Focus On What You're Passionate About

with Liz Kleinrock

Introduce yourself! Who are you?
My name is Liz Kleinrock, I’m a Korean born, transracial, adopted, Jewish, anti bias educator and writer.

Did you always know what you wanted to do as a career?
Heck no. When I was little I wanted to be a combination of Mia Hamm and a photojournalist. I started tutoring in college and enjoyed working with students, so I started teaching.

Were you scared to start the process?
When I started teaching, I also moved to California, so there was a lot of change happening at once. My parents always told me that everything is temporary though, and if I didn’t like it, I could change.

What is one thing no one really knows about you?
I love horror movies. I actually think they’re relaxing. When I’m watching something scary, I can’t be stressing or thinking about anything else.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My mentor taught me, “You do what you have to do, to do what you want to do.” Within the context of being a new teacher, that first year or two is usually spent proving that you’re responsible and capable. When your administration knows you can handle your business, you have more autonomy to teach what you want. Unfortunately we all have boxes to check in our lives, so get through the mandatory parts so you can focus on what you’re passionate about.

What would you say to 16 year old you?
Heh, I would tell 16 year old me not to bother with anyone who doesn’t make time for you. It doesn’t matter if someone says they want to be with you, but if they don’t prioritize you and create space for you in their life, that says everything.

Have you ever had anyone doubt you? How did that make you feel?
Megyn Kelly doubted a lesson I wrote about teaching consent to students last year, but that just made me feel like I was definitely doing the right thing!

What message do you think every woman should hear?
Feminism isn’t surface level. If you’re a feminist, you support the empowerment of other women, no matter what they look like or how they spend their time. If a woman walks down the street in a bikini and I shame her body or her outfit, I’m not for all women.

What do you love most about yourself?
I think I’m a pretty decent public speaker. I love that I can read quickly and absorb new information. I think I’m a loyal person, and want to support the people I love.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
Empowered people empower other people. Power hoarding is selfish and unproductive. If you become successful, take as many people with you as you can.

How do you manage your work-life balance?
In my second year of teaching, I decided to un-sync my work e-mail from my phone and then I decided not to check my email from Friday evening through Sunday evening. This was a game changer. Being able to compartmentalize my work life and personal life has been challenging, especially since I use social media so much for work. I make time for myself every day, if it’s working out, spending time with friends or my partner, but having at least an hour that’s uninterrupted and all mine is key!

What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I read a LOT. I scan the headlines of a few major newspapers, read a few articles, but I tend to get most of my news from Instagram or Twitter. I try to follow educators and activists from very different backgrounds so my perspective is constantly expanding and being challenged. I appreciate that this format makes information very bite-sized and digestible!

Do you have a mentor? If so, what did they teach you?
I have many! My first was my photography counselor when I was a kid, and he was a great example of what it means to find something you’re passionate about, and dedicate your life to that goal. My mentor teacher who I previously mentioned was an amazing role model, and reminded me that the foundation of any successful relationship is to develop trust and respect. My graduate school advisor is now a dear friend, and she’s always been there as a soundboard and balancing presence. Most often she reminds me not to do too much, and that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

What is one thing people would be surprised to hear about you?
I grew up fly fishing and it’s one of my favorite hobbies.

If you weren’t doing the job you have now, what would you be doing?
I’d love to write children’s books, but I wouldn’t say no to having a job like Anthony Bourdain’s. Travel + food = yaaassss.


liz kleinrock

Liz Kleinrock creates curricular content for K-12 students around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion

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