Diana I. Brown
Seatack Achievable Dream Academy
Virginia Beach, Virginia
1) One of my best practices is leading special education with knowledge and heart. At the onset of my assistant principal appointment, I found myself in a sea of multiple state complaints. The teachers at that school were exhausted and burned out. They had also become very unsure of themselves after losing relationships with parents. In addition, they had lost faith in the knowledge and guidance of previous administrators. As I built rapport with teachers, gained the trust of the community, then my number one goal became to give the teachers basic skills required to navigate an abundance of paperwork, driven by federal, state, and local requirements. I also worked collaboratively with the lead mentor representative for the school and became part of quarterly mentor-mentee meetings- where we discussed and kept a close pulse on needs of our new teachers. With the help of department chairs-, we streamlined special education meetings to include an instructional focus. After seven years as an assistant principal overseeing special education programs and protocols, I have precise methods to grow teachers through professional focused faculty meetings and careful attention to fine-tune our protocols. Also, I have never forgotten the teachers during my first year and how much they needed validation. On a regular basis I intentionally look for the good things, the glows, and I celebrate teachers as they grow.
Special education is not an easy field to navigate or lead, but I find the work exciting and rewarding. The energy from parents and the effort of the staff are some of my driving forces. I am always looking for ways to make things easier for families, students, and teacher by anticipating needs. You may not hear this often, but I truly love this part of my job and I love even more hearing teachers say that they want to continue in this field because there is so much more we can do together. Special education for me is all about endless possibilities and nothing is more exciting to me than the thought of shooting for the moon for every student.
2) One of the most basic best practices I learned through my many years in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. Learn by play! Model, play, and learn! Learning leadership is a necessary tool for transformational learning in any school building. Learning leadership is defined simply as a leader- willing to be a learning partner with staff, and one who frequently models and learns alongside faculty. I love this definition because it describes exactly what I do and the approach I take to my current position as assistant principal. I believe that teachers value feedback when they see administrators pushing and pulling alongside. In addition, I am a strong proponent of learning and reflecting together. If student performance holds a place of high priority, then leaders must get in there and learn to share and listen to ideas from faculty and staff.
This year as we continue to operate in the middle of a pandemic, this best practice is even more important to model. I am currently hosting and attending coffee chats for teachers and parents to discuss and learn together topics such as: Google Meet, Apps & More, Teaching with Empathy, Small Group Instruction-one syllable pattern at a time, and I am currently enrolled in a LETRS course alongside our reading coaches.
After more than two decades as an educator and through various direct and indirect observation of leaders, I have come to realize that what I teach is almost as important as what I am willing to learn. The successful teachers and leaders I have studied didn’t wait for formal reviews or even check-ins to continue their growth, they seized and created opportunities to maximize personal and collective learning.