2023 Eddies Awards: Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year

The Eddies—annual, advocate-nominated and voted awards—feature strategic advocacy that is driving impactful policy change.

This Eddies category honors an individual local, state, or national leader who embodies the “give and get” spirit of PIE Network. Recipients of this award consistently work to build and strengthen the impact of the Network and the sector. This category recognizes individuals who are super connectors, working behind the scenes to share ideas, resources, and strategies and to support, connect, and amplify the policy and advocacy work of their peers and intentionally support the leadership of other advocates. This category was previously called Network MVP.

See a complete list of 2023 nominees in all Eddies categories. Staff at PIE Network members and partner organizations, check your inbox for a link to vote in each category. Don’t see it? Email [email protected].

Suzanne Kubach Network Weaver of the Year Nominees

Charlie Barone & Michael Petrilli – Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) & Thomas B. Fordham Institute

In the spring of 2022, the Building Bridges Project, initiated by Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, convened a group of education advocates from the Left, Right, and Center to discuss American education in the wake of the Covid pandemic. The group met in-person six times over 12 months. While the group did not agree on everything, all members agreed that we need a bold vision for change, leadership that works across lines of difference, and decisive action to make good on America’s promises to all children today and in the future. The group ultimately put forth five actions that are a strong beginning—a foundation upon which a more responsive and engaging educational system can be built going forward.

Both Charlie and Mike worked to convene this diverse group, including many PIE Network members, in a polarized time, to rethink our shared policy priorities. Their commitment to bridging differences helped to forge new relationships, strengthen old ones, and remind us that we have a shared goal and many shared ideas across ideological lines.

Charlie and Mike also circulated a sign-on letter embodying these principles that currently has almost 100 signees, most of them PIE Network members. The hope is that this group’s work can be a springboard to coalition-driven advocacy and policymaking nationally and at the state and local level.

Derrell Bradford – 50CAN

Derrell deserves this award, first and foremost, because of the generosity with which he lends his significant intelligence to anyone who asks. Often, he does this in the broad light of day, such as at his testimony this year at the US Capitol in the hearing on the learning loss crisis, where he spoke truth to power, resulting in a fiery and important debate. But that’s a mere iceberg tip for what he does behind-the-scenes: synthesizing and synergizing the policy ideas from many different groups into the robust vision of the future that the movement is in need of; hosting conversations to focus on the pragmatic, bipartisan coalition needed for change rather than succumb to growing polarization; and flying around the country to attend and support dozens of groups each year in the PIE Network and help them achieve their goals. The Weaver of the Year award is focused on the individual who most strengthens the movement and members of the PIE network. That is Derrell, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. His work with partners sits alongside his support for the 10 chapters of the 50CAN network and the participants of his National Voices Fellowship, now at 50 alumni and growing. No matter where in the movement people work, Derrell is constantly thinking about how to match leaders to opportunities and connect us all together so we can do more for kids.

Eric Lerum – America Succeeds

Eric Lerum, America Succeeds, COO Eric is a quiet giant. He is not ostentatious in his leadership, but rather puts his head down to drive the work forward while supporting his colleagues, and other PIE Network members along the way, never expecting nor asking for recognition. Eric can always be counted on to provide constructive feedback, to push leaders past the easy answers and to challenge them to rise to their greatest capacity. Eric is not recognized enough for the depth of knowledge and experience he brings to the work. He is one of the brightest and most authentic minds in the Network when it comes to navigating the challenging political environment of our time. He is bold in his convictions but ALWAYS open to honest and respectful dialogue. He is an absolute asset to the PIE Network and would be a worthy recipient of the Suzanne Kubach Network Weaver of the Year.

Keri Rodrigues Langan – National Parents Union (NPU)

Keri Rodrigues Langan, Co-Founder & Founding President, National Parents Union (NPU) Called “arguably the most successful parent organizer in education advocacy today”, Keri’s commitment to social, economic and education equity for children and families spans decades. As a teen, Keri learned firsthand how difficult it was to obtain a quality education without support. As a mother navigating the education system for her children, it became clear that schools were not adequately meeting the needs of students and parents. Keri drew on her communication and organizing skills to focus on education activism. Through national polls, focus groups, and telling their stories, designing pathways for families to be acknowledged as key stakeholders. Where parents didn’t have a seat at discussion tables, Keri brought chairs, creating parent-led spaces where legislators, educators build together. Keri’s work, impact and perspective have been featured by major media outlets as she raises awareness of education inequity and the lack of high-quality education outcomes for students. Believing that we must work together to be successful, collaborating with everyone from The U.S. Department of Education, to UnidosUS, to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Under her leadership, NPU has united more than 1,000 affiliated parent organizations globally.

Dr. Kymyona Burk – ExcelinEd

With a relentless commitment to comprehensive policy and evidence-based practice, Dr. Kymyona Burk is a champion for early learners and a changemaker who, by changing policy, is changing the trajectory of young lives in dozens of states across the country. In collaboration with colleagues, policymakers, partner organizations and key state stakeholders, Dr. Burk consistently plays a key role in supporting the development, advancement and implementation of comprehensive early literacy policy; delivers expert testimony before state legislatures, boards of education, policy shapers and educators; and analyzes new or existing policy to align them with ExcelinEd’s Fundamental Principles of Early Literacy Policy. An expert in her field, Dr. Burk has developed model policies for early literacy and educator preparation program alignment to the science of reading and been a leader in the charge to eliminate failed reading instructional practices, such as three-cueing, from elementary classrooms. She is instrumental in contributing to implementation science, which seeks to “systematically close the gap between what we know and what we do.” Since joining ExcelinEd in 2020, Dr. Burk has grown the impact of ExcelinEd’s Early Literacy Network, which now includes 90 state education agency literacy leaders representing 30 states and the District of Columbia. Over the past year, and in collaboration with Network members, Dr. Burk developed and released key policy resources, including leading the development of EarlyLiteracyMatters.org. This one-of-a-kind website equips policymakers and education leaders with comprehensive policy solutions for supporting teachers, administrators, students and families—and ultimately changing lives through literacy success. Policymakers and education leaders are regularly using this resource to develop stronger state policy and more effective policy implementation to improve student achievement.

Rachel Canter – Mississippi First

As we celebrate our 15th anniversary at Mississippi First, we nominate our esteemed Executive Director, Rachel Canter, for the Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year award. Rachel has been a beacon of hope, resilience, and innovation since the inception of Mississippi First. Her leadership has been instrumental in navigating the complex political landscape of Mississippi. Our landmark victories since our founding, among numerous other educational strides, are testament to her unwavering commitment to advancing education within the state. Rachel’s strength lies not just in her ability to effect policy change, but also in fostering meaningful relationships. She has built and maintained strong connections with legislators, education champions, stakeholders, effectively rallying a community around the noble cause of improving education. What sets Rachel apart is her dedication to working behind the scenes, ensuring that the mission always remains front and center—regardless of the obstacles. She embodies the ‘give and get’ spirit that the Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year award celebrates. Rachel is the quintessential super connector, constantly sharing ideas, resources, and strategies, and amplifying the policy and advocacy work of her peers. We firmly believe that her tireless efforts, steadfast commitment, and unwavering dedication make her perfect for the Suzanne Kubach PIE Network Weaver of the Year award.

Anna McDaniel-Wyatt

Anna McDaniel-Wyatt

Analyst, Communications & Member Engagement