Fresh Start Tips from Emerging Leaders



To prepare you for back-to-school week here on Inservice, we reached out to our ASCD Emerging Leaders and asked them to share their tidbits of wisdom and inspiration for the beginning of the school year. The Emerging Leaders program recognizes young, promising educators and prepares them for potential influence on education programs, policy, and practice on both the local and national levels. Learn more about Emerging Leaders on the ASCD website.

Emerging Leaders back to school advice

“This year, make it a goal to help prepare your students for their world, not yours. Embrace new ways of using technology to engage students. This does not mean you have to know every web tool or app, but let the students teach you, too. It helps build a safe learning environment and everyone gets to learn.”

—Jill Thompson, Emerging Leader 2013

“Write a letter of appreciation to someone, whether that is your district staffing team, your supervisor, or a colleague who has really inspired you. Inspiration is a pay-it-forward phenomenon that reaps rewards on both ends.”

—Jessica Bohn, Emerging Leader 2012

“Always see yourself as a learner. There are no experts, only people who know a little more about something than you do currently. Never assume you know it all; seek learning every day.”

—Fred Ende, Emerging Leader 2012

“Kick off the school year with celebration to set the tone! Since school leaders, teachers, parents, and students are all stakeholders in learning, it’s important to get to know one another. The school community that can develop bonds of trust will work together more effectively and successfully.”

—Janet Tran, Emerging Leader 2013

“In preparing for a new year, I remember that I am here for all learners in the system. I make a commitment to get to know them, support their growth, remove obstacles in their way, and help set a path that moves them forward.”

—Jason Ellingson, Emerging Leader 2012

“Engage your students intellectually right away. Find a creative way to draw them in. Don’t let that first day (or two) be all about rules and procedures.”

—Janae Pritchett, Emerging Leader 2013

“I always encourage teachers to start the year off with a very organized classroom, to stand outside their door and welcome all the students, and to have a fun lesson planned to really engage the students in the subject.”

—Christine Hull, Emerging Leader 2013

“Be prepared mentally and physically to cultivate a warm and nurturing learning environment. First impressions count—dress confidently and smartly. Remain calm, model excellent behavior at all times, and smile. Learn your students’ names on the first day—they will respect you even more for this.”

—Yukesha Makhan, Emerging Leader 2013

“Think about how you will engage all families in the culture of your classroom and school. The combined support of a caring, effective teacher and an informed and empowered family is powerful. What will you do from day one to help families understand this partnership?”

—Jason Smith, Emerging Leader 2013

“Preparing for a new school year is exciting and daunting. One thing I do is try to get a lot of sleep in the weeks leading up to the first day! I send postcards to my students to introduce myself and welcome them to first grade. As I set up my classroom I try to throw things away—otherwise, things pile up all year.”

—Jennifer Orr, Emerging Leader 2013

“As a leader, clearly define your schoolwide nonnegotiables and establish monitoring systems at the start of the year. Utilize focus calendars to align the curriculum, instruction, and assessments for the first quarter, and establish goals for student learning and outcome measures. Create a schedule for ongoing progress monitoring through classroom visits, data chats, and professional learning communities.”

—Kati Pearson, Emerging Leader 2013

“The most important thing is being sincerely interested in the students and their unique stories. If they believe you sincerely care about them, they may sincerely care about what you have to teach.”

—John Hines, Emerging Leader 2013

“As I prepare for school to start up again, I identify two to three things that I want to improve upon from the year before. These are things that I will work on all year.”

—Mary Beth Hertz, Emerging Leader 2013

“Learn your students’ hopes, aspirations, and challenges; see them for the individuals they are and help them to realize their dreams.”

—Bethany Bernasconi, Emerging Leader 2013

“Teachers experience many ‘first days,’ but out of the 2,340 total school days in a student’s academic career, students and parents experience only 13 ‘first days.’ Some of those are monumental—the first day of kindergarten, the first day of middle school, and the last ‘first day’ when a student enters school as a senior. Regardless of our role within a school, it is crucial that we make the first day the very best possible.”

—Melany Stowe, Emerging Leader 2013

“Choose to be great, caring, service minded, and accepting, and you will find the chaos that surrounds you will soon fade away.”

—PJ Caposey, Emerging Leader 2013