Kimberly Eckert was nominated by Jodi Lacy.
In fourth grade, Ms. Eckert earned leadership victory after an intense political campaign: 4-H club secretary. During her rise, she internalized two conclusive truths about leadership: true leaders make leaders of others, and leaders aren’t always the people in charge. She has never forgot these profound leadership theories.
"When I began teaching, I co-taught inclusive special education with over 30 teachers due to high turnover," Eckert said. "As our school rose from an ‘F’ rating to a ‘C’, I was committed to learning effective ways to serve my students and fellow teachers. When we joined forces with the Teacher and Student Advancement Program (TAP), teachers selected me as a Mentor, then Master Teacher. My district then tasked me with this: switch to a school they feared was losing ground to help start a growth mindset."
The district had concerns that the school’s performance hinged on already-high performing students. Many teachers were highly resistant to change, and the most at-risk students were not being targeted. As an outsider, Ms. Eckert became the school’s first Instructional Coach. Just like in the classroom, she immediately started shaping leadership through empowerment. She specialized the Professional Learning Committee model into a “menu” style offering, teaching staff how to better understand and address student needs, gradually releasing management of these initiatives to department leaders, and creating structures that could self-govern.
"I started school-wide literacy testing, incorporating data into meetings," Eckert said. "I formed pull-out reading interventions and created a remedial reading elective. Teachers needed to trust I could actually teach before walking with me any further. At the end of that first year, I chose to leave my coaching role, re-entering the classroom to better understand our student needs. I believed I could make an even deeper impact this way, deliberately electing to teach a combination of our most vulnerable students and advanced students to show that growth is for every student. Opening my classroom for observation made tremendous impact."
Her leadership team is now expertly led by the Assistant Principal. Teachers now regularly use data and seek out strategies for student growth. School-wide appreciation for literacy led to “Real Panthers Read”- uninterrupted reading time for students. Teacher response to observation and coaching is phenomenal, with many seeking out additional coaching, using the #ObserveMe initiative Ms. Eckert piloted. Also aware of the need for growth, students started a peer-tutoring collaborative and sought guidance from Ms. Eckert. The idea of measuring teacher success through student growth is being embraced in ways no one thought would happen.
"I sparked desire for growth through example and empowerment," Eckert said. "Those 'factions' changed to families being fired up for student growth. Should my old position ever be filled, we now have many teachers I would be honored to follow. True to fourth-grade Kim, leadership continues to be defined by my ability to make leaders of others. I have never forgotten that I don’t have to be in charge in order to lead."
"Kimberly Eckert is truly a transformational teacher who impacts the lives of her students, her school, district, and community on a daily basis," Lacy said