Director of Education Lynn Little on student-focused leadership

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As we continue to highlight stories for Canada’s National Principals’ Month, let’s meet principal-turned-superintendent Lynn Little, now Director of Education for Southeast Cornerstone Public School Division in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Little, one of Canada’s 2009 Outstanding Principals award recipients, shares her thoughts on the need for student-focused leadership.

Tell us a bit about your background. How long have you been an educator?

I began my teaching career in 1986 in a small, rural community in Saskatchewan. I remained in Craik for five years at which time I assumed my first principalship. Following a year in Hawarden School as principal, my husband and I enrolled at the University of Idaho and pursued our Masters of Education degrees. Upon returning to Saskatchewan, I was appointed principal in K-8 school in southeast Saskatchewan. Over my career, I have been principal of four schools in three different communities. I am presently Director of Education of South East Cornerstone Public School Division. Our division is roughly the geographic size of Vancouver Island with 38 schools in 29 communities. Working with the administrator team continues to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job. Principals have a significant role to play in improving educational outcomes for students.

What is life like as a school principal? Has your role shifted or changed at all?

I have been out of the principalship role since the spring of 2009. The role has certainly evolved from the beginning of my career until now.  Leadership has replaced management. Many can manage, but leadership – being a visionary and working to achieve that vision – takes passion and commitment. It was once described to me once that the principalship and system leadership is more of a calling than a job or career.

If you can offer a piece of advice to new principals, vice-principals and school administrators, what would it be?

Always, always, always put the student first. When setting direction, making decisions or faced with challenges, if your focus remains on the student, then the decision you make will be sound.  Also, become comfortable with and always expect change. And be able to support that change.

What did you get out of The Learning Partnership’s Executive Leadership Program? How has it helped you in your role?

The professional development opportunity was absolutely outstanding. What I learned, what I absorbed, what we discussed that week continues to form the foundation for my work moving forward. The courses on leadership, honing our skills of being a leader of leaders, motivation and change theory continue to be relevant, and will for some time. I learned much which I apply to my role in system leadership as there are many, many commonalities. There are moments in one’s career when, upon reflection, they can be identified as turning points in your career.  I would view COP recognition and the academy professional development as one of those turning points. While the recognition would be an extrinsic motivation, the professional development feeds the intrinsic motivation and that has a far reaching implication for years to come. I am forever grateful for the opportunity I received.

Can you tell us an interesting fact about you?

Gosh, not sure what would be interesting! I come from a family of educators. My husband is also an educator and principal. My sister is a retired educator. My other sister is a speech-language pathologist and works in school systems. My brother-in-law is a teacher.  My niece is an ELA consultant for secondary school. My nephew is a second-year teacher. A third niece is a teacher. And now our daughter is a first-year teacher. We couldn’t be more proud that she has decided to follow the family business!

 

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