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My Philosophy of Educational Leadership

Presented to the Department of Educational Leadership
and Postsecondary Education
University of Northern Iowa
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the
Advanced Studies Certificate
Scott E. Firzlaff
Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School
Dubuque, IA
December 11, 2013
Dr. Timothy Gilson

Will Rogers once said, If you want to be successful, it's just this simple. Know what you
are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing." I had this quote in my
classroom for many years while teaching at the middle school level. I believe this quote is why I
have chosen to pursue an advanced studies certificate in Educational Leadership. I have always
known how to teach and effectively reach children, I absolutely love going to school every day
and face new challenges, and I believe the work that I have done over the past fifteen years has
mattered. My career in education began after graduating from The University of Northern Iowa
with a degree in elementary and middle level education. I was hired in Dubuque, Iowa at
Lincoln Elementary School as a third and fourth grade teacher that would loop with the students
for two years. I did this for four years before moving to Jefferson Junior High School. At
Jefferson I taught eighth grade American History. The Dubuque Community School District
began to convert junior high schools to middle schools and I was transferred to Roosevelt Middle
School where I would spend the next six years. I was very content teaching at Roosevelt when
the district went through some financial difficulties and I was again transferred to Dubuque
Senior High School. I spent two years at Senior before my current position was created. I have
spent the past two years as the Student Needs Facilitator and Assistant Athletic Director back at
Roosevelt Middle School. I have been fortunate to have taught at all three levels of schools over
the past fifteen years, but my current position has shown me a new perspective in education. I
have enjoyed my new role outside of the classroom, but still in education, which is why I began
my degree in Educational Leadership.
I have the ability to create meaningful relationships with people, I am a leader of
learning, and I believe I have the right temperament and communication skills to be an effective
educational leader. Whitaker (2012) stated it is never about programs, it is always about

people (p. 6). Being able to create and maintain relationships is an important skill for
educational leaders. I also believe that leaders need lead by example. If we expect our teachers
and students to become lifelong learners, then we must also stay abreast of the current topics and
trends. Robbins and Alvy (2009) believe that This builds trust because teachers realize that the
principal has walked in their shoes, is willing to accept feedback from faculty, and has an
understanding of classroom conditions (p. 3). Leaders need to be mindful of professional
development opportunities that are meaningful and worthwhile. The foundation of good
relationship starts with honest and open communication. An effective instructional leader must
be able to communicate with all stakeholders involved.
We have studied in great depth the Iowa Standards for School Leaders (ISSL) from
the School Administrators of Iowa [SAI] (2007). I have come to understand the importance
of each standard and how instructional leaders are evaluated. I believe I possess many
quality attributes of an effective instructional leader. When I am hired as a principal, I must
start by sharing my vision which is ISSL 1 (SAI, 2007). I believe that every student,
parent, and community member who walks through my building will feel safe, valued, and
appreciated. I believe that all children deserve a quality education that requires parents,
teachers, and students working together to achieve. I am the instructional leader of the
school and it is my responsibility to provide the appropriate culture and climate conducive
to learning. This can be seen is ISSL 2 (SAI, 2007). As the instructional leader of a school
I must be able to communicate clearly and effectively. I must be able to communicate with
staff, parents, community members, and any other stakeholders. Being an effective
communicator, I must remember that communication must flow both laterally and
vertically so all involved knows what is expected. As an effective communicator I must

also be able to listen. I need to allow others around to voice their opinions and question my
decisions. I must use my criticism as a chance for reflection. This is the way I will grow as
a leader.
I will be an instructional, ethical and humanistic leader. I am committed to
excellence in curriculum, instruction, and personnel. I believe a school needs to offer a
variety of programs and activities to address the individual interests and needs of a large
and diverse group of students. All instructional programs need to be quality programs.
Quality professional development will be given high priority. I will encourage teachers to
continue learning and growing so they can be models and leaders for their students.
If I expect my staff to follow me and believe in me, I must prove to be an ethical
leader. I believe a leader has to be morally and legally sound and respectful of all people.
I must constantly lead by example. I need to demonstrate to my team members that I am
committed to the schools mission. I need to be a role model. Not only for staff but for all
stakeholder involved. This would fall under ISSL 5 (SAI, 2007).
Overall, I need to be a humanistic leader. People will only perform to the best of
their abilities if they know you believe in them and care about them. The team defines the
school. Without people, school is only a building. It is the human factors that give life to
the school. To care about the school and its mission is to care about the people who
comprise the school.
I must become an expert in management, known as ISSL 3. (SAI, 2007).
Robbins and Alvy (2009) say that Effective principals are effective managers (p. 11). An
effective principal must be able to get through the daily managerial tasks of running a
building. Their decisions need to be effective and efficient. The hiring of quality

instructors will help a principals management issues. Whitaker (2012) said that Great
principals look for the teachers who will be exceptional in the classroom. More than that,
they look for those who will be influential in the school (p. 50).
When I am hired as a principal the students, parents and community will be
getting someone who can create and maintain relationships, is a leader and a learner, can
effectively communicate, and can be an effective manager.
Having taught American History, I have talked about great leaders like Washington,
Jefferson, and Lincoln but the person that has inspired me to be the person that I am is my
Godfather Duane Frick. Duane was a teacher and principal in the Dubuque Community
School District for over forty-four years. I was lucky enough to be able to teach and coach
in his building for part of my teaching career. Duane was and is a very soft spoken man
who earned the respect of his staff through his caring and compassionate nature. Duane has
shown me what it means to be committed to your job but how to always keep your
priorities in check. He has always stressed family first. Even with the long hours of a
principal, he always took the time to be with family and friends. He once told me that his
job defined who he was to a community but how he lived his live is how he will be
remembered as a man. He is extremely proud of the work he did at Jefferson and rightfully
so, but he is an even better husband, father, and person. I am proud to have learned so
much from my Godfather and can only hope to become half of the person he is. There isnt
a day that goes by that people dont talk about Duane and Jefferson Junior High in the same
sentence even after having been retired for a number of years.
As a leader, I will have high expectations for my teachers, students, and community.
I believe that it is the responsibility of all stakeholders to play an important part in the

development of our children. I expect my teachers to be ethical and empathetic to their
students. I expect them to be fair, honest, and respectful to all individuals. I envision my
students and teachers working together and being committed to excellence. I expect my
students to be at school every day. I expect them to do the best they can all the time. I will
challenge my students to set goals for themselves and use the teachers as a resource to help
them attain their goals. I expect collaboration and innovation. I want to see activity and
problem solving. I expect students to be twenty-first century learners.
I expect the community to be supportive, to ask the difficult questions, and to force
our schools to strive to be better. The community sees things from a different perspective
and we need that insight if we want to continue to improve.
Educational leadership is just the next step in my educational journey. The
possibilities to make a difference in the lives of children are indescribable. As a principal, I
will make it a point to build relationships that will make me a better leader. I will be an
open and effective communicator who is willing to listen and continues to learn. I will be a
visible presence in my school, not stuck behind a desk buried in the managerial tasks to try
to consume you. I will be the ethical and professional person that other can model. I am
passionate about leading because I can make a difference.


Marzano, R. J., Waters, T., & McNulty, B. A. (2005). School leadership that works: From
research to results. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum

Robbins, P., & Alvy, H. B. (2009). The principals companion: Strategies for making the job
easier (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.

School Administrators of Iowa, (2007). Iowa standards for school leaders. Retrieved from

Whitaker, T. (2012). What great principals do differently: 18 things that matter most (2nd ed.).
Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education, Inc.

Wilmore, E.L. (2002). Principal leadership: Applying the new Educational Leadership
Constituent Council (ELCC) Standards. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.