Celebrating School Principals: Now and All Year Long (Part 3)

As National Principals Month comes to a close, we’re elevating principal voices to motivate and inspire the next generation of aspiring principals to step into the role. Read on.
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Every great principal started as an aspiring principal. In honor of National Principals month, we’re elevating principal voices on why—and how—educators should move into leadership and advance their educational careers. 

“Neither of us were planning to be principals,” explains Karen Bryan-Chambers and Claire Fisher, both former principals and New Leaders alumni. “We loved teaching and didn’t want to lose our connections to the school community. But we got thrust into leadership positions very quickly—Bryan-Chambers after Hurricane Katrina and Fisher during the founding of a new charter school—and found them both daunting and energizing.” Today, Bryan-Chambers serves as a leadership coach for New Leaders, and Fisher serves as district leader for middle schools in Oakland. Both want to inspire the next generation of school leaders. 

Hear from more principals on how you, too, can answer the call to lead. These three blogs are for you.

Stepping Up: Advice & Insights For Aspiring Principals

Are you willing to grow as a leader—and help others grow as well? 

“The principalship is more than a solo experience,” Paul Barnhardt advises. As a New Leaders alum and school leader, he offers this key learning: “The principalship is about building a team, distributing leadership, and empowering others to embrace their own leadership journey.” 

Being a school principal is challenging in a different way from being a teacher. Instead of empowering individual students on a daily basis, you now play a primary role in empowering the educators and staff that drive school improvement and accelerate student achievement. Doing so requires a multi-faceted approach to leadership; a combination of several different leadership styles and approaches to drive success. For that reason, you’ll need to pay attention to which kind of leadership style comes naturally to you and which presents an opportunity for growth. 

Consider more reflective questions from principals to fuel your journey forward. 

From Aspiring Principals to Transformational Leaders

“I just fell in love with the craft,” Joaquin Tamayo reflects on the start of his career in education. “I fell in love with the opportunity to help guide and develop young people so they could really understand and live out their best potential, whatever that happened to be.”

Tamayo is currently the chief of staff to the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education. A New Leaders alum, he has served in multiple leadership roles: high school teacher, principal, national nonprofit director, federal policymaker. He is passionate about redesigning our public education system so that equity in all of its dimensions—equity of experience, opportunity, relationships, gender, race, and more—has a greater chance of being achieved for our nation’s youth. 

“We need leaders who demonstrate that all of this matters,” adds Tamayo. “If you think you're that person, then persevere. Be resilient and good things will happen as long as you keep holding hope and belief front and center.” 

Read more leadership journeys of leaders who were once aspiring principals too.  

Principal Preparation: What We Know Works Best

Every day, we hear from aspiring leaders across the country who are looking to step into the principal role. They know how demanding—and rewarding—the job can be. They have passion. They have drive. And they want the best preparation possible. If you’re thinking about taking that next step in your leadership journey, here is what you need to know.

This October, and all year long, we celebrate the importance and lasting impact of school leaders. (See our three-part series.) When principals hold high expectations for educators, staff, and students, there’s tangible confidence and a sense of agency. The entire school community feels they can accomplish great things—and they reach new heights. #thankaprincipal

To all the educators and aspiring leaders who are thinking about that next step, perhaps now is your time. Answer the call to lead today. 

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