Saturday, January 7, 2017

You Make A Difference: Leaders From My Life

Three years ago I graduated college. I was fresh out of student teaching and had no idea where I would be now. I did not have a job lined up right out of graduation, it was December, so finding a full time teaching job wasn't going to work. I knew that I would have to substitute teach, or find a long-term subbing position until the end of the school year. Could I have moved home and found subbing jobs from there? Yes. I had friends who had done that. But, I really wanted to stay where I was. I had roommates and a life created in Minnesota, so traveling back to Wisconsin wasn't ideal. So, I took a risk and stayed, knowing that I would have to stay on top of my responsibilities and work while searching for teaching positions. The following April, I had an interview in Byron for a STEM teaching position. I knew what STEM stood for, but that was about it. My background is in Biology: Life Science Teaching, so I was confident I had the "S" down. Before the interview I spent some time researching what STEM teachers even taught. I had never taken a STEM class growing up, but I thought it sounded kind of cool and new. After accepting the position, I knew it was going to be a new learning challenge I had to take on if I wanted to be successful. But I was ready for the challenge!

There are many leaders that have shaped the person I have become. My parents first. My mom is a teacher and she has shown me the amount of work and passion it takes to be a teacher. Also, the dedication to family. My dad coached my basketball teams growing up and modeled the importance of building relationships with others, and demonstrating how to inspire others. As a teacher, I think about my own schooling, and specific coaches and teachers I looked up to. Mrs. Siegert, who was my high school track coach and engaged me in a new sport that I learned to love. I think I remember her more that other coaches, because of her commitment to her players. She saw who we were as individuals and would do little things to show us she cared. I expect that from family, but it was so genuine and real from her that it really stuck with me. Still today, as I start my first coaching job, I hope to emulate some of her greatness with my students.

As I think back on my journey throughout college, my supervisor at Winona State, Ann Durley, was a huge influence on my life. She is a hall director at one of the residence halls on campus, as well as the director of camps. I started working for her my freshman year as a student assist in the camps office. I never thought about becoming an RA (resident assistant) until she convinced me I might I have a niche for it and that it would be a great experience before teaching. I owe some of my most cherished college experiences and friends to her, for inspiring me to take the risk and apply for that position. As a supervisor, she always demonstrated her trust in her staff, and her ability to be there for us whenever we needed anything was something I will never forget. 

Student teaching was a huge life moment for me. I was assigned a larger high school in Rochester, to teach Biology to 9th graders. My cooperating teacher was a football coach-type character. He taught me many valuable things about leadership. His relationships with students was always number one. We would spend the entire first week of school just on building connections with the kids in his class. He also taught me that it was okay to fail, and more importantly, acknowledge that in front of students. Seeing this empowered students, it made him more human and respected to his class.

When I was reading the book, The Truth About Leadership, the first chapter explained an example of a young girl and her journey to becoming a leader, even at age 9. It reminded me of the Kid President videos. I think it really speaks the truth about leaders. You don't have to be promoted to a leadership position, as the book puts it, "you open yourself to making a difference in the world."

Kouzes, James M., and Barry Z. Posner. "Truth One: You Make A Difference." The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-matter Facts You Need to Know. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010. 1-15. Print. 


  1. I love hearing the respect and admiration in your writing for the people who have inspired you. I appreciate the thoughtfulness you have taken in choosing these values for your own classroom; I think you are far more reflective and self-aware than I was at your age! :) I think one of the most (overlooked) but important characteristics of leadership is on the one you saw in your college supervisor--that of seeing potential in people that they themselves do not see. I believe this is a daily experience for teachers. Given the "seniority" structure of education, how do you see yourself assuming leadership in your building? (because I know it can be scary and intimidating as young teacher to put yourself out there!)

    1. Thanks Jen! That's a good question, I struggle viewing myself in a leadership position at our middle school. I think it's important to get to know your co-workers in a meaningful way before jumping into any type of leadership that wasn't promoted or part of a position. So, as a new teacher, I feel I would almost need to do empathy interview with the entire middle school staff before I would ever try leading! That's why I think it is those veteran teachers who feel comfortable stepping up to these roles.

  2. I loved reading this post and learning more about you and your experiences. There are some words that jumped out at me while reading it-passion, relationships, genuine, trust, and connecting. These are all qualities that stand out for me as well when it comes to leaders I've respected. It's obvious you've learned well from all of these leaders. I also love how you share that you knew your first teaching job would be challenging, but that you were ready for the challenge. From everything I've seen from you, you most certainly were ready and are succeeding in many ways.