Dr. Michele Pola retired in 2014 with 35 years in the public and non-profit sector of education. She served as chief of staff for the Houston Independent School District, the nation’s seventh-largest district, from 2007 to 2014. Her dedication to public education began in the early 1980s as teacher and soon after as principal of River Oaks Elementary in Houston ISD. To this day, not a week goes by that parents, former students, and teachers don’t stop “Ms. Pola” in public to say hello and share how much they appreciated the positive impact she has had on their lives.
Additionally, she served as executive director, associate director, and program director of the Houston A+ (Annenberg) Challenge from 1999 to 2007, Dr. Pola led reform efforts to build leadership capacity in central offices and at the school level.
Michele started her journey in 2007 into mindfulness initially through Yoga, and in 2017 became a certified Yoga Instructor with Yoga Alliance at Joy Yoga University. She became directly engaged with Mindfulness in 2014 by attending sessions with Dr. Ann Friedman of Mindful Being. Currently, she is a student for certification of Mindfulness Facilitation at Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) of the Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Behavioral Medicine at UCLA. She serves as a facilitator for training with Dr. Friedman and as a consultant facilitating and coaching for balanced professional and personal improvement through life skills, strategic planning, and networking.
As the daughter of two American educators working with the U.S. Military, Michele was fortunate to live in France, Italy, Germany, as well as spending many years in Cuba. Her summers, however, were always spent at her family’s hometown on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Dr. Pola’s formal education includes an Ed.D in education from NOVA Southeastern in Florida, an M.S. in Mid Management from the University of Houston–Clear Lake, and a B.S. in Education from Lesley College in Massachusetts. In 2014 she completed the Rice University. Executive Education Accelerated Development Program, having finished the university’s Strategic Marketing course in 2012.
Dr. Pola has served numerous professional organizations as a volunteer and board member, including Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Greater Houston Partnership Education and Workforce Advisory Committee, the Public Education Network Board, the Teach for America Advisory Board, the March of Dimes Board, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s P–16+ Council, and the Texas Association of Partners in Education Board of Directors. She chaired the 2005 and 2017 Convocation on Public Education for the American Leadership Forum (ALF), for which she is a fellow of Class XXIV. Dr. Pola is also a member of the Center for Houston’s Future 2014 class.