What Do 10 Top Education Leaders Think?

Words of wisdom from 10 Top Education Leaders

Take these education leaders into your next school faculty meeting, district administrative council gathering, or next class for some inspired sharing. (ABC order)

Supt. John C. Carver

Supt. John C. Carver

1. Superintendent John C. Carver (@JohnCCarver) heads the Howard-Winneshiek Community Schools in Northeast Iowa (Cresco). He always speaks his education mind, and is already getting staff and students Future Ready.

“For me, a digital device in the hands of a learner, adult or student, can be a game changer. When that happens, you can get outside of the kingdom. Your instruction is not limited, no matter where you are, districts small and large, rural or urban.

We have to get better at figuring out what students’ passions are, and connecting that passion possibly with a profession. It is a conversation we have in my district. Discovering that passion is important. If a student’s passion leads to a profession—great—but if not, we need to find that profession that allows students to meet their passion. Waiting until high school to do that, is too late. In my system, technology is seamlessly embedded throughout.”




Dr. Sherry Eagle

2. Dr. Sherry Eagle, former superintendent, is presently Executive Director, for a new STEM school and teaching model, that brings in all the stakeholders necessary for success.

“How do you create a system, an initiative within a system—and within multiple school districts that can actually be a part of the whole, and operate to give back? Before we even began, to put together the thinking of the program, and what this course of study could look like, we were reflective in developing a contextual framework. All the stakeholders coming together built that framework.

Typically in a school district—or in a university, where you design curriculum—most times you do it in a vacuum. You bring together people from like-minded fields, or just one field—and you sit and dialogue and draft a curriculum. In some cases, you do it as a solitary experience. We decided, instead, that we were going to draft a STEM curriculum as part of a course of study at Aurora University. So we designed a series of graduate courses, where the goals for those courses would actually be to write a curriculum, design activities, and develop resources.

The point was two-fold. You immerse everyone into the project in terms of ownership, and you also immerse everyone as creators and designers. By doing that, you begin to build mutual trust, and respect across all parties. When that occurs you can learn from one another, and make things happen, because of that trust.”



Lucy Gray

Lucy Gray

3. Lucy Gray (@elemenous) a long-time educator, based out of Chicago, Illinois, does innovation coaching in schools to help public and private schools develop cultures for innovation, as well as to get them acclimated to mobile learning. Lucy also works with Steve Hargadon on a couple of initiatives. One is a STEM Conference that happens every September as a virtual event, and another is the Global Education Conference, which has been extremely important to her. Lucy works in schools and with teachers, and tries to connect educators across boarders through virtual conferences.

“I think that corporations have an obligation—a corporate-social responsibility to facilitate conversations that will improve education. They have the power and the means to bring people together in interesting and creative ways. I see, every day, teachers doing global projects with their students, and with other classrooms. That’s more common in my world. What I don’t see are all the elements of education coming together—the practitioners, the policy makers, and the leaders. We’re all in this—education—together, and no one group is wiser than another.”



Jill Hobson

Jill Hobson

4. Jill Hobson (@hobsonjill) a former education instructional technology director, and presently Promethean’s Senior Education Strategist believes in the importance of four pillars for education change—engagement, collaboration, personalization, and feedback for learning. Hobson believes that while you can talk about all of them separately, they are each a part of the bigger picture for positive change in education.

“Student Engagement is critical, and without it, learning doesn’t happen. Students need to be volunteers to learning. Learning has to be designed to draw students in, and when you do, they will want to learn. Today students may have one, or more devices with them, at all times. These devices have become a part of their lives, just as they are a part of our lives wherever we are. As an adult these devices are part of our work, and for students, that work is schoolwork, and use of student devices applies there as well. Students, today, should be put in situations, where they can use these digital devices.

Students and educators need feedback. If all I do, as a teacher, is test to see if students have mastered, or haven’t mastered—it’s not enough. If there’s assessment, but no feedback until after the class is over, or later—and teachers and students don’t see that—that’s precious time that we can’t get back.”




Dr. Jamie Jensen

5. Dr. Jamie Jensen, discipline-based education researcher, and Assistant Professor of Biology at Brigham Young University (BYU), Provo, Utah, has researched and written about the benefits of active learning to discover what we know, as well as what we have yet to learn—about learning.

“A while back, I wrote a review, where I said that technology is a tool in education, but we can’t fall into the trap that technology is the causative agent. I believe that technology is more a tool to implement things in the classroom like formative assessment. So, I use response system technology for formative assessment. It gives students a chance to think about questions, talk to their classmates, answer questions, and really figure out what they know. It’s sort of a form of metacognition. But the technology, itself, is not something magical. It’s not the thing causing the change—it’s what you’re doing with the technology.

If we’re going to do a flipped model, what should the flipped part look like? Right now at conferences I hear educators talking about their flipped classrooms, and it’s a video lecture, or going to an online education place to watch an instructional video there. Many have students reading from textbooks. What I want to know is—does that matter? If you have the active learning in the classroom, does it matter what you do outside the classroom? It’s second tiered active learning research. We’ve kind of shown active learning works, so it’s time for the second tier to prove why and how, as well as whether it matters what the active learning looks like.”



Dr. Marsha Jones

Dr. Marsha Jones

6. Dr. Marsha Jones (@dr_majones) middle school principal and motivational learning leader at the Rick Schneider Middle School in Pasadena ISD, in southeast Houston, Texas, creates learning environments that succeed, regardless the odds.

“I discovered that successful leadership had a lot to do with frequent meetings and help from professional learning communities (PLCs). The less techie teachers could depend on more techie teachers in collaboration. In that way, very traditional teachers moved to the next step, using technology. I found that it takes coming up with good strategies and plans to get there, and to move forward. How do we move beyond, and get unstuck, in terms of innovation and technology? In the professional development realm, peer evaluation and interaction is important. That gives teachers more opportunities for reflection, in peer conversations around an important topic, such as integrating technology, which allows for better strategic planning. That effort is extremely powerful for moving forward.”



Patrick Larkin

Assist. Supt. Patrick Larkin

7. Assist. Supt. Patrick Larkin (@PatrickMLarkin) has been a classroom educator, building principal, district leader, and always an outspoken advocate for students, teachers, instructional technology, and education change. Today, Larkin is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning in Burlington Public Schools, Burlington, Massachusetts, and blogs education regularly at www.patrickmlarkin.com.

“People think that classroom management has changed a lot because of technology, and it has certainly opened the door for a few more issues we didn’t see before. Aside from that, whether it’s personally texted, or verbal responses, with technology, it is still all about the expectations. Educators can control that, and we can expect to see that feedback in the classroom, and as part of each lesson. Students need to know it is an expectation, and they can rely on it happening every class and each day.

Feedback can’t be optional for teachers or students. They need to know the expectations going in, and that there will be feedback in both directions, too. You can call that part of good classroom management, if you want to, but it’s good teaching to be clear on expectations. You can rely on consistent feedback as being part of good classroom practices. That hasn’t changed much, we were doing “turn and talks” with kids before technology. Engaging students with technology is a little different—we just have to be a bit clearer about the expectations of responses for feedback, when we use technology in the classroom.”



Ron McAllister, Kelly Mill Elementary, Forsyth County Schools, Ga

Principal Ron McAllister

7. Ron McAllister (@rondmac) is Principal of Kelly Mill Elementary School, Forsyth County Schools, Georgia. He is a school leader, who knows technology instruction integration. Forsyth County is a school district north of Atlanta with a student population of a little over 40,000 students. Kelly Mill is one of twenty elementary schools in the district.

“First and foremost, the leadership of a building has to believe in not just the gadgetry, but has to believe in the true impact on teaching and learning that’s required for students to actually be successful. As I’ve shared with colleagues, parents, and civic groups, we as the adults, talk about the gadgets, and it’s the kids who talk about the learning. That tells a huge story in terms of what the focus should really be for us as adults. I know we have to talk about the infrastructure, the capacity, servers, and WiFi, but the reality is that it is more about the instruction in the end. To be focused on that as a leader is critically important.

Teachers have remarked that taking that first step helped them buy in, because there was no expectation that they all had to look the same way in terms of showing how to integrate technology. The point is that teachers could grasp that integration wherever they were on the integration continuum. Wherever teachers start is fine, but they have to start. The hook in all is when educators see their students becoming truly engaged with the content at deeper levels.”



Eric Sheninger

Eric Sheninger

8. Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger) is a Senior Fellow with The International Center for Leadership in Education at Scholastic Achievement Partners, as well as the K12 Director of Technology and Innovation for the Spotswood School District in New Jersey. He works with school leaders and educators across the globe on digital leadership and learning strategies.

“School leaders, today, can’t look at technology as a problem. It is not, and will never be a silver bullet for education, but it’s more about how school leaders effectively utilize technology to improve professional practice, how they empower their staff to integrate technology with purpose, and allow students to create artifacts of learning to demonstrate conceptual mastery. It even extends down to how leaders, especially with technology, have to give up control, trust kids, honor voice, while empowering choice, to allow students to use real world tools to do real world meaningful work. So, where technology has been seen as a problem, it can now, possibly be, the greatest catalyst to deeper, more relevant learning that will truly prepare students for a world, where we don’t know what the jobs will be a year from now—five years from now—and give them the skill sets they truly need to be successful.”




Russian Teacher of the Year Andrey Sedenko

9. Andrey Sidenko (@agsidenko) is an ICT educator, who received the prestigious national Russian Teacher of the Year Award in 2013. He works at school N29 in Mytischi, a town in the Moscow region, but his education reach is global.

“In my opinion, when students are interested and engaged in a lesson, they are interested in learning about the topic, and they are motivated to study, and to go outside the curriculum and are always looking for something new. This student activity motivates a teacher. As a teacher of ICT I have clear understanding that modern technology allows you to solve lots of pedagogical problems using modern approaches, which were practically impossible or inaccessible before.

Groups of students can work together, collaboratively, even if they are in different parts of school, or in different classrooms. They may even work from home, and continue learning and working together with their group.

Technology enables this teamwork to go smoothly, to monitor each student’s contribution to the group work. The works results can be presented in a more visual way. Students can use a range of user-friendly multimedia tools—different digital tools such as digital cameras and document cameras—all kinds of digital sensors to get any necessary information. Then students can process this information and share it using cloud technologies. This approach allows the seamless integration of technologies into modern education and imbues traditional group work with greater efficiency.

It is important to listen to all student opinions. All possible solutions should be assessed so that the student understands why his/her suggestions are effective or not. This is the key change we are experiencing in education today.”



Jim Wynn

Jim Wynn

10. Jim Wynn (@JIM_WYNN) has been head teacher of two secondary schools in the UK, in which he pioneered the use of ICT, as well as experimented in education change long before most education leaders knew there needed to be change. Presently, he is co-founder & Chief Executive Officer of EFF, Education Fast Forward, as well as Chief Executive Officer of Imagine Education.

“As head of a mathematics department in a large secondary school I was suddenly presented with people management issues and paperwork I didn’t even know existed. The one thing I didn’t have to deal with was anybody offering help in my role. Later in my first headship I rang the head of advisory services and asked for help. I asked what I should be thinking about, and what 3 things should be my top priority. He asked me what I thought they should be—reflecting back all of my questions to me. I refused to have him back!

My view is that just two words, trust and respect, capture the essence of what’s needed for the most effective leadership style. With trust and respect we can build a system, in which people can do their jobs, relax, have fun and achieve. Establishing trust and respect requires each stakeholder to hold both trust and respect for all others. This, of course, is where things can break down, unless all of the people in your community share the same vision. And even when the vision is shared there needs to be complete buy-in to the strategies and tactics adopted to execute towards that vision.

In education you can construct a strategic framework to hang onto and this is actually really easy to do. A shared set of goals certainty soon develops commitment—and collaboration soon follows. Crucially, once the community is working within the framework towards the vision and culture of trust and respect, it means that most decisions people make are not questioned. Which means that you can trust the decisions are usually right.”



Editor’s Note: Connect Learning Today appreciates education leaders, who go the extra mile. We’re always grateful when they choose to take the time to have a short conversation with us—about what they think and do.

Article Name
Top 10 Education Leaders
Words of wisdom from 10 Top Education Leaders
One Comment
  • Margonline
    25 May 2016 at 7:07 am -

    Eric Sheninger’s words are thought provoking. Technology is never a hindrance rather is a growth factor for every success of education. Thanks for sharing!!