Olga Mejia Glenn was recently interviewed by TheCelebrity.Online Magazine and below is the Q&A session we had with her.
Olga Mejia Glenn As Exclusive Cover Story – June 2023
How do you introduce yourself?
Childhood to Adulthood – How was your transition from childhood to adulthood and what are the bad and good things you remember?
Olga Mejia Glenn: I am blessed with a wonderful life journey. Born and raised in a Black, marginalized, socioeconomically depressed community of El Chorrillo in Panama City, Panama, transitioning to adulthood I was at constant risk, especially being female. I grew up in a one-room household, shared the crib with my baby brother until I was 7 years old. We shared the one bathroom with the families in the other 8 to 10 rooms. It was an old wooden building separated by one street from the Panama Canal zone. My parents had only elementary school education. I remember, sadly, my young girlfriends became pregnant early in the game.
On the other hand, I still remember the scrumptious taste of “sows” (pig’s feet with lemon and cucumber) and dumplings and playing street games like hopscotch, “guacho” (we would dig a small hole, mix water with the earth and take turns throwing sticks, trying to get them to stand in the mud). Later, I learned traditional Panamanian folk dancing and was lucky enough to have a chance to study classical ballet and practice gymnastics.
Despite poverty and deprivation, my mother, mistreated by my father in many ways, was always devotedly loving and supportive. She guided me and inspired me to “go to the highest level of education you can possibly get.” She always inspired me to “fly”, to be free. And as I grew, she continued to support me in my increasing commitment to civil rights causes. I studied English and Journalism at the University of Panama, and taught elementary to adults. Teaching was always my passion. After migrating to the United States, I obtained a Masters in Liberal Studies with a concentration in International Studies, and a Master’s in Education Administration. Ultimately, I earned a Ph.D. from Fordham University in Language, Learning and Literacy.
During this entire time, I was teaching full time Bilingual Social Studies at George Washington High School. There, I introduced the United Nations Global Classrooms and Literacy through Arts Programs. Subsequently, I became an English Language Learners Compliance and Performance Specialist for the Division of English Language Learners at New York City’s Department of Education. Becoming a Supervisor for 15 years was a great accomplishment that allowed me to serve thousands of English Language Learners, their families, and schools that supported them in all five boroughs. These were the best years of my life.
Struggle – What hardships have you gone through in life?
Olga Mejia Glenn: Poverty was a constant through my teenage years as was my awareness of experiencing discrimination due to race and class. When I was seven years old my parents separated on very bad terms and my mother remarried. For a time, my mother and stepfather had a tiny grocery store, more like a kiosk, that finally failed. Then, for a while, my parents sent me to trade vegetable cans for rice and some meat, at nearby bigger groceries stores. I will forever remember instances of generosity and solidarity from people in the community.
Eventually I became an English teacher, graduated from the university, got married and gave birth to my daughter. I divorced not long after the U.S. invasion of 1989. These were dreadful times. Later on, with my then 7-year-old daughter, I migrated to the U.S on a student visa, and re-married. As a native Spanish speaker in a new country, navigating through two masters’ degrees and doctoral studies, while working a full-time job as a Bilingual Social Studies teacher in Washington Heights, was very challenging. My technology skills were limited. I used a computer for the first time at age 36, and my young daughter taught me to write emails. I had to work 7 times harder than the native English speakers. Thank God I was able to organize study groups at the University, and had the support of my native English-speaking husband. Something is always sacrificed, and my motherhood and role as a wife took painful tolls. After all, you have to do what you have to do. No way around it. Right?
What do people usually not know about you?
Olga Mejia Glenn: Empowerment is my drive. I am the principled, tough, “get the job done beyond the line of duty” type. I do not tolerate ambiguity when it comes to educating children. I am a citizen of the world from the generation inspired by Che Guevara, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. A typical Sagittarius, I prefer substance rather than nonsense. I am always thinking two steps ahead and “on the alert.” I love many things: people, languages, culture, the stars, gardening, swimming, parties, poetry (from Pablo Neruda to Walt Whitman), music (from salsa to flute, the Bee Gees, Whitney Houston, Celtic music, Mendelssohn and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony), singing, dancing (drums and salsa bring out the best in me), traveling (serious about my bucket list), and food. I cry when I see romantic movies.
I am a math phobic since my first-grade teacher punished me after class because I could not see the difference between a square and a rectangle and my second-grade teacher broke several wooden rulers on my hands because I couldn’t get the decimals. Forget about the polynomials and trigonometry in High School. Nature is my thing and Justice is my mantra. I was elected president of the national Panamanian Human Rights Committee with consultative status at the United Nations after the 1989 U.S. invasion. In that capacity I was invited twice to address the European Parliament. I studied to be a nun.
Thank God I fell in love, married, and had my daughter Namibia (my greatest gift in addition to my grandson). I have a hard time conforming to rules and standards and admire creativity. Although I enjoy people with a great sense of humor, I never understand jokes because I take life too seriously. Please help me. LOL. I am a concussion survivor.
What sets you apart from your competitors in the industry and in life?
Olga Mejia Glenn: I believe that the sky is the limit when it comes to teaching and learning. Maybe that’s why I was cited in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers in 2006, and received an Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Public Education Issued by The Latino Caucus of the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators in June 2015. I believe that education is about empowering people and seeing them in a proleptic sense (what they will become as their best selves), and that leadership is about serving people, not self-grandiosity.
My doctoral dissertation The Development of English Literacy and Global Studies Concepts Using Sheltered Instruction (UMI # 3166569) addresses the still current issue of accessing academic content for second-language learners. Connecting with like minded people and humility are important for me. I am a life-long learner always challenging myself to know the world more and better. I am a serious believer in the power of scaffolding. It is not students who are limited. It’s us educators who have not tackled student’s strengths enough.
This is separate and on top of the devastating effects and diminished student’s performance in the post pandemic world. I am grateful to the following women that influenced my career and life: Sojourner Truth, Tony Morrison, Indira Gandhi, Dr. Aida Walki, Maria Santos, Dr. Angela Carrasquillo.
Q6. What are your upcoming major events?
Olga Mejia Glenn: There is an endless list of upcoming online webinars, courses, and events to attend related to education, literacy, communications, leadership, legal language, arts, self-growth that I have been taking and continue taking. In order to become a great communications coach helping people in the legal field attain their goals, I have so much to learn. Lately, I have been attending ChIPs (“chiefs in intellectual property”) webinars on IP laws. Currently, I am working hard to record my memoirs. This has become a surprisingly great challenge of self-reflection. I have started many times, but my heart doesn’t make it to the pen that always runs out of ink.
What are your food preferences and physical attributes?
Olga Mejia Glenn: When it comes to food, there is no limit to the possibilities. I savor ethnic food from Panamanian, Caribbean, to Indian, Chinese, Korean, Soul, Cajun, Thai, Mediterranean, Italian. That’s right. I die for coconut, turmeric, and ginger spices and flavors. There is nothing better than seafood, rice with coconut milk and gandules, chicken with rice (arroz con pollo Panamanian style), seafood paellas, ribs, chicken tandoori or shawarma, fish with tostones, Ethiopian doro wot and gomen. Oh Lord, I am craving all this food now.
Your love life, relationships and family?
Olga Mejia Glenn: I am married, have one daughter, and the most beautiful, sweet, and intelligent grandchild.
What expert advice would you like to give?
Olga Mejia Glenn: Love, live, laugh passionately and intensely. Live today as if there were no tomorrow, but build for eternity.
Your social media handles and website links?
Olga Mejia Glenn:
LinkedIn: I’m on LinkedIn to develop professional relationships (Olga Mejia Glenn. Building Bridges Through Communication. https://www.linkedin.com/in/olgamejiaglennlanguagecoachnewyork/
Facebook and Whats App to keep in touch with family & friends.