Episodes #212-218

Episode #212: Brian Faulkner


Brian Faulkner is the principal of Kaneland Harter Middle School in Kaneland C.U.S.D. 302.  He says “My focus has been simple from the very start of my career; give students what they need in order to be successful.  I fully embrace teacher leadership and a shared leadership philosophy and look for creative ways our staff can collaborate, share, observe one-another, and continuously improve their craft.  Saying I love what I do is an understatement.  I’m on a mission to make a difference in the lives of each member of our learning community.” 

Trenches story: What is he doing to not lose sight of what it’s like to be a t, para, student in his building. he subbed a lot during pandemic. Hybrid model, esp difficult. He has had to serve lunch. He feels like the staff is in the trenches. Daily Homeroom (takeover) period. They need planning time. Exploratory t’s need more. He took the entire team of kids to do an activity. He did this to relieve the staff. He can talk about going on lockdown model, everyone coming out safe & supported. They just had mandatory law enforcement last wk. Didn’t want it to be a surprise to staff. Practice in a good mindset. He gets on PA after to say “great job”. 

Tell me how you embrace teacher leadership and how you encourage t’s who don’t see it in themselves to take on teacher leader roles?  It’s always been a focus for him. IT’s not about you, it’s about them. Peer-to-peer is powerful for him. When students can teach other students it’s strong. He went through project Chris training when he was a teacher. Teacher leader summit in Louisville. Goal to promote teacher leadership within the district. Wants to be put in a position where he supports staff. Opportunity to have their voices heard. It’s different if you have someone in the building, make that connection. Learned the hard way- amazing teacher. Asked a teacher to talk at institute day about it. She wasn’t super comfortable leading. Teacher leadership for her is allowing others to observe her classroom. It pushed his level of what was teacher leadership. As a leader, he feels like he needs to step away to let them lead. Get to know your staff or it won’t work. He makes it a point to always get to know about their passions. TOTS-teachers observing teachers, they aren’t obliged to. It’s built into team mtg schedule. Used as a collaborative moment. They’re our best resources when it comes to PD.

Journey to principalship? Always at the middle school level.  20+ years ago when he interviewed for 1st job wanted to go to HS to work. He had a MS interview, was called back right away. Never looked back, realized MS was his jam 1 month into teaching. He was always interested in being a principal. During his own HS experience, he had 2 great principals, liked the way they conducted themselves. Make an impact on as many as possible. Teacher-dean-AP-principal. Wants to stay in this role. Got into admin because he wanted to give back more. Still thinks of principals he had when he was a student & teacher.

What kind of PD drives you (both to lead and to participate in)? He will go to TB conference. He is a certified project Chris trainer (focused on metacognition), but hasn’t done for a while), sometimes will do PD about personalized learning. IS connected w/ a few Univ. in N IL, speaks to students in their ed leadership cohorts. 2x’s a year.  He does his leadership 101. It’s a Q & A w/ a small presentation.  He told himself he had to do something. He talks about how it’s about promoting growth in your learning community. Occasionally presents @ conferences. Was at inaugural Teach to Lead Summit.

TB blogging insert link to blog series on mental health (most are from 2020, is he still doing it?): He is still writing a ton, just hasn’t shared w/ world. We can mention one. He focused more on mental health. Wouldn’t call self a writer, has been writing since HS on 100 different topics. Kaitlyn G. was teaching in his building when he wrote a few times.He wants to focus on t mental health, how to create down time. He needs to model Maslow before Bloom philosophy for staff.

Out of everything? There are 1000’s of quotes in his office. Be you! It’s OK. That’s what your school needs. It’s ok to be different. Show up, love your kids & colleagues, do everything you can for them. You don’t have to be like t down the hall.

Where can ppl find you online?  #kanelandpride  @brianfaulkner44 on Twitter, DM/tweet him 

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/MK2p-G7CbCE

Episode #213: Vernon Wright


 Vernon Wright (@TheWrightLeader, TheWrightLeader.com, ZeroApologyZone.com Founder) is a speaker, author, consultant, and leader. He has over 18 years of experience in education working in large, urban school districts and has previously served in the roles of teacher, teacher leader, campus leadership team member, and district-level support.

Vernon has shared his experiences as a speaker numerous times over the years at the campus, district, regional, state levels, and beyond garnering acclaim and accolades from recognized industry leaders and colleagues. Vernon has brought his unique style and combination of insight, storytelling, experience, humor, authenticity, and epiphanies to audiences for years.

Vernon has an established presence on social media (@TheWrightLeader across all platforms), and he unabashedly stands as a voice for the people with zero apologies (ZeroApologyZone.com). You can connect with Vernon’s previous speaking and podcast appearances at TheWrightLeader.com. He is committed to a life of inspiring and elevating others.

(His website includes podcast episodes & articles). 

Trenches story: Reflection is a key piece. Is critical, essential piece. Don’t forget where you’ve come from. 1 is professional, other is more personal nature, 1 satisfies both. What’s the vision, mission, was coming out of grad school, had no plans to stay in education, was working for a leader who was broken. Sometimes others see more in us than we see in ourselves. He shares the perspective he gained. Even in situations when it’s “professional”, we may be dealing with someone who has unresolved trauma & hurt. Was living in a crime-infested apt complex in Dallas. He was able to increase the impact he was making. Each day he gets up & goes to bed- “Have I added value to 1 person’s life?” Started to see education as impact. Improving the lives of others. Enlightenment. Twitter followers went up-now about 10K had to overcome him understand what he is living isn’t just regular or normal. He likes simplicity. If something is complex, it lessens probability everyone will be able to do it. If actions don’t change, data doesn’t change. We transition from being content consumers to content creators, it’s selfless. Zig Ziegler quote he shares. 

articles he’s written- He did one for Teach Better (he was a one-time guest blogger). He was on the Daily Drop in. He wrote the blog post after the show. Also co-authored articles w/ EduMatch with Nicole Biscotti, having the right lens. Working on a solo book project w/ EduMatch, may be out by end of year. Is fan of Rick & Becky Du Four- how PLC questionss can be applied to your life. When you’re in the midst of a situation you don’t have the right perspective, next step. Situations in life where we don’t have the understanding of that. Step is to re-center. Get back on track.

Speak about the Global Ed Tech Academy w. Microsoft EDU and CUE Inc, did virtual sessions with them 2 years ago. Intl. reach. Was a “god move”. Cue decided to partner up with them. Watershed moment in his career. 

Out of the roles you’ve had, where have you’ve had the most impact? Started out as a HS t in Dallas. Considered leaving edu. Was approached year 3 about going into leadership. Ran from that. People were persistent. Became t leader/dept. chair. Got ed leader M.A. Handled operations, safety, security, HVAC. Learned about how a large physical space works. Has been in district-level leadership 7-8 yrs. Move to central office, learned what happens w/in a campus doesn’t necessarily happen in other campuses. Solid about messaging. Theme of how do we add value? Make it easy for others to do great work. Have to learn how to work better with adults. SEL approach for adults. Talks about what he does really truly matters and wants to point out what truly matters in adults. Drecker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. When he helps schools, he reflects on what the current state of the culture is. What’s the level of awareness. There is no substitute for SEL for adults. Wants to be in a place where he is making a difference. What are promises you’ve made to yourself? Feels like he’s made an impact in each of those roles. Doors opened where he was at to 

100 No-nonsense Things that all Teachers should STOP doing book His chapter was “Stop studying to be an administrator to make more $”, ch. 93. Be mindful of what your motivation is to go to the next level. What happens when role is beyond what you’re compensated for. Approach in an altruistic way. He committed to taking the talents & gifts he has to think about how ppl can come together to do their best work. 

Professional speaking He talks about his work with schools. Worked with TCEA, CUE edu, this summer he spoke at Learn Forward Texas. Part of larger Learn Forward national affiliate. Doors opened up for him to expand his reach. Ppl come from all over the world to TCEA. He talks about 2 things: 10 steps to becoming a game-changer & branding for educators. He asks ppl what their user handle looks like-how important is it that your work is great work if no one can find it? Value piece & connection piece come together. He has a pattern on purpose. You should unify social media handles to website URL. Make it easy for ppl to connect w/ your work.

Out of everything?  If you’re adding value to someone’s life every day, there is a compounding effect. Take an inventory. Ask yourself what your talents & gifts are. Decide you’ll use them to help others. Use them to pour into others for their benefit. What is the altruistic motive? He mentors collegiate athletes. We’re farmers, we’re always planting.

Where can ppl find you online? @thewrightleader www.thewrightleader.com  ZeroApologyZone.com with apparel, playlist of his podcast guest spots. View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/Qddtz3zenso

Episode #214: Baruti Kafele


As a highly regarded urban educator in New Jersey for over twenty years, Principal Baruti Kafele distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher, he was a New Jersey State Teacher of the Year finalist, and a recipient of the New Jersey Education Association Award of Excellence. As a middle and high school principal, Principal Kafele led the turnaround of four different New Jersey urban schools.  

One of the most sought-after school leadership and classroom equity presenters in America, Principal Kafele is impacting America’s schools! He has delivered over two thousand conference and program keynotes and professional development workshops.  Principal Kafele is the leading authority for providing effective classroom and school leadership strategies toward closing what he coined, the “Attitude Gap.” He has authored twelve books, including his seven ASCD best sellers – Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School & in Life, Closing the Attitude Gap, Is My School a Better School BECAUSE I Lead It?, The Teacher 50, The Principal 50, The Assistant Principal 50 and his newest release, The Equity & Social Justice Education 50. Principal Kafele is also the creator and host of the popular Virtual Assistant Principal Leadership Academy, streamed live every Saturday morning on his Virtual AP Leadership Academy YouTube channel and his other social media platforms at 10:55 EST.

Trenches story: hasn’t talked about it a ton. Being at odds with a superintendent. Didn’t see work the same way. Career was on an upward trajectory. Was suspended. Termination hearing coming the following week. Was on a popular radio talk show. Parents expressed outrage, became bigger story, board voted he’d done nothing wrong. 5 years later received the prestigious Milken Award, example of standing firm on what you believe. Continued to do the work. Hence great award years later. Overwhelming. 

Tell me what got you started with the AP Leadership Academy (since it was originally only supposed to run for 10 weeks- now it’s gone for 144 weeks. Consumes a lot of his life- weeks’ worth of planning. It’s the biggest joy of his life/work. Is it’s a conference & he’s the keynoter, ppl will gravitate to session. Everyone who attends his Academy make that conscious decision. He won’t speak at the conference if it interferes w/ his academy. Ppl wouldn’t tune in b/c his agenda. B/c of AP position not being just a disciplinarian. 

Plans for guests/how you decide who to interview? Is trying to read audience. Looks @ #’s and see how many are interested. Had 90 items, only covered 17 last Saturday. Wants to keep it diverse. He’s booked out till next summer. Rapid fire questions- why he does it. He wants to see how authentic they are. If they have to give it a lot of thought- they’re not really thinking about it. Like “can true equity occur in American schools?” “What are you reading?” Could be a blog even. 

After your last 2 books, published in2021 and 2020 Asst Principal 50, Equity & Social Justice 50- you’ve been given contracts to write more for ASCD. Talk about these. He does a motivational commentary. Many of those are about protecting. Protecting your happiness, joy, what else can a leader protect? 105 diff. things. Thought he’d divide up 100 things into 2 books. Had exceeded his goal of 35K words. Will do 35K x 3. Use protecting. Guarding, shielding. Not allowing someone to break it down. 

What is your favorite thing about being in front of a roomful of school leaders? 11 years since he left principalship to consult full-time but has spoken 36 yrs. Fired up is continuation of work. If it’s about equity & not everyone can embrace it, loose enjoyment. He feels the tension. He loves going in & teaching, inspiring. 

One of your most notable sayings on your Saturday show is “I’m on Fire!!!”. What ignites your passion? How did you take that passion from the stage to the camera? being able to see comments while live ignites him. He can’t elevate the passion, enthusiasm w/o comments. “Amen, preach”, other affirmations help him be his authentic self. Speakers look for the “Amen”. You have broader audience. You find yourself speaking to the commenters. They’re yours, doing audience analysis. 

Out of everything? Whatever you’re pursuing in life, give it maximum effort. Put forth effort in your craft. The competition is out there doing it. 

Where can ppl find you online? www.principalkafele.com social platforms just getting into IG & LinkedIn. FB, Twitter. IG: @millionmileman 

Find this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/BeqBeIBGH2c

Episode #215: Aaron Else


Aaron Else has been principal since ‘14, AP since ‘08. Also, he works as an Adjunct Prof at U of N Texas. Aaron is an enthusiastic optimist entering his 23rd year in education. During his time in education, he has taught 1st, 2nd, and 5th grades. He is principal at Hosp Elementary in Frisco ISD. Aaron is married to Heather, and they have five kids combined and two dogs. He loves to read, work out, and watch sports.

Trench story: we’re in the trenches everyday now. Lean on teammates, co-workers. Sometimes u have to lean on significant other. Keep focus on students needs & how you can best serve them. Focus on their needs. 

Can talk about some of his writing- Teach Better blogs like “Fuel for the Fire” about nearing retirement. Writing has been an outlet for him. You can’t be a purposeful educator if you don’t practice what you preach. Wrote about what he was feeling. Has also been writing for TEPSA also. One is an SEL piece, for the TX principal association. He wants to reach out & share what he knows. Maybe he can reach a principal & benefit. 

Teaches at U NTex– “how schools work” twice a week. Gets into policy, law, building a community within a school. How a school functions. Started this year. It gives him new fuel for the fire. He’d been out of CR since 2006. Deep dive into articles, research. Has always wanted to do, has M.A. from same univ. Even though at diff. ends of the spectrum, still have the same. Freshmen-senior. It’s interesting hearing their perspectives. They worry about supporting themselves financially. Provides an overview of what goes into a school. Students are college  sophomores mostly. Needs to make it engaging for 3 hours on a Wednesday. He encourages people who want to get back into teaching to teach @ the univ. level.

Has been in admin 14 years, how has that shifted. Started as AP in 2008. It’s not even the same job. Colleague who opened school 22 years ago-it’s not even same job. We focus a lot more on SEL piece. Needs of kids are greater. Didn’t have social media impact. Focus on structures. Changed your why in the school setting. We’re doing a lot more teaching right/wrong. What happened to the integrity of finishing your job, seeing things through to the end? He sees it at home with 5 kids. Studies about more time ppl are on social, the worse they feel. We won’t know the full impact of COVID for a while. Some similarities like during Brown vs. BoE. Kids who were online 2 years. Even political piece impacts with charged parents. 

Have discipline rates gone up a lot? In Frisco ISD, in Jan. 22 they said everyone come back, no virtual. There were gaps w/ management piece. Increased significantly. Have to teach right & wrong especially with littles. Had to spend more time on procedures. They feel like they can do what they want when they want. Have to follow structures for safety & well-being. His school is prek-5- 710 kids. Has been there since 2014. Opened school. Has been w/ Frisco 16 yrs. His own kids range from E.S. to 12th grade. When they play a game while in class, they have learned behavior “I want to do what I want to do”. 

New teachers mentoring: Mentor piece is big. They are afraid to come to admin for help, so mentor t is big. They have instr. & digital learning coaches as well. They’re giving them language policies on how things work. He wants to help them feel like the job is a bit easier. Won’t have mtg just to have mtg. Wants current t’s to say it’s a challenging job but they love it. He wonders about if next t’s will stay in position. Colleges around Dallas, # if students going into education. # is significantly lower. There’s a “bidding war”, sign on bonus, retention bonus, etc. Certification requirements. He’s in a downward spiral. They’re doing a teacher incentive allotment.  TX doesn’t have a union; they have association that doesn’t carry a lot of weight. In MN where he started, sub & para role was higher in the 90’s than is today. 

Out of everything…education is always worth it. His dad was an educator 50 years. Keep reminding self of why. Make an impact on kids. Look at new environment where you can make impact on kids if current one doesn’t. 

Find Aaron online: He has no website. Twitter @principalelse & LinkedIn -isn’t too big on social.

View this episode on YouTube:  https://youtu.be/VQt5HgQlt1I


Episode #216: Cathy Jean-François


Cathy Jean-François, an educator with the NYC Department of Education, has a BA in Creative Writing and Literature from Hofstra University and a Master’s Degree in Education from St. John’s University. When she is not working on lesson plans and grading assignments for her 7th grade and high school students, she is either writing a new post for her blog, Cathy’s Cross: A Depressive’s Positive Perspective or sending out query letters for her completed novel, The Box, for which she used her own personal experience with depression and anxiety to develop the inner conflict for her main character.

 Trench story: first time she experienced anxiety attack and had no idea she was having it. Had quit working for a publisher. Was an ESL sub teacher to adult Russian students in Brooklyn. Before her first day on the job, was thinking about all she needed to prepare, had only subbed with MS students. Felt tightening in her chest. It increased. Lay down in bed. Made herself get over it. Took train from home to school. Then realized a few months later she’d gone thru a panic attack. Also, as I was reflecting on what I wanted to focus on during the podcast and after listening to some of your episodes, I thought of a much stronger example of me surviving the trenches of the classroom. In September of 2019, I was a new teacher at the all-girl public school in which I now teach. I didn’t have my own schedule/curriculum and was instructed to “shadow” some teachers in the school. That December, a 7th grade English and AP high school English teacher had to leave, and I was his replacement. 3 groups of 7th graders, 1 HS group. The students were not shy to let me know that their allegiance to their former teacher was still very strong. They treated her like she was a new teacher. I had to prove myself as a teacher to them but before I could do that, I had to be okay with being their teacher! It was hard for her to be the authentic her. They were so unreceptive to me that it was hard for me to step into that classroom every day and every day, I had to find new ways to combat my anxiety. Had to put up a wall. There were a few st’s who accepted her, so more students broke down their barriers. 7th graders didn’t have the preconceptions. It was a process She had to keep in mind it wasn’t about her.

Qu’s: talk about how you overcame social anxiety you experienced as a youngster. What were coping mechanisms you used? She didn’t. She dealt with it by closing herself off. Made it clear she didn’t want to speak w/ anyone. She didn’t know it was called anxiety. Even in college days realized it was something had to find a way to deal with. Took a breather, was friendly w/ others. Gets on her phone & looks for things that make her smile today. 

How has anxiety led you to become a better English teacher and list some challenges you have met through the years, while teaching. Once you’re in front of the CR, you have to just do your thing. Taught 9th graders. Was nervous 1st time she taught seniors. Had to mentally prepare self. Talked about her experience as a student, like taking SATs 3x’s. Started teaching new class, psychology of art. Didn’t quite know what she was doing. Taught it for It helps her get out of anxiety space, telling about her own struggles as a student. College allowed her space to focus. Acted differently. Her coping mechanism- esp. when she had to teach psychology of art. You can’t let them know you don’t know what you’re doing! Just came up w/ things that would challenge them more. Used articles, personal experiences. Coping mechanisms, sometimes let them in on it. Made them to research- like 21/22 SY, they had to do a lot of research on laptops.

In your blog, you write about how anxiety was worse in the summer when you didn’t have work or plans and how your anxiety led you to make an excuse to stay inside instead of going on a walk: When she was single- ppl asked what she was going to do in the summer. Everyone always expects t’s to have tons of plans in the summer. She only wanted to write, watch movies. She told ppl she was going to visit museums, etc. Didn’t enjoy it by herself. Would give self a reason to go outside. Watched tv, wrote. Forced herself to take a walk. Did distractions to stall leaving appt. Couldn’t do it. Felt like a force was keeping her inside. Her sister once talked her through it. It was on a consistent basis. Made excuses like appt. Things she needed to buy. Plan w/ a friend were easier. Met husband & did more outside. 

You list now that you’re married, you always have constant companionship from your husband or twin sister. What do you do when you are alone, does anxiety rear its head? It doesn’t when she is alone now. If husband is busy, she is happy to hang out w/ her sister. Husband is teacher so he also has summers off. She also has a puppy. Excuse to walk dog but prefers not to go to dog park. Likes to walk dog alone.  She may listen to podcasts; social anxiety haunts her. It’s not as uncomfortable as it used to be.  

Talk about your novel The Box and who should read it? It’s for anyone, not just t’s. Wrote the book in trying to understand depression. She started it in her 20’s, wrote over the course of 20 yrs. Is trying to find an agent or go self-publishing route. Young adults may identify w/ it. It has some intimacy. Character is an angry young woman. Not very likable. She needed to change her character’s viewpoint. Wrote down how she was feeling at the time. Felt like she was in a deep dark hole & wanted to stay in her own misery. Character is so deep down in hole she’s created a box around her no one can reach her. It was the best way for Cathy to explain what she was going through. Ppl can relate to it. Other characters in the novel have their battles with depression. It’s helped her find out more about her own battle w/ depression. Keep an eye on her website for when she will find a publisher. 

Wants to talk about app clubhouse– convo rooms. Hosts a room every Sat. @ 11 EST-lasts about 1 hr. Met someone in Sept. thru her sister. Talks about mental health. Today was about pathological liars- is it a disorder? previously about exercise helping with depression. She invites ppl to speak up. Being a teacher draws her to doing the research.

Out of everything… Quote or words of wisdom: Do not let your negative experiences define you! Taught 7th graders who were worried about standardized test last yr. Kids are so preoccupied by state exams defining them. During the pandemic it was optional. She had to tell them not to let scores define them. What defines her is educator & writer. Depression is a tool for her writing. 

Find Cathy online: Social MediaFacebook: Cathy Jean-Francois | Facebook

(mostly on) Instagram: Cathy Marie (@cathy_marie1) • Instagram photos and videos

Linked In: (99+) Marie-Catheline Jean-Francois | LinkedIn

Blog: http://cathyscross.wordpress.com 

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/rNxHkajIwu4

Episode #217: Carly Spina


Carly Spina has 15 years of experience in Multilingual Education, including her service as an EL teacher, a third-grade bilingual classroom teacher, and a district-wide Multilingual Instructional Coach. She is currently a multilingual education specialist at the Illinois Resource Center, providing professional learning opportunities and technical assistance support to educators and leaders across the state and beyond. Spina enjoys connecting with other educators and leaders across the country and beyond and is an active member of the multilingual education professional learning community. Her first book, Moving Beyond for Multilingual Learners, was published in November 2021 by EduMatch Publishing and is available on Amazon.

Trenches story: biggest moment was when we call selves advocates, we poor ourselves into things 150% of capacity. Have to do it within boundaries. Left little to herself, family. Mental capacity went to a rock bottom. Pulled $ out of wallet, lunchroom didn’t want staff to support students. Went on with her day. She didn’t have $ to feed her son because of that. Needed to get better at asking for help. 

Talk about your blogging for TB & book Moving Beyond for Multilingual Learners:  She writes mostly about supporting MLs. This community is fastest growing one in U.S. Look at nurturing mindset that’s inclusive. Even if you don’t have EL endorsement, her posts can springboard discussion. We talk a lot about particular students. Her book is a little of everything. She felt like ML(ELL) field had a band aid approach to everything. It was just “add a visual”. How can we help them navigate grade-level content? How do we serve families & connect with diff. agencies? Every chap. starts with “moving beyond…” Chapter on supporting students with academics, SEL through multilingual lense & community engagement. Chapter on self-care since there’s one of us for the entire school. 

Walk me through your role as multilingual education specialist at the Illinois Resource Center, are you still able to get into schools much and if not, what do you miss?  She is still in schools, but it’s a step removed from working with kids.  Helps teachers stretch their practice. Uses co-teaching concepts. It’s a dream job. Attended a state-wide conference at IRC as a teacher. Wakes up honored to have this position. Has contract with IL State Board of Ed. Webinars for EL teachers. 

Pd you consult with districts on: Popular topics she works with district on is looking at MTSS Structures. Making sure they’re linguistically, culturally responsive. Are PD options being provided by ppl who have EL endorsement? Utilize diff. data sets, etc. LTELL (long-term Engl learner)- students who have been in EL program 5 or more yrs. Look @ lang. growth for these students. How can we elevate their lang learning opportunities? Plan instruction through 4 domains of lang. Nystrand (2016) did study, HS CR average 14-52 sec. for students to speak during a class period to talk about content. 

Out of everything? every single person has their own language journey Even if it’s monolingual. We all have experiences that shape us. It’s hard to quantify what students a x proficiency level “should be able to do”. 

Where can ppl find you online? movingbeyondformls.blogspot.com  https://movingbeyondformls.blogspot.com/2022/09/tabletop-tools-inspired-by-tiktok.html links different tools people can use/templates. 

Twitter @MrsSpinasClass carlymspina@gmail.com

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/uxLXaS59gt8

Episode #218: Bryan Zwemke



Bryan Zwemke is an Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Innovation in Illinois with 23 years of experience teaching and leading in rural, suburban, and urban settings focused on student achievement and student engagement. His priorities focus on the core strategies of a guaranteed and viable curriculum, mental health, equity and access for all students, supporting quality teams, and personalized learning for students.

Bryan completed his doctoral program for Educational Leadership at Aurora University defending his dissertation Building Social Capital Through Social Media and is serving as an adjunct professor at Aurora University. As a veteran administrator, Bryan has developed a passion for the necessary change toward future ready education – an ecosystem dedicated to student growth, collaborative spaces and practices, and research supported techniques to long term success. Further, Bryan is a co-facilitator for the Mastermind and sometimes blog contributor. Teach Better Team.

Trench story: different trench each year. Transition from building level leadership. Remembers how principal & superintendent have spoke to him about how you move away from students and “trenches”. she looked at the issue teacher had, broken rulers still in his office. Everything’s important to someone. Allow them to air their issue. 15-16 years ago this stuck with him. 

Move from principal to Asst. Sup. This is his first district-level position was AP, principal for 18 years at MS & HS. Taught 6 yrs. Got into student services, early RTI. First MS, then HS. Gave him full picture. Thinks about his timeline. Blended learning, a lot at HS, looking more at MS level. Is learning more about how to lead through a principal, instead of being the voice/face. His goal is 50%/50 split with being at 2 MS & 1 HS. As a building leader, you get more opportunities for engagement. In current position, he wants to build in some walk-around time with time management. He needs to know staff. Department showcases- set up time with teachers who want to show off what they’re doing in CR. Systemically way of getting into buildings seeing what t’s are up to. Building As a principal, you’re making decisions for next 3 hours or days, now he is more intentional and strategic, implementation plans, what’s sustainable. Is surrounded by great district leaders.

Was this a move you anticipated? Being in his doctoral cohort was best PD he’d had. Had a great cohort for F2F doctorate. He had an eye on district leadership. Met people, more doors opened for him. Where does my educational philosophy match up? He became more selective on where he was applying. He’s getting stretched, learning to support thru building leaders. He’s read more, attended more webinars since entering position. New district.

Adjunct work at Aurora University He was teaching curriculum, instruction & assessment class. Enjoyed it. His dissertation is  Building Social Capital Through Social Media . He went through demographics. Studied highest performing HS in state where they fell w/ climate/culture. Talks about what schools share on website- what’s happening on a day to day basis. Who was using what. Communicating with kids, use IG. He walked around and did IG stories. Twitter is about Edu. PLN. WE can get into strategies, being intentional about what you’re sharing. What’s good & what’s not. He talks with students about maintaining digital footprint. We need to experience what’s happening in the classroom as public. Families need to understand what’s happening in CR. They otherwise create their own neighborhood. They did an audit, created a class #. Academic achievement, supportive environment. You control your feed & alogrhymn. Stories can be portrait of graduate.  Opportunities for 2-way dialogue. Great retention/recruitment tool.  Push out info at a certain time of week/day. Look at metrics. Words are great, pics are better, video is best.

He loves to coach admin. Teach Better Team admin mastermind facilitator. He’s had good mentors, wants to pass it along. They were excellent thought partners. Building capacity through people. Do they need to solve a problem or vent? He does it through his district. Movement among admin. in general people he’s worked with who have moved up. He takes pride in coaching them to move up. Not too much attrition, come & go. Recognizing where talent is. Line of succession. IF x happens, moving pieces on chessboard.Athletes have coaches, musicians take lesson. All educators should have. It’s a team sport. Say “you’re doing a great job, here’s where I can see you grow”. Let them get coached so they turn around & coaching. 

Out of everything…It’s important to be active in your story. Your story’s about students. We’re here to support students & teachers. Understand that narrative. It’s a relational industry. 

Where can ppl find you online? Twitter @bryanzwenke, LinkedIn Would love to have cup of coffee, in person or virtually.

View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/ubiTvOpZmdc


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