Wednesday Profile: Debbie Bookstaber

From the 12/13/2007

Debbie’s debut: Debbie Bookstaber may be new to the school board, but she knows a thing or two about service

By Rachel Perry

At 29 years old, Debbie Bookstaber just became the T/E School Board’s youngest member, but don’t assume that young is a synonym for inexperienced. Bookstaber may not have as many years under her belt as the board members she’ll soon serve alongside, but she definitely has the wisdom and work experience necessary for the position, and she’s ready to bring some fresh perspective to the board.

But who is Debbie Bookstaber, new role aside? Well, to start, she’s a technology professional, a mama-to-be, a wife, a volunteer, a blogger — and, it seems, a natural leader.

Bookstaber, who has been actively involved with community service and educational reform since her college years, lives in Berwyn with David, her husband of seven years.

Although she grew up in Merion, the move was an easy transition for Bookstaber. “I certainly had made a lot of friends in this area,” she said of her childhood years. “I grew up going to the Upper Main Line YMCA.”

After high school, she went on to study at Yale University, where she received bachelor’s and master’s degree in history, completing her graduate studies in 2000.

But, said Bookstaber, history wasn’t her only interest.
“I was very interested in education,” she explained. “I did student teaching and a lot of volunteer work with children. I worked at the Yale Center for Disabilities, where I scanned books into Braille and took notes for hearing-impaired students in class.”

Bookstaber was also the president of her sorority and the coordinator for the Yale Women’s Center, a feminist organization seeking to improve the lives of women.

She’s still trying to improve the community; she volunteers with Girl Scouts and she’s an alumni interviewer for Yale. “I think I relate well to high-school students because I’m not that old,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of work with anti-bullying groups. I’m really passionate about violence prevention in schools.”

She can also connect with students because she’s familiar with many of the new ways they connect with each other; MySpace, Facebook and other online social networking sites are a few examples of things her generation knows well but older generations may not be as well acquainted with.
Bookstaber also works with technology in her professional life; she’s working for a new Internet startup.

In her free time, she likes to travel and often gets paid to write articles about the places she visits. She also enjoys cooking, scrapbooking, exercising and reading.

With such a busy schedule, how does someone like Bookstaber even find time for hobbies? We’re not sure, but her life is about to get even busier as she and her husband are going to take on new roles soon: parents. Five months pregnant with her first child — a boy — Bookstaber is glowing.
“It’s very exciting,” she said.

But she’s also realistic about bringing a child into the world, and part of the reason she’s joining the school board is to improve conditions for all kids.
“Expecting a child, you really want to do what you can to make the world a better, safer place,” said Bookstaber.

She’s already working on that; she currently manages a very successful blog specifically for moms — “One of my friends had a baby with a heart defect, so we started a mommy blog to raise money for the American Heart Association,” she said.

It’s not surprising, then, that Bookstaber cites her own mother as her biggest influence growing up.

“She taught for 30 years in an inner-city school,” she said. “She was the one who really emphasized volunteering and service. From fourth grade [on], she had us out there volunteering.”

That’s one of the reasons Bookstaber decided to pursue a spot on the school board, where she will be representing Tredyffrin Region 2.
“I viewed it as more of a community service, instead of a political position,” she said. “It’s unpaid, completely voluntary; a lot of people don’t know that. Education affects everybody.”