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Leaders Know Relationships Transform Learning Over Time

Today I had the pleasure to do 4 things that matter:

  1. Meet NJ Eduhero Glenn Robbins
  2. Learn about Eleanor Smalley's background as a leader in Virginia
  3. Learn about the work of Battelle for Kids and the Portrait of a Graduate
  4. Learn about Pete Corona, 90-year-young inspiration

Glenn is known as a fashionista around AASA. More important than socks or shoe styles are his words of wisdom to colleagues during the first ever social media session this morning. Glenn is connected. He gets it. He knows his role, and he is an unabashed, positive force on social media to champion his district. “Celebrate everything all the time.” Glenn teaches me through his posts, and also the way he shares information. A packed house learned today that Glenn models the way. I hope others follow him @Glennr1809.

JASON Learning CEO Eleanor Smalley was the youngest female superintendent hired in Virginia. Serving in Clark County for 12 years, all prior to her equity work with JASON, Eleanor is what I call a “master convener.” She understands the intersect between leadership in industry, philanthropy and education better than most. Over lunch today, my wife and I learned more about design thinking talking with Eleanor than any professional workshop I attended. Even more valuable than the districts I got to study at the session on STEM was Eleanor's strategic mind.

Another thinker I admire is Karen Garza, president/CEO of Battelle for Kids. The Portrait of a Graduate Work going on across America is the direct result of her leadership. “The Portrait of a Graduate is a school system’s first step in recapturing the narrative around education. The process engages community—including students, families, educators, and businesses—working together to envision what students need to contribute in career, college and life. After working with hundreds of school communities to create and activate their portraits, we see success in this locally developed, globally positioned frame for learning experiences designed on behalf of students.” Battelle staff are here sharing the “why” behind engaging your school community to better experiences for all. I've had the pleasure of working with this staff on several projects over the past few years. Battelle's the real deal. One of her leaders, Steve Fuji, says the mantra, “Let's Do Better” is ultimately for children. “This is a mission. We can transform communities by keeping the focus on the needs of children. I'm proud to promote that mission.”

Perhaps my most important conversation today was held with Peter Corona in the Social Media Lounge. What's a 90 year old, retired superintendent doing hanging out there? Learning. “I’ve taught leadership on six continents. Leaders aren’t born. We have to instill the strength that is within us and share it with others. Learn as much as you can and share it with others. Keep the mind and the body moving together.” Pete likens learning to H2 (mind) + O (body) = water (your life). He told me, “Make today better than yesterday. Make tomorrow better than today.” For a superintendent who helped transform over 12 California districts from the late '60s on, Pete knows that relationships matter most. A healthy man who still teaches physical education three days a week, Pete has written several books on relationships in the communities he grew up serving, including Sunol: Never Too Small to Succeed, and Little Italy: The Way it Was. I'm at once inspired and in awe of this man, who has impacted so many children and adults in positive ways in the Bay area for more than six decades. The value of these relationships make AASA worth every moment. These leaders matter, and their collective impact is transformational over time.

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