Mary Yoder Holsopple – Board Member

Meet the IBPA Board

How long have you been involved with IBPA?

I have been attending the IBPA conference every year since 2005. As the bullying prevention coordinator for my school district, my supervisor encouraged me to attend because in his words “I have no other way to provide professional development for you.” I have learned more than I could possibly have imagined–both from attending the conference and from the ongoing conversations with researchers and practitioners I met at the conference. I look forward to attending each year as it is the only time I have the opportunity to talk with these folks who have now become my dear friends. I have been on the board since 2012.

What drew you to the field of bullying prevention?

I spent ten years working in humanitarian relief and development for NGO’s in Africa. Most of those years were spent in war torn countries. I saw first hand what war does to people–it breaks apart families; it destroys lives; it creates orphans and children who have no other option than to live on the street; it scars people for life. I also learned from that experience that humans are resilient and have the capacity to forgive and to work for peace in their homes, communities, and country. As I witnessed–and worked with–children who knew nothing but war, I became aware of how fragile stability can be and how important it is to teach our children how to live at peace with themselves and each other. Upon return to the States, I became involved in schools, working diligently with children and adults in creating a culture of peace. A consistent theme of my work is “it matters how we treat people.” That, I think, is how people will remember me. Twelve years ago, I was asked by my school district to become the Bullying Prevention Coordinator. I could not believe my good fortune, as this was a dream come true. All day, every day, I remind people about the importance of being kind, respectful, and caring. I also am able to provide guidance in systems changes that promote these qualities in our schools, and with skills to know when and how to intervene when they see, suspect, or are told of children (or adults) being mistreated. It is still a work in progress…

What is your goal for IBPA in the future?

To continue to provide up-to-date research that informs the work of those who are working in our schools, youth-oriented agencies, and communities on the best practices in bullying prevention and intervention. I would like for IBPA to continue to be a connector–connecting people doing similar work with each other in order to provide collegiality, information, and encouragement. I would like for IBPA to continue to find ways to provide regional conferences in order to take our important message to more communities. What we do best is connect people with each other and with best practices. Finding ways to expand our sphere of influence is important. As is continuing the conversation and sharing of information and resources with those doing this work in other countries.

What are you most looking forward to at the national conference in Nashville?

First, I am looking forward to connecting with my friends–old and new–with whom I have much in common through our common passion for creating safe space for all our children (and adults). Second, I am looking forward to learning about the current research and how that may inform my work. Third, I am looking forward to hearing from others who are in the trenches every day–gleaning ideas that I can use in my school.

Who is your role model and why?

Without a doubt that would be retired Bishop Dinis Sengulane. As the Bishop of the Libombos Diocese in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa (Anglican), he was instrumental in bringing the various factions together to end the war in Mozambique. I asked him how he became prophetic with a passion for peacemaking. His humble reply was “from sitting on the steps of a parishioners home that is smoldering behind me after a raid by the resistance army, I cannot help but be prophetic. I must do all I can to bring this war to an  end.” Later when I asked him how he felt about a multinational conglomerate taking the credit for bringing about the peace accord even though he had done so much work behind the scenes to bring the different sides together, his response was “It does not matter who gets the credit. We just wanted peace.” His humility. His untiring work for peace and for justice. His message of the importance of teaching about a culture of peace to our children. All these are reasons why he is my role model.

If you were stranded on an island, what 3 things would you want with you?

My family–my husband, my son (including his wife and child), and my daughter. Because, in addition to them being the most important people in my life, they are also very gifted and talented people. With their combined knowledge we could figure out how to survive and thrive on the island. And, maybe even how to make it back to the mainland. As Tom Hank’s character in the movie Castaway says: “Just keep breathing. The sun will always come up tomorrow. And, you never know what the tide will bring.”

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