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5 Ways School Leaders Can Make Educators Feel as Important as They Are

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The month of May is Teacher Appreciation Month. Appreciation and recognition of our teachers, or facilitators, is so important. We often see this manifest in the form of breakfasts, lunches, coffees and other treats. As a previous school site leader, I did everything from washing facilitators’ cars and arranging for a professional masseuse to provide 15-minute massages. I loved doing these things, and we should keep doing things like this for facilitators. However, what if we created systems and environments that made all staff feel important every day?

Here are five areas to help facilitators think about making appreciation more authentic:

Creating a Culture of Facilitator Support & Appreciation

If you ask facilitators, most will indicate that they do want appreciation and recognition for their hard work. However, they will also often say they’d rather that appreciation and recognition were ongoing, sincere and spontaneous versus an official event or specific days on a calendar. I always tried to focus on not only good facilitators but outstanding facilitation. Of course, this was about appreciation and recognition, but it was also intended to inspire others.

Learning, especially deeper learning, is based on inspiration as well as close working relationships and high levels of collegial collaboration. It’s well known that site leaders need to be in classrooms on a regular basis in order to increase learner achievement.

But this is not the only byproduct. Indeed, if site leaders truly embrace being instructional leaders, they will also learn who their facilitators are, what they need, what motivates them, what challenges them and ultimately how the organization can provide appreciation and recognition. If site leaders prioritize education and facilitators, others will notice and learn from that modeling and leadership.


This might seem like a scary idea, but it’s paramount. Autonomy is about freedom, trust and ultimately professionalism. Facilitators feel when they have control over their own destiny. A few years back a “quality of life” survey for facilitators indicated that one of the top reasons people leave the profession is related to not getting enough support and respect.

This doesn’t mean facilitators don’t want expectations, standards or feedback. They do want those who work with them to trust them as co-professionals. No one likes to be micromanaged. It’s counterintuitive to owning and improving one’s craft. If we believe in creativity and growth, we need to focus on autonomy. We need to model and practice this by offering choices – choice on how to accomplish a goal, whom to collaborate with, how to professionally grow, what technologies to incorporate and so much more. Student “voice and choice” is a vital part of project-based and deeper learning. If we want to truly embrace this pedagogy, facilitators need to have “voice and choice” too. Too often, our communication and collaboration with facilitators is prescriptive (“Do this,” “Do that”) instead of being inquiry and challenge-based (“How could we do this?” or “What would be a great way to make this happen?”).

Flexibility / Saying ‘YES’

If we want personalized learning for learners, then we need to also welcome personalized learning for facilitators. This can be supporting them as they reach for various professional and personal goals.

If you want the best facilitators at your school sites for your learners, then you need to embrace the best. And the best comes with some new challenges. When facilitators, especially amazing ones, want to attend a conference or meeting off campus, collaborate with others or visit other school programs, or take on new roles within or beyond our organization, we need to find a way to not only say yes but to facilitate their growth.

I had many facilitators who were invited to speak, present and lead various professional development opportunities. When you have rock star facilitators, others will want to learn from them, host them, collaborate with them and maybe even steal them.

This last idea – “stealing them” – leads to our next point. Many facilitators are going to find themselves either wanting to pursue new opportunities and/or be offered new ones. The days of facilitators primarily staying in one classroom, at one school site and with one organization are starting to fade. The world of learning is moving too fast for that model. Good facilitators will stay, and many good ones will leave. At one time, that would have been frowned upon (and in some cases still might be). But I tried to model that I wanted my facilitators, just like my learners, to go wherever their talents, skills and dreams will take them. It’s a gift to have a great facilitator even for a short time.

Digital Appreciation

Technology can also add some diverse and special ways to make facilitators feel more appreciated and recognized.
It allows us to extend beyond that annual Teacher Appreciation Week. It can start with personal emails or texts recognizing outstanding work in and out of the classroom. But it can expand to using social media tools, school websites, blogs and other tech outlets to feature our facilitators. This allows others, not just their peers, but also the learners, parents and community to see the fine work our facilitators are doing. It demonstrates to the facilitators, as well as the other audiences, that we are paying attention and prioritizing not only appreciation but also outstanding facilitation. It contributes to modeling, fostering and creating a culture of recognition.

Ideas for sharing appreciation for our facilitators include weekly facilitator spotlights via blogs and videos, which staff and families would love to watch. Verbal appreciation is important and can be very personal, sincere and appropriate. Written words, including via technology, can have a long-lasting impact. A facilitator can turn back to a note, letter or card for inspiration for years, especially when they need it the most.

Let the Learners Do It

Finally, maybe one of the best things we can do is to get the learners involved. Many learners like to recognize and appreciate their facilitators and are looking for processes and systems to do just that. We can recognize learners and then invite them to pay it forward. If I had a facilitator out sick or out of the classroom, I would often visit that classroom with a preprinted template with the facilitator’s name on the page and just invite learners to write them personal notes of appreciation. Not all did, but many would. And they would write sincere, personalized and unique words of appreciation that facilitators would cherish for a lifetime. It was simple, fun and worthwhile, and this could easily be translated to social media appreciation posts as well.

With these five ideas held close, it’s possible to create a school culture in which staff feel more appreciated year-round – to the benefit of learners and the entire learning community.

Posted on May 4, 2021 in iLEAD Digest

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Effective date: August 29, 2019

iLEAD California (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://ileadschools.org/ website (the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, the terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from the Service.

Information Collection and Use

We collect several different types of information for various purposes to provide and improve our Service to you.

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Data”). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

We may use your Personal Data to contact you with newsletters, marketing or promotional materials and other information that may be of interest to you. You may opt out of receiving any, or all, of these communications from us by following the unsubscribe link or the instructions provided in any email we send.

Usage Data

We may also collect information on how the Service is accessed and used (“Usage Data”). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

Tracking & Cookies Data

We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and we hold certain information.

Cookies are files with a small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Other tracking technologies are also used such as beacons, tags and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyse our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service.

Examples of Cookies we use:

Use of Data

iLEAD California uses the collected data for various purposes:

Legal Basis for Processing Personal Data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

If you are from the European Economic Area (EEA), iLEAD California legal basis for collecting and using the personal information described in this Privacy Policy depends on the Personal Data we collect and the specific context in which we collect it.

iLEAD California may process your Personal Data because:

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iLEAD California will retain your Personal Data only for as long as is necessary for the purposes set out in this Privacy Policy. We will retain and use your Personal Data to the extent necessary to comply with our legal obligations (for example, if we are required to retain your data to comply with applicable laws), resolve disputes and enforce our legal agreements and policies.

iLEAD California will also retain Usage Data for internal analysis purposes. Usage Data is generally retained for a shorter period of time, except when this data is used to strengthen the security or to improve the functionality of our Service, or we are legally obligated to retain this data for longer periods.

Transfer of Data

Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to – and maintained on – computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ from those of your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United States and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to United States and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

iLEAD California will take all the steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organisation or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure of Data

Business Transaction

If iLEAD California is involved in a merger, acquisition or asset sale, your Personal Data may be transferred. We will provide notice before your Personal Data is transferred and becomes subject to a different Privacy Policy.

Disclosure for Law Enforcement

Under certain circumstances, iLEAD California may be required to disclose your Personal Data if required to do so by law or in response to valid requests by public authorities (e.g. a court or a government agency).

Legal Requirements

iLEAD California may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

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The security of your data is important to us but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Our Policy on “Do Not Track” Signals under the California Online Protection Act (CalOPPA)

We do not support Do Not Track (“DNT”). Do Not Track is a preference you can set in your web browser to inform websites that you do not want to be tracked.

You can enable or disable Do Not Track by visiting the Preferences or Settings page of your web browser.

Your Data Protection Rights under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

If you are a resident of the European Economic Area (EEA), you have certain data protection rights. iLEAD California aims to take reasonable steps to allow you to correct, amend, delete or limit the use of your Personal Data.

If you wish to be informed about what Personal Data we hold about you and if you want it to be removed from our systems, please contact us.

In certain circumstances, you have the following data protection rights:

Please note that we may ask you to verify your identity before responding to such requests.

You have the right to complain to a Data Protection Authority about our collection and use of your Personal Data. For more information, please contact your local data protection authority in the European Economic Area (EEA).

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We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service (“Service Providers”), provide the Service on our behalf, perform Service-related services or assist us in analysing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.


We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyse the use of our Service.

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iLEAD California uses remarketing services to advertise on third party websites to you after you visited our Service. We and our third-party vendors use cookies to inform, optimise and serve ads based on your past visits to our Service.

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Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

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Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Child has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

Changes to This Privacy Policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the “effective date” at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

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If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us:

Important information regarding confidential student data

There is ongoing litigation between the California Department of Education and the Concerned Parent Association. A notice issued by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson states, “The lawsuit accuses CDE of widespread, systemic non-compliance by local educational agencies with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504. The CDE denies these allegations and is actively defending the litigation.”

The court has ordered CDE to release student and parent information to provide personally identifiable information (PII) – an act that can only be taken as an exception to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). As a result, we are providing notice of the court order and directions to anyone wishing to object.

Please be advised that CDE will notify parents or students of whom are required to disclose information and those individuals may object directly to the court regarding this disclosure using the PDF link below:


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