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.
A Design Thinking model that transforms the problem from being an obstacle, to a gift.
Teacher voice is more prevalent when they have tools they can access and tangible data to provide ownership and impact.
Make sure your school is “TIGER ready.”
Tips to create powerful shifts from identifying as a “math teacher” to a “teacher of students through math.”
Internal research teams that find purposeful activities for your community to avoid good things happening in silos,
Build “community groups” to connect students to your vision and each other.
Don’t get tripped up by fear, but build confidence in yourself as a professional in education.
“The leadership piece is giving that permission to, ‘Don’t come ask me, go for it. And if you need me along the way or if there’s any support I can give you, please ask.’ I wanna stay out of their way because as professionals, they know their content best, they know their students best. I’m just here to give them the necessary tools they need to move forward or problem solve with them or, and just get out of the way.”
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Read the Transcript here.
Hey, Ruckus Maker. I’ve got a couple questions for you to consider. What would it be worth to you to have your staff have a mindset of elevated ownership, ownership of everything that’s happening on campus? What would it be worth to you to have your staff say, why wait instead of, “Oh, this’ll never work.” What it is worth to you when you have a family come in mid-year and they have a kindergartner, so this is their precious little deer. And the kid comes in, the school runs up to a third grader, hugs the third grader, like their family, and then you as a principal explain why that moment just happened. And the parent says, “that is so cool.” What would that be worth? Well, we today are really in for a treat. One of my favorite leaders out there, Stacey Green, who is somebody I so admire, tells her story and that’s what we’re here for. Enjoy the show. We’ll have a few messages from our show sponsors here pretty quick, and then we’ll get into the main content. Hey, it’s Danny and welcome to the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast, a show for Ruckus Makers, which means you’re just like Stacey, you invest in your continuous growth, you challenge the status quo, and you design the future of school.
Learn how to recruit, develop, retain, and inspire outstanding individuals and teams to deliver on the vision of your school in leading people. A certificate in school management and leadership course from Harvard. Apply and get started at BetterLeadersBetterschools.com/harvard. Teachers have the power to impact children’s lives in almost immeasurable ways. As an instructional leader, as much as you’d love to provide every teacher the support they need to learn and grow, you can’t be with every teacher in every classroom. Teach FX is a whole new way to provide instructional leadership at scale and in a way that’s teacher-centered. Teachers use Teach FX to record a lesson and automatically get personalized private feedback to guide their own self-reflection. See Teach FX for yourself and learn about our special partnership options for Ruckus Makers@teachfx.com/BLBS. All students have an opportunity to succeed with Organized Binder who equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning, whether that’s in a distance, hybrid, or traditional educational setting. Learn email@example.com.
Hello, Ruckus Makers. Today is like the best day ever. I get to talk with one of the most amazing Ruckus Makers in our community, and it’s somebody that I’ve admired for a very long time. Stacey Green, who has spent many years in the same system starting off as a special ed teacher, and she’s worn all the hats. She even was an interim superintendent during Covid, if I’m not mistaken, and is now back in the principal position. The one thing I really admire about Stacey is that she is committed to her continuous growth, and that’s gonna come out in our conversation and just so excited for you to be here. Stacey, welcome to the show.
Danny. I’m excited to be here and have this conversation with you and to speak to our community.
Thank you. You highlighted in our pre-chat, I did have Randy Watson is it commissioner? Is that the specific title? Commissioner of Education, yes. Commission. I was kind of tongue-tied when I interviewed him because I don’t even remember how that got set up. But all of a sudden I’m interviewing the commissioner of education of a state. And this is back, I think 2017, because I was in Belgium. I remember doing the interview and looking out and that kind of thing. Ruckus Makers can go back and find that episode, and that was a really cool story where he was talking about how he wanted schools to innovate. But this show is all about Stacey. And Stacey is amazing. Just wait until you get to hear about the stuff she’s doing. But from what I understand, she was one of the first seven schools that was a part of Commissioner Watson’s school redesign process. So, Stacey, I just wanna invite you, so I guess you started planning in 2017, implementation started in 2018, but can you tell us a little bit about why you even went for that? It wasn’t mandatory, you had to opt in and apply and that kind of thing. Let’s start there. Why even say, I want to do this?
As I go back to those early conversations and you’re correct, this offer came out in like May, we had an audio meeting with the State Department. They presented schools, districts, actually it was districts, it was systems that could apply. At the time, the administration team, we were having ongoing conversations about, we had so many good things happening in silos, but even as a small district, the two buildings side by side, we were not truly operating as a system, but we knew the potential was there and we knew we had teacher leaders who could take us to that next level. So we put the vote out, it had to be 80% agreements from the staff. It had to have board of education approval, it had to have our teachers union approval, and then the application.
Again, we were accepted. All throughout, but initially we did a lot of parent meetings, a lot of community meetings, a group within the building and district leadership team, and just really drove what we needed? We look very different from many other districts in the state. What do we need here to best serve our students? And that was always the focal focal point. And from that became our vision statement as we are Tiger ready. And through that Tiger acronym really focused on the five things that we wanted our post-secondary success to, to look like as our students who are successful after crossing the stage and moving into life as it is as an adult. Incredible time, really hard to go back and, and put in the capsule what happened during those years. And then I shared with you pre noting here that I wish Covid wouldn’t have interrupted that because so many things were on track and in place that we had to go back and innovate and pilot differently because of the circumstances as they were. Again, we don’t get that done over, but we keep moving on and we learned a lot of lessons during that time.
What were some of those highlights pre covid and the momentum you were building, and I know it got interrupted, but what were some of those things that were happening that you were just super proud of the progress?
I think the thing I loved the most was the research teams. We would pause about every two weeks and find a purposeful activity for our students to be engaged in. While all of our staff members were they had selected their own research team and they were researching standards-based learning, social-emotional development, project-based learning. All the components of what could make a school greater and have the most impact on student success. And I loved being able to, as an administrator, walk from group to group and hear the dialogue and the discourse and to sometimes say, let’s meet in a smaller group and really work through this and then come back. It was just that time to see staff really invest in the profession that they love and see the outcomes be put into place to move forward. As we looked at what were the most essential strategies to change learning in Stockton.
The research teams, was this something that as a community, you decided here’s the stuff that we’re interested in and people signed up? How did those groups form and self-select? Research?
We had two state department support staff that came out monthly. And with their meetings, we had to spend a day meeting with them and identify those areas and begin to look at the components we wanted to put in place for strategies. And then yes, we said, here are the five or six areas we’re looking at that we’ve received from staff as the areas we want to move. And then staff signed up with their priority of 1, 2, 3. And we did have to have some movement there, but that’s how they were moved into their research teams. And those met that next full semester. And then since that time, like right now, we just had something pop up that we wanna look into more. Staff are really good about coming together as a small group and researching that and looking at ways we can pilot as we move into this spring semester and develop a plan or recommendation as we go into the fall of 2023. So that mindset of design thinking has not left us. I mean, we post in our hallway, we talk about it even when we’re getting ready to look at social studies resources, we use that design thinking model to also look at adoption of resources. So it really has become more embedded in our system as a whole.
I’m very interested in design thinking, not an expert yet, but just really curious. I have a book called the Design Thinking Playbook. They share a number of models and I don’t have any memorized at all, but I’m curious when you say design thinking in that model, in that process, what does that mean to you?
I’m gonna go back to a conversation I had with you just this week in that group we met, thinking about that problem, not as an obstacle, but as a gift. What does the solution look like? And that’s not your exact wording, but that’s what I think about is I no longer look at a problem. I don’t fear that. I look at it as an opportunity to grow, learn change. And yes, we’re gonna make some mistakes in that process, but that’s often the best learning. really just taking something that might be an obstacle or a way to get through and to be able to take that design thinking of, “okay, here’s what we have, here’s what we could do.” Research that, begin that pilot stage, tweak it as we go. But then that cycle continues on because it’s never completed.
Always learning. You are an individual, but we’re learning organizations as well. We had to model that just for the Ruckus Makers listing. Stacey’s talking about something that I put together called the 2023 Success Series. And I believe the training that you were at was something about how to use curiosity and intentional design to transform your school. And so the two resources that I’ll 0.3 resources, I’ll point Ruckus Makers to one, if you wanna see the training, you didn’t see it just email me, Daniel@BetterLeadersBetterSchools.com, Or Text me 3 1 2 7 8 8 7 5 9 5. And I’ll get you access to our private Facebook group and the recordings there. Second, there’s a book called The Obstacles of Way by Ryan Holiday, which is somebody I really admire. And that’s what it’s all about. That the challenge is the way that’s the path forward. And then there’s a much deeper book that we discussed deeper in the training called, A Beautiful Constraint. And that’s where Stacey’s talking about you have to love the problem more than the solution. And always like reinventing and yeah, just trying to optimize I guess, what you offer and the value you create for schools and that kind of thing. So check out the beautiful constraint too. Talk to me about the hallway. Like if I was in the hallway, you said there’s design thinking even in the halls. Is it that it’s like a graphic, like don’t forget, this is how we do it here, it’s the Tiger way, or what would I see?
And that’s what it is. It’s a graphic and it is circular. And it has the identification of each of the areas you go through. But there’s that reminder every time I’m up and down the hallway or students or staff, and especially as we’re onboarding new staff, that’s also been one of the challenges is bringing new staff in. After those first couple years we’ve had quite a bit of change in staff, but just onboarding them. And that’s just another reminder by having it Purposefully placed that we can just keep that’s who we are.
Once you started applying this model for the school redesign process, I’m just curious, did you start seeing it being implemented in classrooms where it might not have been, initially, but now it’s like, we’re doing this thing and you saw it impact the curriculum? Did that happen by any chance?
It’s not always named like we’re design thinking, but I sure see enough of the process embedded. So yes, like I think back to my first, early years in education, we’d have an idea to come up, okay, let’s talk about that for next year. Let’s plan this for the third year, whatever. Now I see it happening immediately. Like if it’s, something that’s important. It’s evidence or research based. Huh. Why wait, let’s go ahead and look where we can embed that or integrate it or try it without waiting. And that’s, that’s probably been one of the bigger things I’ve noticed. The other really awesome thing that’s happened is that with our Kansas accreditation systems we have goals that are systems, but then we have goals at the building. And then our staff has really taken to what can I do in my classroom to impact that goal?
And what can our students do to impact that goal? So within the classrooms, we have scoreboards that are, that are posted and there’s a teacher driven, like, what am I going to do to impact student learning this semester? What am I going to do as a project-based learning experience for my students? What will happen each semester? What can I take data collection wise in the classroom that’s going to impact our maybe grade band goal or our building goal, or our district? I’ve really just seen that data piece, whatever they come to life, because there’s an ownership of what I’m doing on a day-to-day basis that’s going to impact that. And then just having more of those conversations with students as well.
And so think about this. Ruckus Maker listening, what would you give to have a staff with elevated ownership is what I’m hearing. And also a mindset of why wait versus we can’t do this. I talk about in the beginning of the show, a Ruckus Maker invests in their continuous growth challenges, the status quo, and then you are literally living out designing the future school now because Why wait is the punchline? I never say that, but that’s the point. And you’re living that out. I so appreciate that and admire that piece of your leadership. Thank you for sharing. So what would you give for that? Why wait for your staff?Stacey, I’m loving our conversation. We’re gonna pause here really quickly for a quick message from our sponsors when we get back.
I believe that the teacher’s voice has become more prevalent in your school as well, and I’d like to ask you about that. Learn how to recruit, develop, retain, and inspire outstanding individuals and teams to deliver on the vision of your school in leading people. A certificate in school management and leadership course from Harvard. Topics include instrumental and inclusive leadership, hiring and recruiting teachers, psychological safety, equity, role modeling, and more. Apply and get started at BetterLeadersbetterschools.com/harvard. Hey, Ruckus Maker Teach FX has been an incredible sponsor over the years and they do great work helping educators be mindful and reflective about how their talk right and how much talk they have in a classroom impacts student learning. Now, don’t just take it from me that Teach FX is awesome and it surely is, but check out what some real educators have to say about using Teach FX in the classroom.
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Today’s show is brought to you by Organized Binder. Organized binder develops the skills and habits all students need for success during these uncertain times of distance learning and hybrid education settings. Organized binder equips educators with a resource to provide stable and consistent learning routines so that all students have an opportunity to succeed, whether at home or in the classroom. Learn firstname.lastname@example.org. All right. And, and we’re back with the amazing Stacey Green who’s worn all the hats in her system and we’ll, we’ll be able to ask about that at the end of the show. But I promised I wanted to hear the teacher’s voice. And if you heard the first half of the show, I think you did, unless you fast forwarded to this point. You have a staff that’s like, why wait, let’s implement. And elevated really elevated ownership through this school redesign process. But something else I think Ruckus Makers would be very interested in is making teacher voice more prevalent. So can you share a story, like how did that happen?
It happens differently with every individual. And I think that’s where that relationship piece comes in. I’m just getting to know my staff and know where their strengths are, but also pushing them into areas where they didn’t know they had strengths or hadn’t identified that. And I go back to that beginning of the redesign process back in 2017, 18. Each building identified what they called pilots because we’re looking at the mercury, so the space. And so the two pilots that initially were asked, one of them was like, yes, put me into this position, I’m ready to go. The other one was like, for one, I’m not even really sure I want to do a redesign and you’re asking me to be a leader in my district and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. With some conversation it’s been such a beautiful story to watch unfold with this particular staff member really changing her way of teaching and she’ll tell her story.
And at some point that may be one for you, me to share with you, is to have a conversation with her. But she talked about being a math teacher. And now she talks about being a teacher of students through math. And just really her shift of how to better impact students through a variety of things. But most importantly that social emotional piece that she had never really embraced as a teacher early on in her career. As I’m visually walking my brain through the hallways right now finding something that a teacher does well and lifting that teacher up to a place where they’re doing, sharing professional development within the building of an area of expertise. Like if I had a teacher, I’ve got a third grade teacher right now that’s amazing at project-based learning, she can take a project and embed so many standards into that where she came to me so excited the first day back of the semester, and she’s like third, fourth and fifth grade.
We’re all going to work together on this PBL. And she just sees the joy in her face and the way she’s engaging students and families. But now she’s reached out to two other grade levels to be able to bring this in. So that leadership piece is just that permission to not come ask me, go for it. And if you need me along the way or if there’s any support I can give you, please ask. But I wanna stay out of their way because as professionals, they know their content best, they know their students best. I’m just here to give them the necessary tools they need to move forward or problem solve with them or, and just get out of the way. And that’s the part I love to see. And it’s really comfortable for staff that come into our building initially and have been in other systems where that’s not been a part of who they are. It’s awkward for a bit just because Just go for it.
They’re used to being told what to do, probably in some respects maybe keeping their head down so that they don’t bring too much attention to themselves. I mean that’s the leadership model. And it’s about hiring professionals, hiring adults that know their stuff, resourcing them, removing the obstacles where you can, getting out of their way. Let them be brilliant. And so kudos to you for being able to do that. I wanna go back to the math teacher just really quick because I can make an assumption of why that matters. But you said she shifted from identifying kind of as a math teacher to, I think you said a teacher of students through math or who teaches math or something like that. But why does that matter? Like connect the dots for us?
So we know through the research that that social emotional learning piece is incredibly important. I’ll be honest right now we’re gonna fight that at the legislative level. We’ve got a lot of individuals through those rules that don’t see that being as important. But we know through developing relationships with our students in a variety of ways in our school and district and community, that students have to feel a sense of belonging. They have to fill that sense of safety before they’re going to be willing to academically push themselves and be comfortable in a setting or a content area that’s going to be more difficult or challenging for them. So I think that piece of just being able to look at tools that they can access both individually or maybe in the classroom setting so they can get that whole brain to function. And to be able to really learn is something that we’ve seen through research, both informally in our district, but also just reading the research and the studies we’ve done and the work we’ve done through the social emotional piece to know it’s incredibly important. And we started that journey prior to even redesigning. We began working with an educational consultant that’s come in and really helped us look at trauma informed practices. And that’s really embedded in who we are too in our district.
Brilliant. In schools that I would lead, I would challenge the staff for don’t worry about the work, the homework, the tests, whatever for the first week, just focus on relationships and then don’t stop. But at least set a foundation. That you have this you wanna create a family feel, I would think, and to have those relationships with the students. And the same thing goes for adults too. These things that work for kids, new people come to the team, where is it in your onboarding process or whatever to build the relationships, admin team, all this kind of stuff. Thank you for sharing that.
Can I make one quick here? I’ve gotta share a moment that happened today. I have a new Let’s it family that started just yesterday and one of their daughters is a kindergartner and they were a little bit late getting this morning and walked through the door and immediately she runs to a third grader and has this embrace. The mom’s kind of looked at me and I said, “We’ve covered a lot of details when you came in to enroll your girls, but we didn’t talk about our community groups. And our community groups are pre-K students through seventh grade,” cuz that’s the attendance center set up. We have pre-k through seventh grade, and every day from 12:35 to one o’clock, we break into our community groups and these mixed age groups with stationary teachers. The teachers stay with that group all the way through, and we do our social emotional development goal setting, team building a variety of things, but they have that one adult that’s going to stay, or two adults that’ll stay with them all the way through. Another grade level teacher may change. And mom said she came home last night and kept talking about this little girl who she knew wasn’t in her class, but she’d already formed a quick bond with this young lady in a community group. And that’s who she saw first getting here. So I explained that to mom and she goes, that is the coolest thing ever. So that
Is the coolest thing.
Again, that’s another conversation, but just that belonging piece and that little gal walking in here on her second day, being so excited and being welcomed by an older student was an incredible way to start her day.
It sounds like it instantly happened, and the timing was perfect that the student was there and that kind of thing. Wow, what a way to support those relationships and do it with the students as well. So really cool. I’m glad you paused for that. I think before I get to the last questions I ask all my guests, I wanna hear you. You’ve spent your career in the same system. You’ve worn all the hats from special ed teacher to interim superintendent. And so over your career, if you reflect on maybe some of the positives and the challenges, like what would be a gift of sticking around and what would be maybe the biggest challenge? I’m just curious.
I would say the gift of sticking around is that I’ve had a chance to build relationships with different generations within our community. But I’ve also had the opportunity to see how we have changed as a system, but also how we’ve maintained our identity to meet the students in our district. And that’s been a gift to first of all be able to teach with staff and now to lead with them at different levels and to grow leadership among staff that initially I, I taught next to and worked together with. The challenging piece might be the same thing.
Honestly. They know you really well.
Yeah. They know me really well. I had a really challenging last year as there’s some components in there where my integrity was really challenged. And that hurt because I think that if people knew me and know what I stand for and my belief in children and education as a whole and the staff that was probably a challenge is that I feel like by this point they really just really should know me and that was questioned.
I’m sorry to hear that. Well let’s get back to a positive mindset then. If you could put a message on all school marquees around the world right. For a single day, what would Stacey Green’s message be?
I’m gonna hold fast to what our staff talked about and have been holding fast for two for six, seven years here. And doing what’s best for students is not easiest for adults. A lot of barriers can be moved with that. A simple statement.
Do what’s best for students, and what’s easiest for adults. And Stacey, I know you’ve gone through the school redesign process, but you did have some constraints in the real world. In this thought experiment, you have no constraints in terms of resources. You’re only limitation is your imagination. What would be the three guiding principles of building your dream school?
The first guiding principle would be more community involvement. And again, that’s the path we were on prior to the pandemic and just integrating more of our civic engagement both to and from. So building businesses coming in, us going back out doing more of that. I think that’s integral. The next piece would be, man, I’d love to drop all the walls and the grade levels. I look at the way we could move kids by really personalizing more of their instruction and getting them what they need. Not trying to fit them into the boxes of a grade level resource. I just personalize that learning to the fullest extent. And then that third piece that the third guiding principle would go along with my teacher leadership is just to continue growing teacher leaders and letting them pursue passions that they find and opening those doors so that they can turn that passion right back to students and grow passion in them that they didn’t know existed either.
Awesome. We covered a lot of ground today, Stacey. And of everything we talked about, what’s the one thing you want a Ruckus Maker to remember?
Don’t get tripped up by fear or worrying about what other people might think and know and have confidence in yourself that as professionals in education leaning on each other and growing and changing and on the other side will be a brilliant story to go back and retell.
Thanks for listening to The Better Leaders, Better Schools podcast Ruckus Maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, Daniel@betterleadersbetterschools.com 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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