Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Study the leadership of John Wooden and you will find hundreds of quotes that encapsulate his philosophy, his actions, and his achievements as UCLA Men's Basketball coach. Delve deeper into Coach Wooden's work, and you will discover an accomplished leader with small-town roots and a deep sense of humility. Before all else, Coach Wooden was a proud teacher.

"I'm Glad I Was a Teacher."
- Coach John Wooden

Upon leaving the classroom to pursue school leadership, my family circumstances provided an opportunity to begin a new personal pursuit: volunteering as a coach in our local community youth leagues. Much like being a teacher and principal, each season as a t-ball, baseball, softball, basketball, and soccer coach has been a "season of learning" for me, both personally and professionally.

  • As a dad, I invest in quality family time with each of my own children.
  • As an educator, I stay in-tune with how children learn and how, as adults, we can work together to support their success.
  • As a principal, I can develop a balanced sense of organizational leadership, seeing learning from multiple perspectives: child, parent, team, league, and community.
  • And as a person, I can find work-life balance, and/or, work-life integration.
I've approached each new experience eager to contribute time and energy to my community. But I am always equally as eager to learn from the quality of my experiences as a "coach".

So after a decade of teaching, a decade of coaching, and an overlapping near-decade of leadership, I've come to appreciate a simple set of parallels between my educational philosophy, my coaching philosophy, and my leadership philosophy.
  1. Be a good teammate and a good sport.
  2. Focus on personal improvement.
  3. Have fun.
These values remain constants for me, and transfer from classroom, to playing field, to school, and to life. Through the years, and more recent significant shifts in our educational landscape, these principles of coaching have helped me sustain confidence and clarity in leadership. With every new situation, challenge, and opportunity, these tenets are my own "North Star".

Becoming a Connected Educator has expanded my scope as coach, teacher, and leader, to once again embrace the role of "student". By willingly accepting this challenge - to stretch my abilities as a learner - I continue to grow and improve as a leader.


In February, I was granted an incredible opportunity: to attend the Ignite15 NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) Conference in San Diego, California. As a "small-town guy" this experience not only opened my eyes to a wider world of how great leaders lead, but it also provided me with opportunities to connect with leaders who possess a distinguishing set of special qualities. Like Coach Wooden, they are humble, they are generous, and they are teachers.

For four days and nearly 3,000 miles from home, I immersed myself in a culture of learning and excellence. I attended thought-sessions, learning labs, viewpoint sessions, and technology tutorials that expanded my perspectives on what is and what could be in our schools. I engaged in formal and informal conversations in conference centers, hallways, and over meals. The topics ranged from engaging adolescents and supporting families, to designing authentic and meaningful learning experiences for communities, to pushing learning beyond the school walls for all learners. The sense of empowerment that came from building relationships with others leaders who share these values and believe in the importance of collaboration was inspiring.

My time in San Diego provided a chance to reflect on my core leadership values as well as the idea that leadership must evolve. I experienced this first-hand, with other leaders and role models who are doing amazing things for kids, schools, and communities. And not only were these leaders willing to be transparent in sharing formulas for their success, but they've been willing to stay connected, as great coaches do, to see and support the success of others, above and beyond the call of duty. Connected educators, I find, push back on the isolation that traditionally comes with leadership and in some cases, traditional educational models. Together, we are proud to challenge ourselves to be better for others.

So...aside from a new-found affinity for fish tacos, friendly locals, and 64 degree February weather, what did I take away from my experience in San Diego?

Here are 15 Leadership Lessons from Ignite15:

Lesson 1: Every Learner, Every Day.

Lesson 2: Grow Your Mindset.

Lesson 3: Be an efficient problem solver.

Lesson 4: Embrace inquiry.

Lesson 5: Build community.

Lesson 6: Leadership is about people.

Lesson 7: Meet learners where they are.

Lesson 8: Build trust with all learners.

Lesson 9: Be open to tools of efficiency.

Lesson 10: Let learners lead.

Lesson 11: Celebrate choice.

Lesson 12: The best connections are personal.

Lesson 13: Honor Your Leadership Legacy.

Lesson 14: Model, support, and expect courage.

"Girls First Ski Jump" (1:49)
(Shared via Jimmy Casas and Jason Markey)

Lesson 15: "If I am through learning, I am through." - Coach John Wooden

Coach Wooden, a perennial winner, was a proud and disciplined learner. As I approach the close of each season, school year, and learning experience I find myself intentionally reflecting on growth, opportunity, and setting the course for improvement. While the experience of attending the Ignite15 Conference was an event, like learning, the growth as a learner that I experience continues daily. And while it begins and ends with my own motivation to learn and lead, the meaningful connections I've made, to people with resources and tools they're willing to share is what will push me further.

And for that, I am grateful.