Stacey Green began her tenure at Stockton Grade School (SGS) as a new principal with an ambitious goal: transform the school’s culture from an isolated, individual classroom focus to an integrated, responsive, and collaborative environment where teachers lead with the whole child and the whole school in mind. In just six years, Green has had remarkable success, not only because of her individual talents, but because of her belief that change happens when leaders “empower others to remove barriers and transform problems into opportunities.” Green has used this approach to lead SGS through the Kansas School Redesign process, earning the distinction of being named a Kansas Mercury School in 2017. On the path toward personalizing student learning, Green has supported teachers in aligning with school vision and purpose through personalized professional development. SGS teachers have since embraced trauma-informed practices, increasing connection with students across experiences, and improving staff’s capacity for mutual support, self-care, and vicarious trauma prevention. Today, SGS is known for high community and family engagement, regularly hosting visits and presenting at conferences on the power of redesigning instruction through research-based practices. Superintendent Roger Lowry notes Green’s insatiable quest for knowledge of education and leadership, calling her the best principal he has observed in his 20 years as an administrator. Green holds an M.S. from Fort Hays State University and a B.A. from Bethany College.
The Mastermind motivated Stacey to tackle three challenges proactively.
Mastermind groups provide innovative, personal ways to think through topics out loud with an outside perspective.
An unexpected feeling became Stacey’s first big win on her first hot seat.
The moment that would stop most leaders dead in their tracks, but not Stacey.
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How Stacey Grew Her Confidence
If you listen to last week’s podcast, we were in for a treat. We had a conversation with the amazing Ruckus Maker, Stacey Green, who’s a principal, and just words can’t even describe how much I admire this leader. Anyway, we heard part of her story and the cool things that she’s been doing at her school, including a school redesign process, how to make teacher voice more prevalent, and this interesting idea called community groups. Go back to last week’s episode in case you missed it or re-listen because it was really a masterclass in leadership. And then something new that we’re doing on the podcast, we’re gonna tell our Mastermind members’ story. What were they working on? Why did they join? What’s the value that they got? Because here’s the thing, and it came out in our conversation she talked about being able to work with me one-on-one for years before joining the Mastermind to get to know me a little bit as another great way of figuring out what the Mastermind’s like. She had a colleague basically reach out, Hey Stacey, I know you’re in the Mastermind. What’s it like? It’s kind of hard to describe. You just really have to experience it. So part of my heart and intention with these episodes is to tell our members stories, how they’ve grown, what challenges have they overcome, and that kind of thing. I do it for two reasons. One, I think it’s great at any time to slow down life and leadership and reflect on how far you’ve come. The progress you’ve made. I also know that some of you listening right now are just like Stacey, and we would love to serve you. And if that makes sense and this is a good time, we could talk about what those next steps are. So enjoy our conversation about the Mastermind. Today is a case study episode. Hey, this is Danny, chief Ruckus Maker over at Better Leaders Better Schools. And this shows for you a Ruckus Maker, which means you invest in your continuous growth, you challenge the status quo, and you design the future of school now. And we’ll be right back after a few short messages from our show sponsors.
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We’re back with the second episode with the amazing Stacey Green. If you listen, last week you heard all this cool stuff about school redesign, using the design thinking process. Teachers had a more prevalent voice and we were introduced to a really cool idea. If you didn’t listen to the episode, go back and check out what Stacey shared around community groups. But really impressive stuff. And in this episode, we just wanna hear about Stacey’s Mastermind experience. Stacey, welcome back to the show. I think what I wanna start with is what was life in leadership like before you joined the Mastermind?
I’ve always been a networked principle, and that happened by chance. When I first started, I had a neighbor principal who invited me to the Kansas Principals Association. It was the Kansas Association for Elementary School Principals at the time and it became very early on in a board member role. So I really got to interact with principals across the state of Kansas that way. And then I had an opportunity to go to a Kansas conference and then then some national conferences. I’m always that lifelong learner. I live it to the fullest. I’m a reader. I like to listen to podcasts. I’m constantly looking for ways to grow myself almost to a fault sometimes. And that’s been called out by one of my coaches before analyzing wins enough or what can you do? I’m just always eager to learn more and to take what I learn and share that with others around me.
Daniel (05:29): Was that Karine or was it somebody else?
Stacey (05:33):That was somebody else.
Just curious, how did you hear about the Mastermind? You talked about reading a lot of books and podcasts, so I don’t know if it was the podcast or was it something else?
I am trying to think when. I knew that question was gonna come up and I’m trying to remember that one moment. I’ve listened to your podcast for years. I think I know it was that. And then okay. I had an opportunity to do a couple different coaching times with you. We looked at the ideal work week at one point and just got on and I think you did a problem solving. Twitter, honestly, I think where that all opened up. I had seen you there, seen other people talk about the Mastermind, and just became more curious. And then when Karine was able to make a call to me and we had that one-on-one conversation about what it, a little bit more about the process and the structure and what it might do for me as well as our staff, I think that was my next buy-in.
I’m glad to hear Kareen reached out. The group that she leads you’re out of a group that’s for women only in leadership. Was there something about that sort of structure? Women in leadership specifically that was appealing to you?
Honestly, for me, it was the time and the date that worked the best, but I also think that the women in leadership part was important to me. In Kansas, we’re really working on that. We have our Kansas Association school boards and school administrator group that really focuses on women and it’s very different leading as a woman. I think that was enticing to me as well to meet with women. And I think the most exciting part was the diversity, being able to look from Kansas to New Jersey to Arizona, to all over the, the nation being able to, and even Canada. Being able to talk to women in other places and really be challenged by their thought processes and the work they’re doing in their buildings.
When you said yes to the Mastermind, was there a challenge that you hadn’t been able to figure out yet, or a number one goal that you wanted to achieve. We know you’re a learner, that’s clear, especially if you listened to the last episode two. Was there a challenge or a goal that you wanted?
I think the goal was I don’t want to become complacent. I live in a very small rural community who tends to be very conservative and I very much still adhere to that, but I like to be challenged. There’s a lot going on in the world that sometimes doesn’t tap into us locally, but I think that we’re usually like a year or two behind, sometimes the rest of the country on some things and for me it’s just being more thoughtful about changes that are happening in our society and being more educated about those. And being able to really meet the needs of all of our learners as they come through and we serve them.
I love that question because I love all these questions, but you never know how people are going to answer.And there’s some folks that are very clear, like, I wanna achieve this, or this thing’s been a thorn in my side forever. But your reason is really relevant and important too, that idea of just not being complacent too.You’ve shared in your story, you’ve been in the same system for your career. A fishbowl type thinking could exist. I’m not saying it does in your system, but that might be another reason to explore diverse groups that are from all over the place and how they’re approaching education and that kind of thing. We talked about how you found out about the Mastermind. Did you have any fears or reservations for joining?
Stacey (09:26): Oh, yes. I did.
Daniel (09:29): Tell me about that.
I remember those first couple of times we met and I was like, okay, these women sound very educated. How do I go ahead and insert my thoughts or share the hot seats? People were asking questions and I just remember thinking, I don’t know if I belong here at first. Like, I don’t know, I can level up to where they are. I think that was just my own self-criticism getting in the way and maybe some. Doubts I had about myself. But quickly, I think even by the end of meeting two or for certain to three, I was like, yes, I belong here. And I’m very much validated by them, which I think grew my confidence. And Karina is an amazing matter of fact, I have a little note right here that just came from her yesterday, just validating what she sees in me and wow.
The growth and leadership that I’ve made. I have grown. I had another thing, I feel like I’m rambling a bit here, Daniel, I’ll slow down, but I had another state principal contact me earlier this week and asked some more questions and said, it’s really hard to tell about the Mastermind experience until you experience it. Y I didn’t know, it’s just the growth process that’s very different from coursework. It’s very different from a professional development of any other kind that I’ve done. It’s awesome. It’s been incredible for me and I look forward to it. I will do my very best to keep that time sacred.
We love having you in it. I never would’ve guessed that about you. I just wanna encourage you, I experience you as one of the most confident leaders I’ve been around. And so that’s why, but we all have that. Like, and people might laugh, so I’ll share my story. I remember meeting Karine not face to face, but somehow we connected for the podcast because she had a book out Learn Forward, right. And this was, the show was just starting out and I’m like, oh, it’s an author. You know what I mean? And I was so intimidated to talk to Karine, who’s now just a dear friend. You know what I mean? I look back at those things and it is just kind of funny how we can be our hardest critics at times. So you mentioned two meetings in which your mindset shifted, “oh yeah, I belong here.” Was it something that the group did? Was it something that, like a choice you made? Or what, can you remember what the catalyst was where you felt like, okay, I belong here?
I don’t remember specifically, but I think for me it was just that feeling of belonging and everything. The sincerity of supporting each other and being able to come together and just that opening time of really building relationships with each other. And I think by then I’d let my guard down a little bit and felt more comfortable and I don’t remember exactly what happened. I just remember it just, I think it’s with anything, I think when people invest in you and you invest in them, those relationships start to build that confidence of learning as well.
Okay. I can’t wait to ask you this. What surprised you most when you joined the Mastermind?
Really that even though I’m in a semester in Kansas and we all of our members learned from other districts, and I’m thinking of one in Chicago, Jess in Chicago, even though we teach in very different or lead in very different districts, they’re all a lot of similarities. A lot of the concerns that we bring to each other and share are very similar in nature. Whether that be from the family perspective of a principalship and having a family or from other concerns that arise or successes, the things that are going well, regardless of that part of the diversity, there’s a lot of commonality that we bring together and can support each other through.
Gotcha. Did you ever feel like quitting?
No. I’ve never had a quitting moment. No. And I’ll be honest, while we’re being honest here, this is something I’ve invested in myself, it’s not something my district pays for. This is something that is out of my pocket for me. Wow. And something that I truly believe makes me a better person. It’s something I’ve committed to.
Wow. Thank you. I love answering that question too cuz this show’s about you, but I gotta tell this story really quick because I won’t reveal who it was, but somebody said, yeah, I was gonna quit because there was this other person in the group who was so annoying to me. I never would’ve guessed that. But when I was talking to the member because the follow up is, well, if you did wanna quit, well how’d you overcome it? And this person said, oh, I realized I was just like super judging ’em. They were reminding me of somebody in my family. That’s annoying. And once I made that connection, I could let it go. And that was just really, really funny. I still ask because you never know. Anyways, I appreciate you being candid, which I really respect about you. Can you remember a first big win that you got in the Mastermind or something where maybe if it wasn’t a win, it gave you a feeling of, wow, this, this is working for me.
Stacey (14:31):Yes. It was a hot seat experience and it was something I had taken to them. I don’t wanna share too much because I do live in a small district. But it was a hot seat that I really needed help with and it was something I could not share with people close to my network and really having them help me solve that problem and think through it and give some clarity of my next steps. So those hot seats, sometimes I come with something that is heavier and I really need the help. And sometimes it’s nice just to process Yeah. And work through something lighter too. So those, the hot seats. Is incredible.
Don’t get into the details of the content, but can you describe the Ruckus Maker listing since you’re a member, like how would you describe what the hot seat is and why it was so powerful for you?
I love the way Crane, and this may be the language that all the facilitators use, but like, how can we best serve you? Yeah. And for me to be able to state something that was weighing in heaven to lay on me and something keeping me awake at night. and for me to be able to tell what’s happened, give a little background knowledge, and then to have the other community members say, have you thought about this? Or ask me more in depth questions, or really go about it in a way that I’m solving it on my own, but based on some background that they’ve had, they can offer possibilities or ask me more questions that I have to respond to out loud. Which again, gives me ways to think through things that maybe I haven’t processed yet in that manner.
Daniel (16:02):Gotcha. Cool. All right. So that was like a moment. Oh, this is working for me. Any other times by any chance in the Mastermind where you got some kind of result and you were just super excited about it?
Going back to the books? We know we’re like, right now we’re looking at tiny habits and for me those are again, texts that I may not pick up on my own. I may not go on and order that book, but through that time of sharing and the questions that we respond to there’s been a lot on that diversity side that I really just have not spent a lot of time on because we’re not a very diverse district. Our diversity lies in some different things. Typically not like a bigger district might be, but yet there are ways for me to ask different questions of staff or of students or of families to better serve them through some of the topics we’ve discussed through the books, and especially on the diversity book. Those have been some really good ways for me to put my thought process through other people’s writings and experience things through their eyes that I wouldn’t have on my own.
Awesome. Well, Stacey, we’ll pause here really quick for a message from our sponsors. Why don’t we get back just a few more questions and we’ll start off with basically, how’s life in leadership different now?
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We’re back with the amazing Ruckus Maker Stacey Green, and we’re talking about her Mastermind experience in today’s episode. Stacey, how would you describe life and leadership today? Is it different in any ways that you can notice?
It’s definitely different, and part of that’s my confidence in myself and that I used to be one that did not like conflict. I didn’t want to, I’d kind of do my best to steer myself around that, but now I’m more of a let’s just take it head on. Let’s talk about it. Let’s work through it. Let’s address it. I think it’s just that confidence knowing that it’s just the way life is and life is going to happen and we just need to not put it behind because whatever I allow to happen will become what everyone thinks can happen.
And now that you have this confidence in ability it sounds like, to address things like in the moment as they’re happening what does that allow you to do next? What might you get excited about? Now that I could do this, here’s how I might grow into the next type of thing.
I’m just always looking for the next thing. And it might be presented at a conference. It might be meeting up with another principal who’s in need of some type of networking, just more aware of those around me who might need the same thing that’s helped me move forward. Oftentimes, I don’t know what that next thing’s going to be until it yes, sure. Presents itself. I’m just more open to that than I’ve ever been before.
What advice would you have for somebody who was in a situation like you before the Mastermind?
I would just say get in touch with someone who’s been a member of a Mastermind. Ask them questions. I actually just had this happen a couple days ago and asked her to get in touch with Karine and actually she already had. So just to talk through what possibilities might be there.
No, that makes a lot of sense. I know I’m biased. I love how we serve school leaders. It’s certainly my baby, but I always, when I’m meeting with somebody, Hey, would you like to talk to somebody in the group already just to hear about their experience? And that’s why we’re doing these episodes now too, is hopefully to create an authentic just conversation. Candid like yeah. What’s the experience been like so that people can see themselves there? Because at the end of the day, basically the guiding principle of BLBS is when you get better, everybody wins. And that’s just so important to me. And I believe we can transform education by serving Stacey Green. And by serving whoever that other person is and transforming the community through a ripple effect. I’m honored. Thank you. Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to serve you. In closing, just is there anything else you’d like to share?
Just want to say to all the Ruckus Makers that are out there if you’re doubting yourself, find that someone next to you. to lift you up. I think about like you for listening to this podcast all those years and then to finally get in those one-on-one conversations with you. You’re us. And while we might, I might put you in that pedestal or, or that which you’re still there by the way, but I mean, I think it’s a chance to really lean into people who really want to grow other people. And I think when we’re investing in each other and having that collective efficacy even among leaders, there’s so much more we can do and really advocate on behalf of our students as we continue to see the world shift as it does to really get it back into the right place.
Wow. Cool. Stacey, thanks again for letting us allow the opportunity to serve you. And thank you for your dedication to education. You’re amazing and just so, I’m just so honored that you spent some time with me and that you’re in the Mastermind. So thank you, thank you, thank you,
Stacey (23:25):Thank you.
Thanks for listening to The Better Leaders, Better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter at @Alienearbud. If the Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more Ruckus Makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode, extra credit for tagging me on Twitter at alien earbud, and using the hashtag #BLBS. Level up your leadership at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, “class dismissed.”
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