My podcast- Show Notes

Episode #42: Danny Bauer

A former principal and English teacher, Danny hosts masterminds with school leaders across the globe,

Danny Bauer is the Founder of Better Leaders, Better Schools, podcast host, author of the #BLBSRoadmap. Danny provides coaching to leaders, aka “ruckus makers” to bring them out of the isolation that is often found in school leadership in order to help them #levelup their leadership, as well as providing them with tools such as vivid vision and ideal week. 

Tell me about a time when you were in the trenches and managed to crawl out: He shares it’s normal, but sometimes you find yourself in a lot of muck! He was new to a community. It was his last principalship-he started there when kids got there. Things were great from Aug-Oct. The principal supervisor gave him good feedback at the beginning. Then he was written up for the first time in his career, it was a shock to his gut, then got messages from his supervisor along the lines of “we have serious concerns”. The “lived experience” like what was present on social media was positive. He had to dig into his gratitude journal, leaned into a community around him like the Mastermind he was part of. They helped him see straight. Entrepreneurs are successful because often they got pushed out of a job. It was a toxic culture, tough relationship, but it segwayed into his current reality. He did take it personally and it hurt at first. The #BLBS brand was being used against him. His boss was giving him the impostor syndrome. He composed himself with fight or flight. Write ups didn’t have to do with student achievement, culture, or climate. He wanted to figure out “how do I prove them wrong”. How did his perspective shift? A year later, he was visiting his mom in FL. Sitting there seeing the FL sun, had just released his #BLBSRoadmap book. He took a screenshot. Looked at people in the Mastermind- almost 60. A year prior, he’d asked his wife to give him a year to do #BLBS fulltime, in 2017 moved to Belgium. At the kitchen table, he looked at how his business performed, had made more $ through BLBS than as a principal. It took about a year later to not take it personally. He’s thankful for the trenches experience, it pushed him to be where he’s at now. 

Talk to me about your evolution of interviewing guests, how you think your hosting the Better Leaders, Better Schools podcast has changed in the past 5 years? He feels like he started yesterday. He thinks, woah those old episodes. Just jump in, iterate, evolve. He hired a podcast coach in 2019; he heard some things from his previous supervisor that was correct. The coach gave him some feedback. In terms of interview style, he wanted the podcast to sound more like a conversation. He wants to personalize it to make guest more like a hero. He learned to do the hard work to spend a little time to get to know the guests first. Sometimes they have mutually agreed, “this isn’t gonna work”. 

Talk about how go about choosing the books to read in the Mastermind. It is fluid, sometimes he makes changes related to what happens in society. He doesn’t mean the book’s perfect, but he wants to have the conversation around it. He wants Mastermind members to read as little about education as possible. His belief is we already read too much about education. He wants to find books from female authors + authors of color.  He wants folks to work on their mindset. The Mastermind is currently reading “Thinking in Bets” by Annie Duke. Why are we reading about poker? It’s about making smart decisions.  

Are you working on anything in particular common to all the Masterminds? You have to have boundaries and exclude generously. He used to let teachers in. Often, it wasn’t right for the group. Superintendents- tried to launch one twice, but interest fizzled out. He defines school leaders locally: principals, assistant principals, instructional coaches, assistant superintendents.  He has loose + tight rules for what is discussed in the Mastermind, the structure is similar for all, it allows members to facilitate, they bring their own unique strengths to show. You get to accelerate your own journey, figure it out within the hour on the “hot seat”.

Talk a little about your upcoming book which will be out next summer- “Unlocking the Talent within each Principal” is a possible working title. It’s about helping people start their own Mastermind. 44,000 words had been written at time of recording with 2 chapters to go. His first draft was submitted in November. It should be out in July. His first book, #BLBS Roadmap- was written in only 3 months. Was self-published so he could include tips. This new one is being published by Corwin, so he has to include research. If you serve consistently and how you serve, if it’s valuable, you’ll get rewarded. He knows every district has unlocked potential. Sometimes districts overlook leadership training. They don’t talk about vision, enrollment. He fills in that gap through the mastermind. Includes tips you can apply to your small internal leadership team, gives tips to start their own.

Talk about PD, keynotes you’re currently doing? He doesn’t have any scheduled for the moment, due to the ongoing pandemic. In the past, he’s often talked about personal presence related to weather, climate tied to routines, rituals. How you show up impacts how you do. Science around being constantly connected to work. He talks about his personal philosophy- his is to be an intentional catalyst. It’s going to have an impact how you show up. He journals every day. Needs to start the day the right way.

Key quotes: He hopes listeners heard “give yourself some grace”, put out a video on social around the time of recording about being gentler, kinder, self-care, grace. Don’t think you need to have it all figured out. When you have solid routines and rituals, things fall into place.

Where can ppl find you online? Follow Danny on Twitter @alienearbud, visit his website at: or email him at View his episode on YouTube:

Episode #43: Darrin Peppard

Darrin is the author of the book “Road to Awesome: Empower, Lead, Change the Game”.

Dr. Darrin Peppard, the self-proclaimed recovering high school principal, is a school district superintendent, speaker, and consultant. Darrin’s expertise in school culture and climate, along with coaching and growing emerging leaders has made him a leading voice in school leadership on an international level. Darrin has served kids and adults as a superintendent, principal, assistant principal, teacher, and coach. Darrin was recognized as the Jostens Renaissance Educator of the Year in 2015, Wyoming Secondary School Principal of the Year by WASSP/NASSP in 2016, and in 2019, he was inducted into the Jostens Renaissance Hall of Fame. In 2017, Darrin earned his Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Wyoming.

Tell me about a time when you were in the trenches: The transition to being a principal from Assistant Principal in the same school in SW Wyoming. He had 3 different superintendents. He got lost deep in the trenches, and had to scaffold his way out. What does being the “instructional leader” of the building mean? How did he help everyone maintain balance in spite of massive, sweeping changes with new superintendents? He had to rebuild a lot of culture that had been torn down with the first superintendent. Thinking of that, it was 40’ down the hallway, but might as well have been 200 miles. Enormous struggles. Road to Awesome comes from that particular point. He had to understand the value of teacher/leader coaching. One of the keys in his book- 2 questions that changed his life. First year as an AP, there was a broken culture. They were preoccupied by catching both adults + kids doing things wrong. As he went though the process, he was in charge of discipline and attendance. Teachers wanted to focus on punishment to gain compliance. Finally someone said, “find out what they do right”. This allowed them to change over time how they looked at school culture. They went from a horrific attrition rate/graduation rate to great attendance. Darrin spent 5 years as AP and 6 as principal. He started his Ed.D. 6 months before accepting thee principalship. Focus was on “let’s recognize what we truly value”.

Tell me about your work with Jostens Renaissance (made video for the district). He loves video because it features the high school where he was principal. It highlights wanting to build connections with students at their school- they’ll be more likely to go into great post-sec choice if they have a significant connection in their school. It reinforces the importance of relationships. This is an opportunity to really change the face of things, especially in high school. We should start looking at high schoolers as adults, give them leadership opportunities as adults, for they can be incredible at what they do. In his district, the grand visioning project was to create the profile of a learner, which used to be done by a committee. Every student was involved in this process. It was like a puzzle piece with different symbols, ideas came directly from learners.

When did you change your doctorate dissertation topic? He changed it to perceptions principals had of first principalship after his first year as principal. He was interested in processes that were involved with tech-instructional implementation prior to the change. One of his superintendents connected him with a leadership coach. It changed the thinking in his head. There were some traditional staff members who weren’t all that welcoming to changing school culture. “This too shall pass”, he thought- since some people still contribute to a school’s negative culture. You can’t change school culture alone. His dissertation was then focused on leadership coaching. Th biggest mistakes novice principals make is they feel they have to solve everyone’s problems and be the purveyor of knowledge. His previous principal delegated “sandboxes”. Changed leadership dynamic in the high school. In his current district, he feels “it’s not our job to solve problems, it’s their job HELP them”. Principals he researched for his dissertation struggled with the ability to build cultures and lead PD. It’s critical to get outside feedback as a pricipal, someone who isn’t right there with you in the job. They can stand outside on the balcony. His leadership coach said, “You’re not a firefighter, you have AP’s to do that”. He had to spend time to help improve student outcomes. Challenges with principal leadership mentioned above him led to him becoming superintendent.

Walk me through the application process to become a superintendent? For him, it was a several year-long process. When his daughter graduated, he wanted to look at stepping to the next level. He knew he needed to go to a different location. Not all states require superintendent licensure. Not all people in Colorado as superintendent have doctorates. It’s not necessarily about thee letters behind your name, but your experience, ability to lead. The job he holds in Western Grand County, CO, is vastly different than in Denver Public Schools. It was his belief that he needed to just apply to assistant superintendent jobs. Then the “perfect” position opened when his daughter had graduated. He hasn’t worked in an urban district, rules are so different. He was able to visit different communities. Other superintendent said “keep in mind you’re looking for fit, that you’re going to fit the values of the district”. Now he is able to impact at the system level. Enjoys hanging out with some urban-area superintendents. We have to do everything we can to control the narrative of our schools. Every district has amazing things happening. Whether or not we’re willing to have coffee chats, that’s where he’s at.

How long did it take you to finish your book Road to Awesome and when did it get released? The day he got a call that he was a finalist for the superintendent position, he defended his dissertation. Then realized he had something to share, book-wise, in Jan. 2018. Took a lot of starts & stops. He didn’t want to write a “don’t do what my last boss did” type book. He wanted to land in between that and philosophical books. Early on, he couldn’t stand what he was writing. In Dec. ‘19 started writing again, it started to flow. Was inspired by Jonathan Alsheimer. Reached out to a publisher in February 2020 and shared 3 chapters. His full draft was in complete in April. Published in July. Other authors helped him connect his story with his passion. Once he did so, it took him about 4-5 months to write. It’s like his own leadership manifesto. He has a great work/life balance. You need to have a formula as a leader, but don’t necessarily follow his leadership. For him, it wasn’t so hard to go from principal to superintendent. He doesn’t struggle with being comfortable not being the only one doing the work. He has developed a strong leadership team who shares the lift. Intentional on modeling taking care of yourself. In his district, they’re back full-time in-person. Community was thrilled, they really wanted kids back in schools. Visit his superintendent’s page at West Grand Schools:

Tell me what your Keynotes are about? The one he gives the most has evolved into his book- a 30,000’ view, about what he’s spent a lot of time with. Breakout sessions- rapid fire ideas about culture builders that will give you results right away and what will help you reinforce the culture you want, PD workshops.  

Key quotes: “leadership matters”, bottom line. We’re at a critical time. It’s the single most powerful lever to make differences in student outcomes. Teachers who are willing to innovate, create.

Follow Darrin on Twitter: @DarrinMPeppard    IG: @darrinpeppard     FB: darrinmpeppard or visit his website:  Watch this episode on YouTube:

Episode # 44: Will Winfield

Episode #44: William Winfield (

Will has over 5 years of experience in public speaking, mentoring and coaching

Will Winfield is a young millennial certified professional speaker, educational consultant, Minister, Authors, and DISC consultant. Will is also a Father of two wonderful sons, and beautiful daughter, a husband to Jennifer. He is one of the most sought-after motivational speakers for inspiring and activating students and educators in America. His own life experiences such as being in foster care, homelessness, losing a football scholarship, raised by a single mother, and being molested have prepared him well and have made him an expert in his field. His transparency, honesty and heart-felt desire to inspire people to achieve greatness is what sets Will apart.

Tell me about a time you were in the trenches and managed to crawl out: He became homeless after he lost his job at a manufacturing company. Supervisor called him out, was RIF’ed. He was able to reconnect with a friend, contacted his friend Gilbert. He tells students at his speaking engagements that they need to cultivate real friendships. He got a job at a shelter. Was a reality shift, gut check. A guy named Anthony who had suicidal thoughts, he was always on the floor, spoke with Will. Anthony said “life isn’t worth living”. Will said “you will get through this”. When Anthony came back from hospital, he said “because of you, you changed my life”. He then got a job at drug rehab facility. He was 25 years old, speaking to much older men. His speaking strength came from being homeless and that’s how he’s able to share his story.

What led you to speaking at high schools & colleges? Will reached out to community members and wanted to share his story. He did a presentation to 7 students. They were inspired, motivated. He had a presentation to present to larger groups gradually. He didn’t want students to make the same mistakes he did. He speaks mostly to high schoolers and at colleges. He has been giving a lot of speeches virtually for the time being. When he speaks, he wants to add value in different areas, such as confidence, self-esteem. He often works with kids in small groups.

What is your vision for how you want your leadership role to evolve in 2021?  He says “don’t make life deep”. He will still share his authentic story. Principals are the “head coach” of the school. He will attack the “pain points” of the school. Right now during virtual engagements, he will build off of his evolution as a public speaker. He didn’t want to speak into a role of speaking. He thinks it was something that was thrown. He was focused on being perfect. When it comes to public speaking, it’s about you being yourself. Public speaking is the second greatest fear besides death. Don’t focus on what the audience sees. How he evolved was studying the greats, Les Brown, looking at the game film of his speeches. It’s not about the speaker, it’s about the audience. When he started, everything kind of fell into place.

When you’ve travelled where do you go? He goes wherever he needs to go, east coast, FL. Wherever the mission is, that’s where he’s going. For him, it amazes him that people request him. He’s been a lot of places, and is thankful for that. He’s done a few corporate engagements. 

Share a success from a building that you’ve spoken at, how they’ve followed up with you after speaking there. Feb. 2020 he did a presentation for Black History month, 45 minutes, but was there the whole day. All students came up to him after, one specific student came up, started crying. Will embraced him, said “these painful moments will make you who you are”. Got feedback that it was so quiet during presentations. He was looking at his phone, they sent him msg via Instagram. 55 students sent him messages, he responded back.

Key quotes that resonate with him: Geno Auriemma, head coach of the Huskies “Without pressure, it’s hard to do great things”. Pressure is what makes you great. Be in a mindset that you will be in your full potential.

Connect with Will on Twitter @williamwinfield IG: willisblessed LinkedIn / FB: williamwinfield View his YouTube channel @williamwinfield which has episodes from his speaking. View this episode on YouTube:

Episode #45: Jessica Cabeen

Episode #45: Jessica Cabeen (

Jessica is the author of “Leading with Grace”, “Hacking Early Learning”, “Unconvential Leadership” & co-author of “Balance like a Pirate”.

Jessica Cabeen was named the 2017 MN Principal of the Year and the 2016 NAESP/VINCI Digital Leader of Early Learning. Jessica is the Principal of Ellis Middle School in Austin Minnesota. Prior to that, she was the principal of the “Happiest Place in Southeastern Minnesota”, the Woodson Kindergarten Center. She has been an assistant middle school principal, a special education supervisor, and special education teacher. She started her career as a Music Therapist and worked with adults with disabilities and adolescents in residential settings in Iowa and Illinois. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Music Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, a Masters in Special Education from the University of Saint Thomas, and her administrative licenses from Hamline University.

On social media, Jessica co-moderates #ECEChat as well as engages with other educators looking to make all things possible for our young learners, and learners that are young at heart. She enjoys quality time at home with her husband Rob and her two sons.

Tell me about a time you were in the trenches: Last fall, there was a social media incident at her school. Through this experience, she learned you have to share your story or someone else will share it for you.

How are we becoming more resilient in this season of COVID so we can come out of it stronger? The pieces she was most afraid of in the summer were “listening sessions”, it was intimidating to start. The governor released expectations for return to learning early August. She heard from students, parents, and ALL staff. What she thought were the pressing issues were not . It helped with resiliency to know what we can’t control. It set boundaries around what she couldn’t control. It made her a happier person. For the listening sessions, she practiced beforehand, was super nervous, contacted peoplee she knew from the kindergarten center.

Talk about experience with the hybrid model at your school so far. To highlight the positive aspects of hybrid, she gathered feedback from the spring that 7 periods per day weren’t going to be ideal in a hybrid setting. They have a block schedule. It’s led to a platform for relationships. Classes are 12-15 kids. The kids are just receiving instruction those days they are in-person. Block schedule reduced the cognitive load for students. She co-teaches an advisory-type class AVID with SEL.

Your self-care- talk about what you’re doing to take time for self-care: She did take a free online course on resiliency at the beginning of the summer. She wasn’t taking care of herself 4th quarter of last year. Her head makes it out to be 100x’s worse. It could be an opportunity to build on relationships. We’re really restless with worry during the pandemic now, it can be hard to sleep. Make sure you’re getting optimal sleep.  She has done just a few keynotes during the pandemic and she made an effort to decline speaking engagements virtually. She senses she won’t be the only one making life changes. COVID gave her a chance to connect with her boys more. She has been spending more time connecting with women in general, in their own leadership, what they’re doing.

Share a story of a student who was almost up for expulsion. She’s had 5 students in 20 yrs she’s been involved in the life of, outside + inside of school. Sadiq was a kindergartener with challenging behaviors, was gifted. They stayed connected, when her son was born she went to visit him. Worked as a liaison with him later. He graduated 2 yrs ago. Guardian passed away when he was in 6th grade. She grew as an educator, mom. Made such an impact on her.

Talk about being your son’s principal. Adoption of Isiah when he was 5. Her void was filled by helping Sadiq. Isaiah entered her family when she was starting as a K principal. It helped her see talents of ELL teachers and how they supported him. In her current 7-8 building relationships with kids, and seeing them when they come back. She’s out at parent drop-off. She’s open to staying connected. She calls herself a “grand-principal”, 2 students of hers have had babies. She does have boundaries, have relationships with kids when they leave, they need some encouragement.

Let’s talk about your re-branding and next steps for the future and how you’d like to continue to serve. She was working on changing her site color scheme, elevating, doing 1 thing differently: purpose, passion, peace. Purpose is really beneficial to her coming back to school. She is also rebranding outside education.

Key Quotes: celebrating success, think back to the beginning of the year and think: what are you most worried about? What did you learn from it? What are you really proud of? Mini-wins and success.

Follow Jessica on Twitter/IG @jessicacabeen FB: @principalinbalance Visit her website: to sign up for her monthly newsletter Watch this episode on Youtube:

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