Clarissa Darnell

Leadership and Advocacy
Throughout my professional career, as well as my educational experience, I have sought
several opportunities for leadership and advocacy. I have assumed the responsibility to be an
effective leader within my own classroom, while advocating for the children and families I serve.
I have also taken on roles of leadership and advocacy outside of my classroom, participating on
committees and in local organizations within my area, as well as coaching and mentoring fellow
teachers in my professional concentration. My involvement in such leadership and advocacy
opportunities have been important to my professional growth and current practices, as I have
gained new understandings and matured professionally.
Specifically, I feel that I have assumed the greatest responsibility in my leadership and
advocacy role within my classroom teaching experience. As the teacher in a NC Pre-K
classroom, serving sixteen to eighteen four- and five- year old children, I am a leader within my
profession each day as I present developmentally appropriate learning opportunities and content
to my students. I also feel that within this role I have had many opportunities for advocacy;
advocating for the class, individual children and for families. Specifically, as I develop
relationships with the children and their families, I gain an understanding for needs that may be
present. I work to offer resources and assistance for meeting those needs. If developmental
concerns emerge, I work with families to understand options of screening and evaluating in order
to determine if related services may be needed for the child. If a developmental delay is
determined following evaluation, I am an advocate for the child and family during the creation
and implementation of the child’s IEP; seeking input from the family, attending meetings,
maintaining reciprocal communication with related services personnel working with the children
and with the family.

Clarissa Darnell
Other ways in which I demonstrate leadership and advocacy is by being a participant
within local organizations, such as the LICC within my county as a representative of Wilkes
County Pre-K and Homecare Management Early Intervention (CBRS) Services, and serving on
committees, such as the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) team at my school of
employment. Within my position as a group participant, I offer suggestions and input,
representing developmentally appropriate practice, relevant to the field and the impact that
decisions will have on young children and their families.
Although each of these areas involve leadership and advocacy to some degree, I feel that
the most challenging, yet rewarding, avenue of which I have been involved is my role as a
CSEFEL mentor and coach for fellow Pre-K teachers in my county. I feel that I have been
pushed beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone, of working with young children, to working
directly with fellow Pre-K teachers to enhance and improve their practices. My role in this
position has not only allowed me to gain an understanding of how to effectively mentor other
colleagues, but has also allowed me to become more cognizant of my own teaching philosophies
and practices in order to educate and inform others. Being aware of my own teaching practices
has become crucial in having the ability to explain the reasoning for those practices in relation to
current theory and research-based findings, building my pedagogical leadership and increasing
In the fall of 2011, I received specialized training and became a certified SEFEL (Social
and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning) classroom teacher, as well as a workshop trainer
and coach/ mentor. The classroom element came natural to me, as that is where I am most
comfortable. As a trainer, I have assisted with conducting two training session offered to my
fellow teachers as professional development opportunities within the past year. This past year, I

Clarissa Darnell
also began coaching and mentoring to a fellow Pre-K teacher from a different school, conducting
observations, provoking reflection, and offering guidance in the implementation of CSEFEL
teaching practices. The responsibility of professionally presenting content to other adults was
intimidating; however, working one-on-one with co-teachers in a mentoring and coaching
relationship has been stressful and challenging for me, but quite the learning experience.
Within the role of a coach and mentor, I conduct bi-monthly visits within the classroom
of the teacher I am mentoring. During each visit, I spent time observing interactions between the
adults and children. I also look for specific criteria according to the CSEFEL checklists of
practices. Following visits, arrangements are made to allocate time for myself and the teacher to
talk and discuss the observation, either by phone or informal conference meetings. I felt that
devoting time to talk, allowed the opportunity to foster our relationship and to build trust and
mutual respect for one another. My goal within this role is not to have her, the teacher,
“conform” to CSEFEL practices in one specific manner, or to do as I do within my own
classroom, in order to meet the checklist requirements for the evaluation and receive fidelity.
Rather, my role is to help her understand the importance and benefit of modifying her practices
and ways of implementation in accordance to CSEFEL recommendation, in a way that is
appropriate and will be most effective for her and her students. As discussed in the text, having
her understand the reasoning behind the techniques and practices, I feel that I am assisting her in
“bringing out long-term potential” (Hearron and Hildebrand, 2015, p. 66).
I have found the importance of how personality attributes play a significant role in the
success of coaching relationships. The attributes of love, honesty, empathy, and trustworthiness,
are important to me and are those of which I work to embody within my own classroom teaching
practices and within the relationships that I share with my students and their families. I

Clarissa Darnell
understand that the presence of these attributes is just as essential within the coaching
relationship that the teacher and I share- the characteristics of a servant leader. Although I feel
that the attributes should be reciprocated between both individuals, I have found that as the
coach, I must assume the role as leader in the relationship and model these traits in order to have
them reflected back. Specifically, I strive to be understanding and exercise active listening as
she and I engage in conversation and hold discussions throughout the process, maintaining these
qualities and to avoid passing judgment and draw conclusions when difference arise. I have
continued to try to be aware and acknowledge her feelings and be sensitive to them throughout
the process, in order to strengthen our relationship and build trust.
Although I feel it is a strong benefit to be aware of the feelings of others I feel that my
concentrated attention to the feelings of others can impact my leadership role at times. I am
often influenced by my own desire to avoid confrontation and avoid upsetting or offending
anyone. With that, I often hold out on communicating my opinions or suggestions, even when
backed by knowledge and research. I fear this struggle I have within my role of a leader can
undermine the overall outcome of the experience, for me and the teacher(s) that I coach. I also
feel that this directly relates to the leadership style(s) that I display while working with others.
When comparing the characteristics and attributes of my personality with specific leadership
styles, I find similarities in the attributes and those characteristics of the affiliative leadership
style, as well as the coaching leadership style, as I feel that the components of relationship
building and empathy are necessary. However, I have realized that personality traits of the two
members within this didactic relationship can impact the leadership style that can and will be
most effective when working in the coaching and mentoring role. Those teachers that embrace
change and see the change(s) as an opportunity to better her practice will be more receptive to

Clarissa Darnell
suggestions offered and will benefit from a collaborative teaming approach, while other teachers
are more resistant, meaning that the leadership style must switch to more of an authoritative style
where goals and strategies are more direct and rigid. When dispositions built into the personality
and temperament of two individuals working together in a coaching relationship are not
compatible, compromises must be made (Hearron and Hildebrand, 2015). Although I have not
experienced such opposition of personality and characteristics within the current mentoring
relationship, I realize the importance of understanding the implications and how to make
accommodations to the relationship in order to make it most successful.
I most appreciate the explanation provided by Harvard Business School, saying that
leadership is “making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that the impact
lasts in your absence” (Hearron and Hildebrand, 2015, p. 153). I feel that this accurately sums
up my desires and intentions as a coach and mentor working with fellow Pre-K teachers in my
county. I feel that I have learned a great deal about myself within my experiences thus far, and
look forward to the continued professional growth in the future. I have become aware of areas
within my own personality that impact the coaching relationship and can critically influence the
overall success, so of those I will make a concentrated effort to modify and improve. I feel that I
can also greatly benefit from such didactic relationships, as I would look forward to the
observational periods as well as the reciprocal conversation, as I feel that I did and will continue
to learn from other teachers as much, or more, than they are able to learn from me. I have gained
new understandings and ways to view particular situations, while learning to better articulate my
own understandings and ideologies. From those outcomes, I feel that my leadership role as a
coach and mentor have been beneficial and I look forward to additional opportunities in the

Clarissa Darnell
Hearron, P. F. and Hildebrand, V. (2015). Management of child development center (8th ed.).
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.