I was in a meeting this past week and this question was asked… Professionally, who was the most influential person in your life? I listened as each person answered and wondered how I would answer this question. I also reflected on the fact that most people have at least one person in their professional life who has made a difference as it relates to their career. My blog this week will be in honor of the person who has been the most influential person in my professional career… Danette Tilley.
Danette Tilley extended to me my first opportunity to enter educational leadership. It was my first (and became my only) interview as a teacher trying to become an assistant principal. She offered me the job… Assistant Principal at a new elementary school in La Porte ISD.
She was wise in choosing me to be her assistant principal because she was looking for someone who would complement her. I made up for your “weaknesses” and whether she knew it or not, her strengths were my weaknesses. I was able to grow in my weak areas by watching her operate in her strengths.
I could not have begun my career with a better principal. Danette taught me how to create a campus culture of positive educators with one goal in mind… to do what was best for every student on our campus. She taught me how to use student data to determine the effectiveness of classroom instruction. Overall, she taught me how to lead a campus.
I think the most important thing Danette could have done for me was believe in me. She respected my gifts and talents. As we began working together, she included me on decisions. Although I was nowhere near proficient in the role of assistant principal, she saw that I came with skills. In areas where I needed to grow, she grew me. She told me that after I learned to be an assistant principal, she was going to teach me how to be a principal. She kept that promise. I can truly say that when I became a principal, I was more than prepared for the job… because of her.
Professionally, who was most influential in my career? Danette Tilley. I challenge you to think about who was most influential in your career and reach out to them and let them know. Sometimes, those mentors need to see how they have influenced those who have come behind them. We are part of their legacy.
Paula Patterson is a Superintendent of Schools who shares practical points on leadership.