Strong leadership is imperative to school success. Research shows that quality school leadership results in quality schools and quality schools produce students of high achievement.
The goal of instructional leadership preparation programs is to produce aspiring principals who are well trained and prepared to perform at high levels the moment they accept their first principalship. For the 2018-19 academic year, Samford University’s Orlean Beeson School of Education implemented the Mentors for Aspiring Principals initiative to further develop the school’s instructional leadership candidates. The initiative provides strong opportunities for aspiring principals to develop their leadership skillsets while engaging in practical leadership experiences in schools.
“The significance of school leadership has been known for some time,” said Kara Chism, M.S.E. of instructional leadership director and Mentors for Aspiring Principals facilitator. “Field experiences have always been the cornerstone of our instructional leadership programs but we have added a mentorship component because we believe it is an indispensable enhancement to the Samford experience for our candidates, future candidates and the education community.”
Orlean Beeson School of Education faculty believe mentorship is the key to providing practical leadership experiences. They describe mentorship opportunities as the area where practicum, internships, residency and pedagogy intersect. “Mentorship is fundamental in moving preparation into practice,” said Chism.
Good mentors are key. Selected mentors are leaders within the field who are committed to growing the next generation of transformational school leaders. Mentors provide coaching, feedback and support that assists the aspiring principals in exploring their career options and reaching their career goals.
During the initiative’s inaugural year, alumna Sonia Carrington served as a mentor for four candidates. Carrington holds an administrative certificate and two graduate degrees from Orlean Beeson School of Education. She is a former teacher of 16 years, administrator of 18 years and was named an Alabama National Distinguished Principal by the Alabama Association of Elementary School Administrators.
“Mentorship is an essential component of principal preparation programs,” said Carrington. “Mentors provide an opportunity for instructional leadership candidates to go deeper. This year, I have supported my mentees as they completed their capstone projects, reviewed their resumes, assisted them with interview preparation and helped them navigate situations that they have encountered in their school systems.”
The Mentors for Aspiring Principals initiative specifically pairs mentees with mentors outside of their district. This model provides an opportunity for confidentiality and robust trust as mentees seek guidance from their mentor.
“Our mentors are a fundamental part of our instructional leadership preparation programs,” said Chism. “We are thankful for their indispensable investment in our candidates and for their dedication to the field of education.”
Mentors for Aspiring Principals is made possible, in part, by the Charles and Estelle Campbell Foundation.