Educational Leadership Series: How To Be a Transformational Leader

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend Teach For America’s 7th Annual School Leaders of Color Conference in Texas. The conference has grown over the years demonstrating that more and more school and system level leaders of color are taking their righteous places as levers in impacting outcomes for students. Given that school leaders have a profound impact in being able to both positively influence students directly and create the institutional conditions that make schools and systems more equitable at scale, the conference served as a space for leaders of color to access strong professional development, inspire and connect with each other in a space not easily found elsewhere while also being a reminder that all educational leaders must be intentional if they ought to be impactful.

While the two days of learning and community building were filled with many inspiring moments, it was during the closing session, where Bridge Fellow Jonathan Santos Silva captivated the audience and dropped some necessary knowledge on how school leaders can truly be transformational leaders.

Here are nine quotes of wisdom shared in an attempt to #MakeBetterHappen:

  1. In reference to navigating a new school as an incoming leader: “If you want to build a coalition, don’t show up and try and grab the front seat. Shut up and listen. THEN, once you’ve earned people’s respect, you’ll get invited to collaborate.”
  2. When asked about how to help transform a school while being respectful of its cultures and traditions: “Don’t Christopher Columbus people’s schools.”
  3. Basic advice on prioritizing relationship building: “There is power in being relational.”
  4. When asked about mentorship and his career trajectory: “Folks get so caught up on the career trajectory, the technical aspect, that we forget to deeply invest in other people. The people whom you can help without any clear reason/benefit. It won’t slow you down to help others. Making time to invest in people who can give you nothing back, by pouring into them and blessing them, you’ll actually receive more blessings. Don’t worry about positioning yourself; be willing to bless other people.”
  5. When asked what he would tell his younger self:  “I would go back and tell myself… they are proud. It’s not a title, it’s not an income level, they are proud of you being honest, being true to the person they’ve raised.”
  6. When asked about how to best serve children: “Apologize. A revolutionary act is to show children that they don’t need to be perfect.”
  7. An audience member requested advice on how to find a job that is fitting of his talents: “Find a place that values what you bring to the table.”
  8. Advice around being financially responsible so that there is no reason to keep a job that feels out of alignment with your beliefs: “We must change the way we consume so we can take risks and do what we need to do, and if that means losing a job, have a cushion. Don’t sacrifice and be easily manipulated to take a job that doesn’t align with you simply because you need to pay bills.”
  9. And finally, in reference to being authentic to your true self while still maintaining a high sense of work ethic: “Courageous leadership is not necessarily synonymous with martyrdom.”
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Alma Renteria

Alma Renteria

Alma-Delia Renteria is a proud product of Lynwood schools. After graduating UC Riverside, with a B.A. in English and a year earlier than anticipated, she decided to commit her “gap year” to City Year. After City Year Los Angeles, Alma went on to purse a teaching career with Teach For America Los Angeles. Upon joining TFA, Alma began her education career as a middle school teacher. It was while teaching that she realized the need to do her part to help serve the community she grew up in and decided to run for office, getting elected to the Lynwood School Board at only 23 years old. Alma completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University and is currently pursuing a 2nd Masters in Education Leadership and her Admin Credential. She was recently appointed by the Speaker to the Instructional Quality Commission and also serves as a Digital Learning Instructional Coach at a dual immersion school in Pico Rivera.

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