Reflections On My Leadership Journey
As I enter my twentieth year in education, I am reminded of several individuals who invested in my leadership. When I make decisions, support teachers, and lead meetings, I am reminded of the leaders who supported my growth. Jack Welch said, "Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others."
Marie Rogers, Former Principal (West Memphis Public Schools)
My first building principal was Marie Rogers. She had high expectations and she took teacher evaluation seriously. She wanted what was best for students and she held me accountable for growing as a teacher. She took pride in having the best teachers and in innovative teaching practices. She allowed teachers to take risks, but she held them accountable for results.
Dr. June Atkinson, Former State Superintendent (NC Department of Public Instruction)
Dr. Atkinson taught me the importance of building relationships and investing in others. It was a common sight to see Dr. Atkinson walking around the office and asking staff members about their work. She was present when speaking with each person and it made you feel like you were the most important person in the room. She may have traveled five hours across the state, but she took time to ask how your work was going and how you were making a difference. By the end of the conversation, you wanted to step up your game because you had been inspired to do more. Following my work at the state department of education, I received a visit from Dr. Atkinson at the school where I was a principal. Following the visit, she wrote me a handwritten note and I still have the note framed in my office today. Never forget the power of relationships and a handwritten note.
Vann Langston, Former Executive Director (High Five)
Vann invested in me and in several other educators in North Carolina. Vann led a monthly meeting with leaders from the High Five districts. This organization and the monthly meetings may have had the biggest impact on my leadership skills. I was able to connect with assistant superintendents, curriculum directors, and superintendents through my work with High Five. Vann brought guest speakers to North Carolina, including Rick and Becky DuFour, Douglas Reeves, Cassandra Erkens, Thomas Guskey, Mike Mattos, Kati Haycock, and Ken O'Connor. Having the opportunity to meet with these education consultants helped me grow as a leader. Vann's influence in my career and the opportunities he provided helped me reflect on teaching and learning. The group he led known as "The Working Group" pushed me and helped me grow into the leader I am today. I will always be thankful for Vann and the members of "The Working Group."
Dr. Denise Morton, Former Assistant Superintendent (Orange County Schools)
Dr. Morton taught me how to work in the central office. She modeled professionalism and she showed me how to invest in teacher leaders and principals. She was focused on increasing the graduation rate, closing achievement gaps, and multiplying leaders. She believed in me and she provided me with multiple opportunities to grow as a leader. She provided timely feedback to support my growth. She was competitive and she wanted things to be done right, including documents, presentations, written procedures, professional development, and communication with families. Her attention to detail helped the district to improve under her leadership. She understood that you treat teacher leaders with respect and you value their voice in decision-making. She believed in leaving the organization better than you found it and she believed in hiring the right people.
Dr. Magda Parvey, Former Assistant Superintendent (Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools)
Dr. Parvey hired me to serve as the Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction. This position allowed me to learn the role of assistant superintendent. I worked directly under Dr. Parvey and led principal meetings, facilitated meetings with curriculum directors, and served on the Cabinet. In this role, I learned more about curriculum design, education policy, addressing achievement gaps, instructional strategies, planning and leading professional development, and more. Dr. Parvey modeled leadership through the way she led meetings, one-on-one feedback, and through her work with our team. She pushed me to support teachers and principals and she had high expectations. She demanded excellence, but she was willing to do anything she asked me to do or support my work. She believed in me and supported me as I learned a new role. I was prepared for the role of assistant superintendent because of my work under Dr. Parvey.
Developing The Leaders Around You
Since entering the field of education, I have been influenced by multiple invididuals and professional organizations. This list only cites a few of the individuals who have invested in me. Leadership is developed and the number of leaders who you meet impacts your ability to lead. I stand on the shoulders of GIANTS and I am reminded of their influence when I work with teachers, students, administrators, school staff, and families. Developing the leaders around you does not require a degree, award, or title. Developing the leaders around you requires an outward focus rather than an inward focus.
Questions to Consider as You Begin to Develop Leaders
- Who invested in my career?
- What are my strengths as an educator?
- Whom can I invest in and support?
- How will developing other leaders help me continue to grow as a leader?
- How will our school or school district benefit from multiple leaders?