We love getting inspired by our customers and that’s why we are thrilled to relaunch our “Real Women, Real Style” series where we feature interesting customers that are changing our world and making a difference in our communities. Since it’s September and back to school, who would be more fitting to feature than, Jennifer Earl, a Principal in Los Angeles. Sikara’s founder, Mousumi, met Jennifer in our Austin store when she was in town for an AP Educators conference.
Earl is a woman making a positive impact in the world. Currently a principal at top high school, she’s all about strong relationships and strong bodies. An active woman who cares for those around her, Jennifer is awe-inspiring. We’re so glad she had the time to talk to us before the school year got started!
S: You moved from being a teacher to being a counselor in your career path. What were the easiest and hardest parts of this switch?
JE: The position was a co-administrator position with counselor duties. The hardest part was the learning curve. I had a general understanding of things like student schedules and graduation checks, but logistics created a major learning curve. It gave me great insight as I moved into administration. I had a hands on understanding of what a counselor does so I could collaborate more effectively with counselors. The easiest part was applying my passion for working with high school youth to the new position.
S: Your dissertation is titled “Respect and Relationships instead of Rules.” How are you applying such an idea to your current role of principal?
JE: In my five years as a principal, I have come to learn that conceptually the things that supported me running a successful classroom apply to running a successful school. The word “RULES” has such negative connotations. I intentionally use words like expectations and systems so that a collaborative environment is established. Once systems are in place, I am sure to assure that they are adhered to with consistency. The relationships that are established in a school community are based in trust. The entire community needs to be willing to trust that each member has good intentions. This is rooted in respecting various opinions and motivational factors. I am in the business of developing productive, healthy and happy future citizens in our community and it takes strong relationships that are respectful and supportive of agreed upon systems.
S: Your theme at Hoover High is Ohana, the Hawaii’an word for family. Why did you choose this?
JE: I proposed this term seven years ago when we were experiencing budget cuts. The term was one that my baby sister used when I left for college in the late 80s. She was only a toddler when I headed to the University of Wisconsin. As she and I maintained a relationship, she would paint me pictures and make me gifts with Ohana on it. Hence the word Ohana is one that has always resonated with me. It translates as “Ohana means family and family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” My students and their parents/guardians believe in this concept and every member of the community uses the word Ohana instead of Family. We are a special community that looks out for one another and goes the extra mile to be sure that no one gets left behind.
For example, when we find out that a student is homeless everyone comes together to find the family somewhere to stay, assist the student with extra things like making sure they can attend the prom and/or just be a “regular” high school student. I remember a team of teachers and I coming together to to get a student her entire prom outfit, including hair and nails after she fled her abusive home. We loved seeing her smiling and just being a kid that night. Another very important example is that my students look out for each other. Our students have a reputation for letting adults know when they see or hear something that makes them concerned for a classmate. My students have literally saves lives because they have contacted me and shared concerns with me.
S: You’ve been vegetarian for a while now. What’s your favorite recipe?
JE: I know that is may be hard to believe, but I am comfortable cooking all food. I have just not eaten meat since 1993. With that said, I would say that my “specialty” that all foodies enjoy is a taco spread. I always make sure that there is fish for the meat eaters, protein like beans for the vegetarians and then finalize the spread with items like Mexican rice, homemade guacamole and seasoned vegetables. My trick is that I make tinfoil packets to put on the grill (or in the oven) and season the ingredients (fish or veggies) with my favorites. These favorites include cumin, oregano, El Pato hot sauce, red onions, fresh tomatoes, organic citrus, fresh garlic, cilantro, and salt. My guacamole is a “chunky” guacamole. I chop up equal parts fresh avocado, roma tomatoes and red onion and add garlic, organic lemon, hot sauce, cumin and salt and combine it all.
S: You’ve done a stint as a make-up artist. Can you share with us a quick tip you learned?
JE: Gosh, I have so many tips when it comes to make up. I think the one tip that every woman can adhere to is that you should choose to accentuate either lip or eyes, not both. The best looks have a made up eye and subtle lip or vice versa. My other tip would be to find products that serve multiple purposes. Many of the BB creams now have SPF for example. It saves you time in your morning routine!
S: Tell us about your dogs! What type of shenanigans do they get up to?
JE: We have two dogs right now. Our third just passed of cancer last December. They are all terriers and terrier have strong personalities! My favorite #terriernation stories involve the three of them attempting to get what they want while respecting the alpha order in the house! We had trained our first two, Harley and Dixie, not to sleep in the bed but when we got our rescue Gertie, she DEMANDED to sleep under the covers at the bottom of our feet. Little by little, the other two caught on and followed suit. My rat terrier Dixie (#dixiegirl) had a need to be touching me as much as possible and she would jump on the bed and spoon me. But the morning, the cairn terrier Harley would make his way on the bed and find a spot on top of the covers somewhere near the foot of the bed. On the weekends, when my husband would climb out of bed it became a mad dog dash to put their mommy in a “terrier sandwich”. It was one of my favorite times to wake up to my dogs flanked on both sides of me and the rescue Gertie knocked out at my feet!
Another example comes from the first days that we brought our rescue Gertie into our home. At that time, she would grab all dog toys and bring them into the living room and stock pile them. (My husband buys too many toys-imagine a pile a foot and a half wide and half foot tall). After she would create her pile, Harley and Dixie were sure it was time to play but Gertie had another idea. She would guard that pile with her life! If any living being approached the pile, she would bark and run around the pile. Thank goodness she evolved the longer she stayed with us!
S: Where’s your favorite place that you’ve traveled to and why?
JE: I assume that everyone who answers this question says that this is impossible to answer but the greater London area brings me great joy. I had an absolutely yummy experience the summer of 2005. I stayed in London during my doctoral studies. Everyday after class, I would put my earbuds in and GO! I got to experience so much of the city thanks to the exceptional public transportation in London. I got tickets to Live 8, attended Wimbledon, spent endless hours in inspiring art galleries and enjoyed the fun-loving London fare. The architecture reminded me of Chicago and Milwaukee, where I grew up so I had this odd sense of being at home in London. It is a city with such an enticing buzz that seems endless!
S: As a self-identified tomboy, how does that get reflected in your daily style? What’s your go-to outfits for both work and play?
JE: My favorite topic! I am equally comfortable in workout gear or jeans as I am a pencil skirt. My daily style reflects my tomboy attitude through my pairing. A fun t-shirt and a pencil skirt is my go to outfit. It can be paired with either heels or suede tennies. Secondly, my accessories are strong and have personality. Clearly! I found Sikara and was immediately inspired. My other favorite pieces are from my grandmothers jewelry drawers, vintage shops and my travels or the travels of friends.
S: We have to ask, favorite Sikara piece?
JE: I wear my Swirly earrings multiple times each week, but I want to get the Thick Step Ladder Mantra bracelet as my next piece. I have a list of my follow up purchases from Sikara that include gold Swirlies!
S: You’ve done a lot in your life – moving across the country, getting a doctorate, and developing a restaurant/bar idea. Any advice for other women looking to be successful?
JE: My initial reaction to reading this question is that I am humbled that you would refer to me as successful. I simply see myself as hardworking and I firmly believe that we can always grow. I view my personal life, health, job and relationships as something that needs to be fed with the appropriate nutrients, cared for with humility and honor and evaluated for needed adjustments. If we look at our bodies as an obvious example, each decade of our lives brings a new challenge to staying healthy. The same eating habits and fitness habits from our twenties don’t necessarily apply to our thirties and so on. Relationships and organizations are the same. We grow through the appropriate care and attention. So my advice is to live lovingly in the moment, but have a roldedex of possible changes/improvements developed somewhere in the back of your mind or on a private vision board (like on Pinterest Ha!) and find time to indulge in what brings you joy.
Personally, I live by three mantras. “Live loud. Love hard. Choose joy.” I’m always looking to grow. The stress of life can catch up with us sometimes and my current efforts to grow is centered around spending more time doing things that make me happy like taking photography lessons, working out, and going out to dinner with friends from time to time. As I work to manage stress, I am also experimenting with essential oils, learning to meditate, and keeping my choose joy journal.