Benefitting From a Brilliant Partnership

Lisa SingletonLeadership Lab, Leadership Programs, Pedagogy Of Leadership®

Lisa Singleton, Leadership Program Coordinator Georgetown Visitation School

I can thank the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute for many things, but perhaps the biggest impact gcLi had on my life was the introduction to the Master of School Leadership Program through the University of Pennsylvania. The head of the program, Dr. Earl Ball, was the keynote speaker when I attended the leadership lab in 2013. My interest in further developing my career in education led me to apply to UPenn’s Graduate School of Education three years later. At the leadership lab that year, I met the 2013 gcLi Scholar Kate Wade of the Rivers School who had been awarded the inaugural gcLi UPenn scholarship. As a result I was inspired to apply. Months later, I was unbelievably honored when I was awarded the scholarship to follow in Kate’s footsteps, and cannot say enough about what the experience has done for me, both personally and professionally.

The UPenn School Leadership Program is run as a cohort model, which I quickly learned is one of its biggest assets. The 46 of us in Cohort 17 learned a lot from each other, which expanded my knowledge of the types of schools around the United States, both public and independent. While I chose the independent school track, our cohort was split about 50/50 between public and private school educators, opening my eyes to how the public school system works. The independent school educators quickly learned the value of the public school’s focus on data collection, which is something we don’t seem to utilize nearly as much in the world of private schools. The public school educators were fascinated with the differences in administrative duties and how development offices functioned to raise school funds. I had classmates from all over the country; the ability to work closely with people from different locations and from all aspects of school life helped me further expand my thoughts on education as I developed my own Philosophy of Leadership throughout the year.

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A constant theme in our class discussions was the importance of fostering a love of lifelong learning in our students. This was personally relevant to each of my 45 cohort members as we furthered our own education. Being back in the classroom after almost 20 years gave me a whole new appreciation for the students I teach and the difficulty of work / life balance. I became a role model to some of my students who learned I was back in school. They continually asked me through the year about how my grad work was going, and I greatly appreciated this support. As a teacher in an all-female environment, strong female role models are incredibly important and I was excited to be an educational model for them. My graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania  reinforced my work at Georgetown Visitation directly. I focused my research on on expanding the leadership program within our school, which gave me insight into how the girls at my school see themselves. In the end, this was essential in guiding me to encourage their growth as leaders.

On a personal level, the cohort model gifted me with 45 other educators from around the country that I now consider friends and colleagues. I know I can reach out to any of them who work in areas different from mine (development, admissions, administration, etc.) and they are there to answer questions or to bounce around an idea with me. We have celebrated new jobs and mourned losses at our various schools together. When I started the program, one of the first recommendations from my school principal was that I needed to find “my people” to whom I could reach out with a school crisis at 3 am. I found many of those people who will be there for me as my career develops (and at all hours of the night, if necessary), and I can be there for them in return. I miss seeing my cohort every month, but we keep in touch online and through email and text as much as we can. I also still reach out to the professors at Penn with questions and concerns, and they are more than willing to lend an ear or offer advice. They are excellent role models as the leaders we all hope to become in our careers in education.

For those interested in a master’s degree in school administration, I cannot say enough about the School Leadership Program at UPenn. I learned a great deal about myself in the process, which as we learn at gcLi, is instrumental in leadership development. The scholarship available through gcLi and UPenn GSE was a gift that had a huge impact on my life and my career, and I encourage other educators to take advantage of this truly life-changing opportunity.

Lisa Singleton teaches Public Speaking and Wellness at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, an all-girls high school in Washington, DC. She also moderates the Student Government and coordinates the co-curricular club program. In 2014, Lisa instituted a summer leadership program at Visitation to develop current and future student leaders, and she is working to expand that program. Lisa lives in Maryland with her husband, also an educator, and their two sons.