The Collegial Coach

Jerod Phillips tirelessly builds relationships and pursues new learning.

After a successful career in the for-profit sector, Jerod Phillips set his sights on education. He taught math before moving into administration as assistant principal at Cedar Lane Elementary, a role that earned him a National Outstanding Assistant Principal (NOAP) award in 2021.

Now in his second year as principal of the school, Phillips has brought his knowledge of teaching and coaching together by building collegial relationships with staff. And as part of his promise to never stop learning, he also listens to the school’s stakeholders to make informed decisions.

Principal magazine recently asked Phillips about his leadership philosophy, goal-setting, his favorite leadership moment, and more. Here’s what he said:

What drives how you approach the job?

The main thing is keeping an inclusive mindset—just knowing that every student who walks through our doors belongs there. We need to be strategic and intentional about our resources to make sure that we’re serving all the needs of students.

How do you help your staff set goals for their classrooms and instruction?

A lot of times, teachers are harder on themselves than any principal or assistant principal could be. So I give them feedback, then use their input and build upon that. I open the floor and say, “OK, what areas do you think you need professional development in? What areas do you want to grow in?”

As an NOAP, you mentioned that one of your best practices is to never stop learning. What’s something you’ve learned since transitioning to principal?

One thing I’ve learned is that no matter how experienced you are, you always can use coaching. And what I mean is having somebody watch you professionally and having some real dialogue. I can be on Twitter or listen to podcasts all night, but if I’m not getting feedback from somebody I have a connection with, I can only get to a certain level.

What is the best “leadership moment” you’ve had since becoming a principal?

Seeing a young adult start as a student teacher and become a strong teacher. She worked with me and one of my experienced teachers and took over a classroom that needed some restructuring. She wound up turning those kids around academically [and] basically earned herself the job.

What is your favorite part of the school day as the school’s principal?

My favorite part of the day is going into the classrooms and interacting with kids; also, being able to see teachers doing a phenomenal job and give them kudos. Lunch duty, afterschool duty—I like to send kids home with smiling faces.