Sunday, April 13, 2008

Leading the Way (Suzanne Shall)

You have been such a great influence and inspiration to me this year. I have watched you constantly. I have really enjoyed learning from you to better myself as a teacher in ELA and just in general. As a young teacher I have always had a drive for leadership. What advice can you give me to prepare me for the future? Are there specific steps that you have taken to get you where you are today? Lauren Morgan

Dear Lauren,
The pleasure this year of getting to know you has been my delight. You are an exemplary literacy teacher who already displays the key characteristics of being an accomplished leader. You are passionate about your craft, have established positive relationships with colleagues, are a key contributor to your team, are a proactive self-directed learner, an avid reader, and have proven in your short tenure as an educator that you are an expert in putting theory into practice.

My advice to you is simple---voice your desire to lead, surround yourself with mentors in all content areas, embrace every opportunity to lead, remain passionate about your work, and occasionally stop and look behind you; if people are following, you are leading.

As a beginning teacher, I voiced my desire to lead to the founding principal of Chets Creek, Terri Stahlman. She immediately took me under her wing and set me on a fast track to leadership. She was my first leadership mentor and I spent as much time in her presence as I could. Her key advice to me at the time was to be a relationship builder and listener, and to always stay five minutes ahead of the followers.

In year two of my career, I became the grade level team leader, model math classroom, and was invited by her to attend the America’s Choice National Conference in San Diego, California. I was hooked; I had caught the leadership bug! She urged me in my third year to go back to school and get my Masters Degree in Educational Leadership. I remember telling her I wasn’t quite ready to get my degree, but with her insistence, I did. And, I’m glad I did, because in my fourth year, I had the opportunity to become the Standards Coach. This was important not only because I wanted to lead, but because it gave me the daily opportunity to observe in classrooms across the building. Now that indeed was a key to my professional growth!

In the last decade, I’ve surrounded myself with mentors across content areas: Terri Stahlman, Angela Phillips, Rick Pinchot, dayle timmons, Melanie Holtsman, Susan Phillips, Christy Constande. I’ve learned valuable lessons from each one of them. I watch them intently; I question them about everything—to the point of driving them crazy--; I read what they read; I listen to the conversations they have with their followers. I will forever be grateful to them for helping me learn and grow. And, I will always know that I’ve only scratched the surface of what I want to learn about our craft and leading.

Please let me know if there is ever anything I can do to help you in your endeavors. You will make a superb leader!


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