From Teacher to Tech-Savvy Principal: 8 Questions with Jeff Herb
8 QUESTIONS is a series of interviews with teachers who have effectively transitioned their classroom skills into new and exciting careers in the field of education. We at Teach.com believe that teaching is a rigorous and diverse classroom in and of itself; the skills learned “in the trenches” can translate into an exciting portfolio of professional options. From education tech to consulting, the only “X factor” is where you want to go — our interviews hope to shine a light on the steps it takes to get there.
1. What's your name, location and current career path?
Jeff Herb, Lombard, IL, Middle School Principal
2. Where did you earn your teaching certification, and where did you go to school?
I received a BA in English from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, a Masters in Teaching from Roosevelt University, a Masters in Educational Administration from Lewis University, and I'm a year into a Doctoral program in Educational Leadership at Aurora University.
3. How long were you a teacher for?
I taught English for four years and then I was a Media Center director for one year, which is when I really got into educational technology and how it can redefine both teaching and learning.
4. What was the most rewarding part of being a classroom teacher? What about classroom teaching did you find most challenging?
The level in which you are able to connect with students as a teacher is incredibly rewarding. You end up teaching way more than just content--a lot of times you are a role model and life coach as well. I always loved when former students came back from college and told me that my class prepared them for college-level work--it's a great feeling.
A big challenge for all teachers is making sure that you are addressing the needs of all the students in your classroom. I think technology is helping with that by making it easier to differentiate content, but it is still a lot on the teacher's plate to actually implement differentiated instruction with fidelity.
5. Why did you decide to transition from classroom teaching to being a principal?
I had planned on teaching longer than I did but was asked by my Principal to take on the role of Associate Principal at the building in which I taught. I knew administration was a career goal as I was interested in working to affect change on a larger scale. As a teacher I had also started my website (Instructional Tech Talk) that focused on using technology in the classroom. The amount of positive feedback I received from teachers across the world made me realize that there was such a desperate need for enhanced professional development with educational technology and for leaders that understood how technology was impacting the classroom at a tremendously fast rate. My hope was that if I could be the best administrator I could be then the teachers could truly focus on teaching and have the tools and knowledge necessary to be effective and positively impact student learning.
6. What is the best part of being a principal?
I love that I get to work with so many talented people in various capacities. I have the potential to affect change with students, teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, and community members. We learn and grow together and that is so rewarding.
7. What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel in administration?
You get to experience first hand what both students and teachers are facing on a daily basis and how decisions that administrators make, while seemingly harmless, can have a monumental impact both positively and negatively. You learn to be patient and understanding while also maintaining rigorous standards that positively push students outside their comfort zones and to new levels of understanding.
8. What advice would you offer a current teacher who is looking to make a career change to outside of the classroom?
Take advantage of as many leadership opportunities as you can as a teacher and allow those experiences to hone your craft. Be part of curriculum teams and have a strong (yet respectful) voice. Interact with other educators on Twitter or through blogs and conferences. Be open to new ideas and experiences and be willing to pursue positions that don't necessary align with what "you thought you should be" as that will broaden your horizons and add to your depth of knowledge. Most importantly, be yourself--trying to be someone you're not in order to land a leadership role never ends well. Be genuine, be honest, be connected, and always remember to support what is best for students and teachers.
Jeff Herb is the Principal of Dundee Middle School in West Dundee, Illinois. Prior to his principalship, he taught English, was a Media Center Director, and an Associate Principal for Operations and Technology at the high school level. Jeff is the founder and editor of the website Instructional Tech Talk, host of the podcasts Instructional Tech Talk and EdTech You Should Know, a consultant with schools and districts nationwide, and a frequent presenter at local and national conferences. Connect with him on Twitter: @jeffherb
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