Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Quiet Leader

Today I'm thinking alot about Gary Shaffer, a man who has been a quiet and courageous leader in the field of school social work for decades. Gary is an amazing example of leadership without fanfare, without force, without ego. For over 20 years Gary has worked in NC to educate and prepare social workers to work in our schools. He knows the importance of having a social worker there to help the child whose academic performance or behavior is problematic, not due to lack of skill or smarts, but due to poverty, violence, substances, bullying, or simply having no one that cares. He communicates the needs of school-age kids, and the importance of school social workers, to county commissioners, legislators, school systems, universities, and anyone else with whom he speaks.

Three particular ways to help kids have been Gary's most recent interest: getting free lunches to kids in poverty during the summers through the schools; banning corporal punishment in schools in NC; and passing anti-bullying legislation to protect vulnerable kids. He was particularly tenacious in his advocacy for the anti-bullying bill, which passed the General Assembly this small victory and impossible without his leadership.

Gary has led both by word and by example. His most recent and most courageous example has been in how he handles his health. Gary has been struggling with illness for several years. Throughout this time he has kept on keeping on--even when we knew he was tired or felt sick or was sick and tired of his treatments. His passion for the work was strong and helped him continue the fight. So whether in his work or his life, Gary has been a gentle yet tenacious leader, fighting for what he believes in and dedicated to the wellbeing of kids and the social workers who help them. We're fortunate to have leaders like Gary Shaffer, and I know I'm a better social worker and person because of him.

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