Q & A with Tina Tierney, B.A., Director of the NYS Center for School Safety

How long have you been working for MI and what is your current role?

My employment began in 2000 when I was hired by Tom Kelsh to work for Capital Assessments. I started as a Research Assistant supporting our Safe Schools Healthy Students projects. After enjoying an extended maternity leave, I returned to MI in 2010. My current role is the Project Director of the New York State Center for School Safety. Our team provides professional development and technical assistance to schools, districts, and families. We address topics related to school safety and how we can work together to create and maintain safe and healthy learning environments for all students.

Why did you get into this work?  Was there a particular person or event that inspired you?

My greatest inspiration will always be individuals who demonstrate resilience and determination through extremely challenging circumstances. Prior to MI, I was a Project Director for a community based mental health program. I have always sought out opportunities that allow me to support others to achieve their very best. In addition to work, I enjoy volunteering for charitable causes, and I am also actively involved in my community.


How would you describe your approach to evaluation (or TA/PD) projects?

My approach is to learn as much as possible - by listening, researching, and reading - to first understand the underlying issue we are trying to address. We can’t provide effective support or guidance without having a clear understanding of the issue. From that point our team works together to deliver a product or session that will most effectively address the specific topic


What do you enjoy most about your job?

Every day in this position is different, so I enjoy the varying safety issues that we address. I enjoy helping schools and families think differently about an issue. Most of all, I enjoy my colleagues and how thoughtfully and generously they share their knowledge and expertise.


Can you share with us an important lesson you’ve learned through your work?

On average we receive 20 calls each month from parents of children who have been bullied or harassed at school. Through these calls I have learned that every child needs to know that they are valued and supported by at least one caring adult in their school. This might seem like an oversimplified or obvious lesson but building and sustaining strong relationships is the foundation of our work in developing safe and healthy schools.


Of the books you’ve read in the past year, which made the biggest impression on you, and why?

I thoroughly enjoyed Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I loved the intersecting timelines, the rich descriptions of coastal marshland, how the main character developed resilience in a very isolated life. My favorite genre is historical fiction and appreciate any recommendations!

We all have “life goals”—things we’d like to accomplish someday.  What is one of yours? 

My greatest life goals are to raise my children to be driven to do what is right; I hope to teach them empathy and respect for others; I hope to nurture a love of learning; I hope to be attentive and patient but my greatest life goal is to, “Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back, and reasons to stay.” (Dalai Lama)

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