Why teachers aspire to be principals

At a time when teachers are leaving the profession, many educators still not only want to stay but aspire to become school leaders. In a roundtable discussion, three such teachers talk about why they want to become principals. They include Drew Kaman, an honors and AP chemistry teacher at Washingtonville Central High School in Washingtonville, NY, and a member of NASSP’s Aspiring School Leaders Network; Eric Stearns, district music coordinator and choral director at St. Helens High School in St. Helens, OR; and Amber Vanzant, a significant support needs special education teacher at Mead High School in Longmont, CO.


The power of a teacher dashboard

Robyn R. Jackson, the founder of Buildership University, has developed a simple tool to help principals evaluate teacher data and use it in a way that makes sure those teachers get exactly what they need when they need it. The “teacher dashboard” can, at a minimum, “help you as an administrator help teachers grow at least one level in one critical domain each school year. Often, you—and they—can grow far more,” she says. The dashboard, which most principals create using a simple spreadsheet, includes the following components:

  • basic teacher information
  • critical area of improvement
  • type of support needed
  • support notes

Colorado program coaches principals

A principal development program in Colorado focuses on a straightforward theory: “If principals can build systems that create a sense of collective teacher efficacy and a culture and climate that empowers, then teacher retention and satisfaction will increase, and this will have a positive impact on student learning outcomes,” explains Trish Malik, a leadership development specialist with the Colorado Department of Education. In four years, the two-year-Principal Leadership Institute has developed 80 coaches and served 87 principals in 53 school districts. The program consists of three main elements:

  • leadership for professional learning             
  • monthly coaching sessions      
  • site visits with principal coaches

Bringing student voice to the forefront

The importance of student voice in secondary school cannot be overemphasized, says Beth Houf, the principal of Capital City High School in Jefferson City, MO, and an NASSP board member. “When students are given the opportunity to be active participants in their education, they become better learners and contribute to the development of a more enlightened and responsive society,” she says. “Embracing student voice is not a mere educational trend; it is the key to unlocking the full potential of our students and, in turn, the future of our world.” Houf outlines several initiatives she has adopted at her school, including:

  • a student advisory team                               
  • student-led professional development days
  • student voice walkarounds                          
  • involvement in the interview process
  • student ambassadors                                   
  • student school board members