MALVERN, PA — “Every school’s got a story,” opened Dr. Joe Sanfelippo, national speaker and co-author of the new book Hacking Leadership. “If there’s a way that we can celebrate the exciting work that teachers and students do every day, then there’s no reason we shouldn’t try to tell that story.” Dr. Sanfelippo’s passion for promoting leadership and positivity in education set the tone on Tuesday, October 9, 2018, during the full-day Lead Where You Are workshop, presented by the Chester County Intermediate Unit. This highly anticipated professional development event served as a refreshing reminder that building leadership in education does not require a traditional leadership role; rather, it calls for the drive to initiate positive change.
Dr. Sanfelippo, who has served as the superintendent of Fall Creek School District in northwest Wisconsin for the last seven years, brought a contagious energy to the event, which attracted Chester County educators and administrators in various educational roles. Workshop participants learned practical solutions for developing leadership throughout their classrooms, schools and districts, including: building strong relationships in a collaborative environment; being intentional; opening doors to share student and teacher success stories; and, remaining present.
The CCIU’s Innovative Educational Services division was inspired to bring Dr. Sanfelippo’s innovative workshop to Chester County after hearing him speak at the annual Pennsylvania Educational Technology Expo and Conference (PETE & C) in 2018. “We’re hoping this workshop will help educators discover their leadership abilities and lead some kind of change from any position in the education system,” said Mary Driscoll, a program development specialist for the CCIU. She added, “It’s a real opportunity to grow leadership skills.”
One of the workshop’s main themes was the importance of cultivating a positive and supportive school culture. Dr. Sanfelippo emphasized that creating a culture that encourages leadership and change can be as simple as celebrating one student helping another or recognizing educators and staff who bring creativity and innovation into classrooms and schools every day. “You build culture by modeling what positive culture will look like,” said attendee Dr. Karen Coldwell, a coordinator for the Principal Certification Program, which is a collaboration between Cabrini University and the CCIU. Dr. Coldwell and her colleague Dr. Maria Schwab plan to share Dr. Sanfelippo’s practical tips for modeling positive culture with their students, who will soon become educational leaders.
Dr. Sanfelippo’s interactive and approachable presentation style resonated with the audience and generated a discussion on how to build trust and highlight success. “He offers a really refreshing perspective,” said Michael Berardi, of Avon Grove School District. Lee Snyder, a CCIU Brandywine Virtual Academy instructor, echoed Berardi, saying, “Dr. Sanfelippo is extremely engaging and humorous. He’s real, to the point and brings forth a lot of common sense.”
Building upon the concept of intentionally creating a positive culture, Dr. Sanfelippo explained that it should be shared. It is not enough to generate positivity behind closed doors – he emphasized that it is important to share the stories happening in schools. “People need to talk about the great work that they’re doing, because if they don’t share what they’re doing people will make their own assumptions about the work that goes on in our schools.” Dr. Sanfelippo sets an example for educators by sharing positive stories about his district and by promoting leadership at all levels of the education system.
Source: Chester County Intermediate Unit, 455 Boot Road, Downingtown, PA 19335
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