Developing the next generation of leaders in education is something Brian Metcalf thinks about a lot.
“My mind is always on succession planning and retaining the best teachers we have,” he says.
Metcalf leads Tindley Accelerated Schools, a charter school system in Indianapolis. In his first three years there, he began searching for teachers who were dedicated to Tindley’s college-ready mission, had an equity mindset, and could lead the schools into the future.
He wanted to ensure these future administrators had a solid foundation. So, he set out to find a leadership training program specific to the K-12 environment.
“I was really adamant about quality,” Metcalf says. “I wanted to work with someone we knew had a great reputation for developing leaders.”
One of his school directors had completed another IU Executive Education course. Metcalf says the recommendation he provided was so strong that he reached out to Executive Education Director Sara Johnson.
Johnson’s team plans, develops, and teaches leadership courses for those in health care, nonprofits, the U.S. military, and more. That diversity in training was a big draw for Metcalf.
“Teachers don’t often get this kind of training,” he admits. “We wanted to build a robust bench of leaders. We want to develop people for future roles, and this is our pathway into leadership.”
Metcalf and Johnson began crafting a plan to put teachers on track to rise into new roles, customizing the coursework for a school environment and creating the Aspiring Leaders Academy.
“Working with Executive Education was the best,” Metcalf says. “We really enjoyed the process because they gave us the flexibility to design the program with them.”
That’s something the Executive Education team does for other organizations as well.
“When our faculty members collaborate with those in a specific field, we can fine-tune our existing leadership courses to meet the needs of other environments,” Johnson explains. “In our work with Tindley, there are things in our courses that teachers would not typically learn in their training or education.”
The team developed a six-month, half-day program that met one Saturday each month—an important detail to ensure the program fit into teachers’ busy schedules. The final curriculum was specifically targeted at the eight teachers Metcalf had identified for future administrative roles.
“It was very apparent this group was passionate about the work they do, their desire to lead well in that environment, and even show leadership qualities to their current K-12 students,” Johnson says.
One of those teachers was Ashley Byrd, a sixth grade math and science teacher. She had applied for the program as part of her plan to eventually become a math director.
“My entire life I’ve been a leader,” Byrd says, smiling.
A leader in school and in sports but she admits filling that role in a business setting isn’t the same. That’s why she wanted to learn to lead in a new way.
“I learned so much about leadership from each class,” she says. “Every class pushed me as a leader and as a teacher.”
Byrd says the faculty worked with the group, helping them learn to apply lessons in their current jobs as well as in potential positions.
“We were all working together and learning from each other,” she says. “It didn’t feel like the faculty members were just feeding us information. We were collaborating with them on the lessons—that collaboration was key.”
The course topics included identifying management styles, time management, building trusting relationships, staff coaching, effective listening, and more.
“Listening is really difficult, especially when you’re a teacher, you’re always the one talking,” Byrd admits. “I could take the strategies I learned into my classroom and use them with my students immediately.”
She even passed on those newfound strategies to her students, helping them learn to lead within their own school. She’s also applied what she learned when she meets with parents and in her own family.
“This program has been extremely beneficial in helping me develop as a leader and teaching me how to build a strong and effective team in the future,” Byrd says.
Metcalf has his eye on the future as well, focusing on how he can keep supporting his teachers. A new group of participants will begin the Aspiring Leaders Academy in fall 2022, while the inaugural group moves on to a second level of new courses.
“We’re not done—we enjoyed it that much,” Metcalf says. “I don’t want this to be a one off. I want to get as many of our teachers enrolled in this program as possible. I definitely see this being a long-term partnership with IU Executive Education.”