk about theirs and for our family to be seen as just another family in our community.  I want that for my kids and for all kids in Leander ISD.

headshot of Chief DEI DeWayne Street and Jennifer Lopez Curriculum Specialist

Leander ISD Chief of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion DeWayne Street and Secondary Science Curriculum Specialist Jennifer Lopez contributed to this article. For more information on the district’s DEI initiatives, please visit