Kathy Myers was a middle school math and science teacher in Seattle when she decided to enroll in the Danforth Educational Leadership Program. In this interview, she talks about how the Danforth experience shaped her views on education and leadership and continues to guide her in her new position.
Why did you choose Danforth?
I looked at other programs, but I'd been mentored by at least five or six principals who went through the Danforth program. I really appreciated the lens of equity that came with Danforth, which I didn't necessarily see in some of the other programs.
Another reason I chose Danforth was its focus on social justice, which is a very personal issue to me. This focus made all the difference in fully realizing my potential and is essential to who I am as a professional.
I think that's a cornerstone of Danforth, the excellence and the equity. That was in every class and module. It's a core value, making sure that all students have access to quality education. If you don't have that as a core value, I think it's really hard to be successful in public schools.
How did Danforth prepare you for your role as a principal?
Not a day goes by that I don't think about how the Danforth program prepared me to make decisions that are purposeful and grounded in my beliefs. To be effective in leading a school where it needs to go, you have to know deeply and profoundly who you are as a person, as an educator and as a leader.
In my particular case, in my school, I was fully prepared by Danforth to answer the call that I was given to build an environment of equity – there is no reason our students should not be performing at a more successful level. What kind of vision as a leader do you need to have to enable all kids to see themselves as worthy of the same accomplishments as their peers? The systems in Bellevue are so strong in supporting equity, and many of the leaders have gone through Danforth.
Can you talk a bit about the relationships you developed through the program?
I feel very connected to my cohort – it was filled with diverse, intelligent, dynamic folks, which shows in how quickly many of them were hired right out of the gate. I learned a lot from my classmates.
There was a huge cohort from Bellevue, and when I came over to the Bellevue system I already knew about 10 other administrators. It felt very comfortable for me as a new person, to be able to rely deeply on people I'd spent a significant amount of my life with, talking about really important issues during that year in Danforth. That's been a tremendous gift.
Did you make connections with the program instructors?
I did. Jen Rose was an excellent mentor and is now a colleague. It was great to connect with her after the Danforth program and continue that conversation. We just had a principals' meeting, and I had an instructional dilemma I was able to bounce off her. It was great to be able to talk to her as a colleague.
What was your internship experience in Danforth like?
I loved my internship experience. My mentor allowed me to participate in everything that goes on in the school building, included me in the very important decisions, and also allowed me the freedom to pursue interests I had based on what I was learning at Danforth. I had a close relationship with the principal and was able to ask her tons of questions. It was very much an open door.
How did the Danforth program help your transition from teacher to principal?
I felt very well prepared. The definite surprise is you're no longer a teacher, you're a leader, and how you're perceived as a leader and how you operate in the building is definitely different. If I had not had the rich experiences in Danforth, I don't know that I would be as successful as I feel I have been.
What would you say to someone who is thinking of becoming a principal and going through Danforth?
I would say absolutely do it. My family has seen the change in me and seen how becoming a principal is so gratifying. I love my job. Without this program and without everything I've learned, I don't think I would be feeling that same way. I will be proud to support and continue to have alliances with Danforth from now on.