Connie Leatherman, director of field experience, College of Education at University of Findlay, and her daughter Jo Lee, Grandview Heights High School science teacher and adjunct professor at UF, are truly an award-winning mother-daughter duo in the field of education.
Lee was named Grandview Heights Schools’ 2019-20 Teacher of the Year. Her love of teaching began at an early age as she spent many moments of her childhood in the teachers’ lounge at Van Buren Schools, where Leatherman taught for over 20 years. “I knew the teachers over there very well, which showed me what teaching was all about and how much work it was,” said Lee. “I knew teaching wasn’t always going to be easy, but I also saw how rewarding it was.”
“Originally I had kind of discounted being a teacher because I always felt like I was going to be in my mom’s shadow. My mom was always getting awards; all the students loved her, and I just thought I could never be that good. I didn’t want to be subpar, so I think I just dismissed the idea of teaching for a really long time,” said Lee.
Leatherman and Lee have unique approaches on how they got into the education field. When Leatherman was approaching her college years, women were not always encouraged to do just anything. Leatherman originally was thinking of being a doctor or an engineer. She ended up going to college majoring in math education with hopes of becoming a decoder for the government. However, Leatherman was truly inspired on her first day of student teaching when a fight broke out, the teacher left, and she was put in charge of the class. Leatherman recalls thinking, “Hey, this is great!” and added, “I found out it was really my passion after that.”
Lee initially went to college with hopes of becoming a veterinarian; she was even accepted into veterinary school, but discovered it wasn’t the route for her. She eventually came to the realization that teaching might just be her calling. In 2008, Lee graduated from Findlay with her teaching license and Master of Arts in Education degree. Lee mentioned, “as soon as I got in the classroom at Grandview Heights, I realized that’s where I needed to be the whole time.” Lee also received her Doctorate of Education (EdD) from the University of Findlay in 2016.
Recalling her time at Findlay as a student, Lee stated, “the Ed.D. Program is second to none. I made some lifelong friends from my Ed.D. cohort. And UF professors do a terrific job of supporting, coaching, and helping students write their dissertations.” Lee also added, “I have always been able to contact any professor there for any kind of support or to ask questions. For example, Dr. McIntosh, dean of the college of education, is amazing. I could call her and ask her about anything and she would take the time to help me regardless of how busy she is.”
Leatherman started as an adjunct professor at Findlay in 1973 and taught on and off as an adjunct professor over the years. In 2003, Leatherman became a fulltime faculty member in the College of Education. Lee followed in her mother’s footsteps and became an adjunct professor at Findlay in 2010. “Not only is she my daughter, she’s my colleague and she’s my best friend,” mentioned Leatherman.
Leatherman and Lee have a truly special mother-daughter bond that has made a substantial impact on the University of Findlay’s College of Education. Their passion for teaching, encouraging, and caring for children is unlike any other.
To learn more about Findlay’s College of Education please visit their webpage.