Whispers of Hope
The Story of My Life
by Bertie Simmons
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 01 Nov 2019 | Archive Date 13 Jul 2020
Whispers of Hope, The Story of My Life, is a compelling narrative detailing the life of a young girl born in the deep south during the Jim Crow era. Her tale includes her realization that to make a better life for herself and others, she must run away from the struggles of her young life and go headlong into a world about which she knows nothing.
Bertie Simmons eventually finds her way to Houston where she serves successfully for 58 years in many leadership positions within a large urban school district. Her career included experiences as a teacher, elementary school principal, assistant superintendent, district superintendent, and high school principal. Whispers of Hope allows the reader to witness the painfully slow process of integration and introduces the heroes who demonstrated the courage to fight for equity in education.
Bertie Simmons’ journey includes numerous awards and recognitions such as being named HEB’s Best High School Principal in Texas award in 2011 and KHOU’s Spirit of Texas award. In addition, Furr was one of only three schools in the nation identified for the College Board Inspiration Award in 2011.
The story culminates with her adventures and challenges as the principal in a “throwaway” high school labeled “a pipeline to prison” and a “drop-out factory.” The reader learns of her seventeen-year tenure at Furr High School and her innovative approach to building a culture of community and student success that leads to the school receiving the XQ ten-million-dollar grant from Laurene Powell Jobs in 2016 to rethink high schools. Known as a visionary and a change agent who brought out the best in her students, the high-energy educator arrived at Furr High School at 6:30 a.m. each school day.
Bertie Simmons guides us through the painful experience of having her dreams dashed, and yet, she emerges with a strong commitment to spreading hope across the landscape. Bertie Simmons emerges strong and valiant. Whispers of Hope is a hero’s journey.
A Note From the Publisher
An absorbing memoir written with poetic flair" Bertie Simmons was the oldest principal in the U.S., serving a gang-ridden high school in Houston, that everyone else had written off as a lost cause. This is a true hero's journey about a true matriarch of education..
"An absorbing memoir written with poetic flair"
A gifted truth-teller, Bertie Simmons has enlightening stories to share. Drawn from her exceptional life experiences, she has shaped an absorbing memoir written with poetic flair. Reading Whispers of Hope is a vivid experience. I felt I was running barefoot alongside her as a ten-year-old, swinging on the vines in rural Louisiana with her beloved friend, Dorothy. Moving through her fascinating vignettes, I felt like a witness to the growth over the years of a remarkable educator willing to dive into any challenge with intelligence and conviction. It becomes clear why she was able to conceive and develop an inspired and award-winning high school that became the community heart of troubled Houston area. Bertie literally turned around the lives of hundreds of young people and their families. With directness, realism, and reflection, she completes her tale by unraveling the difficult series of events surrounding her loss of that school. Bertie Simmons emerges strong and valiant. Whispers of Hope is a hero’s journey.
- Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, President, Curriculum Designers, Inc.
"Bertie Simmons is a force for transforming education into a more equitable, engaging opportunity"
Bertie Simmons is a force for transforming education into a more equitable, engaging opportunity for all students to find out who they are and who they can become. This book is a combination of a memoir that tells us the backstory of what drives her passion and the incredible accomplishments that she has done on behalf of students in Houston, TX. After reading this book, you will be inspired to reflect on your own backstory and how you can lift yourself to new actions to work on behalf of the future of all of our children.
- Bena Kallick, Ph.D, Author and Co-Director of the Institute for Habits of Mind
Nationally known PR firm heading up publicity campaign
Watch Ted TalkX https://bertiesimmons.com/press-media
Watch FOX 26 Houston: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Fsg1fh3nsY
Watch FOX 26 Houston (2) https://www.fox26houston.com/video/624947
Watch Bertie on CBS This Morning https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=9&v=-7idH10-PMU&feature=emb_title
For 58 years Bertie Simmons, Ed.D. was a dedicated educator in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). The first of Simmons' seemingly countless honors came in 1965, when she was named the HISD Teacher of the Year. During her career in HISD, she served as Assistant Superintendent, District Superintendent, Associate Superintendent, and Executive Director. After retiring in 1995, she returned to the district in 2000 to serve as the principal of Furr High School for 17 years. She is widely regarded for being instrumental in the effort to revitalize the school and create transformational opportunities for some of Houston's most disadvantaged students. Furr was one of only three schools in the nation identified to receive the College Board Inspiration Award in 2011. During her tenure at Furr she received notable professional recognitions that include HEB’s Best High School Principal in Texas award in 2011 and KHOU’s Schools Now Spirit of Texas award.
Known as a visionary and a change agent who can bring out the best in her students, the high-energy educator arrived at Furr High School at 6:30 a.m. each school day. She maintained that upbeat and infectious attitude to reach and inspire her teachers and students with her passion, knowledge, dedication, and maybe even the occasional rap song or two. Dr. Simmons has recently completed her memoirs, Whispers of Hope, available now for purchase on Amazon.
As evidence of Simmons' indelible impact on the high school during her 17-year tenure, education advocate and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, wife of the late Apple, Inc. CEO Steve Jobs, recognized Furr High School in 2016 as a recipient of a ten-million-dollar grant grant through the XQ Super School Project. Simmons’ school was one of 10 selected from nearly 700 schools nationwide for “reimagining high school education.”