Dozens of aspiring P-12 leaders gathered on Illinois State’s campus to participate in the Department of Educational Administration and Foundations’ (EAF) first Leadership Forum. The April 23 event was organized by the student cohort captains of EAF’s principal preparation program, including Cassandra Mattoon, a kindergarten teacher at Metcalf Lab School, and Joe Rosel.

The EAF Leadership Forum was created to enhance the leadership capacities of students, their colleagues, and to help address the principal and P-12 leadership shortage in school districts across Illinois.

“Having the opportunity to get all these administrators with their years of experience here in one room was no small feat but it was absolutely worth the work,” said Rosel, who is a technology and engineering teacher at Normal Community West High School.

The Redbirds helped recruit 12 school and district administrators to present to their cohorts. The leaders each hosted several round table discussions in small groups with the participants. The environment enabled the educators to share nuanced conversations about their experiences.

Presenters included: Sherri Thomas, assistant superintendent of human resources, District 87; Christine Paxon, director of ESSA/IL-EMPOWER, Illinois State Board of Education; Megan McMullen, assistant principal, Metcalf Lab School; Nicole Rummel, assistant superintendent, Mahomet Seymour Schools; Amanda Brown, assistant principal/curriculum coordinator, Peoria Public Schools; among others.

“I was impressed with this student-led event,” said Brad Hutchison, EAF’s P-12 coordinator. It was likely his last EAF before his retirement this summer after serving the department for the past 10 years. Mahomet-Seymour Superintendent Dr. Lindsey Hall will be stepping into the role this fall.

“Cassandra, Joe, and their cohorts’ efforts netted a great showing of not just wonderful presenters, but also some aspiring leaders who aren’t yet in an administrator preparation program,” Hutchison said.

Among those who weren’t a part of the EAF program was Thomas Metcalf seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher Andy Goveia. The educator said at the time he was weighing the decision to apply.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to connect with alums of the principal prep program and to have the chance to meet with Brad and Lindsey about their perspective on the program,” Goveia said. “It was clear from all the current students, alums, and partners in the field that this program is doing great things.”

In addition to filling out a survey, several attendees and presenters shared the following feedback following the event.

The EAF leadership forum was a great way to build my professional network. I was able to interact with other teachers, administrators, and school personnel from a wide variety of backgrounds.” Ian Earley, teacher, Regional Alternative School in Flanagan

The EAF leadership forum was a great experience. I was able to learn from others in the program some helpful tips. One student who is graduating in May said that she enjoyed the program and to make sure to keep on top of the competencies when it comes time. I also appreciated the time administrators took to come and talk about what it’s like to be an administrator and also what to expect in the future as a leader. The forum was great and I hope to be able to participate again next year to continue to learn from other administrators.” Ferah Bakirdan, sixth grade math teacher, Central Junior High School in East Peoria.

The EAF Leadership forum was a fantastic event. The opportunity to collaborate and grow professionally from the entire community proved to be invaluable for my future as an administrator. I’m proud to be part of the EAF program and hope this is the first of many of these.” John Hughs, physical education/health teacher and boy’s basketball coach, Deer Creek-Mackinaw Primary/Junior High School in Mackinaw

The EAF leadership conference has reconfirmed to me why I chose this program to get my master’s. The vast experience and expertise that each presenter brought to the conference has reignited my passion for education and the great responsibility that comes with our positions.” Connie Matthews, 7th grade special education resource teacher, Deer Creek-Mackinaw Primary/Junior High School in Mackinaw

The leadership forum taught me a lot about what the EAF program is and what it isn’t. I’ve never been drawn to being a principal or superintendent, so I didn’t think this program would be a good for me. But after talking with professionals in all different aspects of educational leadership, I realized that this degree is the opposite of restrictive. It opens up more possibilities than I could have imagined within the world of education.” MaryBeth Stewart, ESL Teacher, Morton Junior High School

This was a great event. Being able to speak with them all in small groups about not only what it is like on a day-to-day basis but also about their own personal journey, experiences, and lessons learned was incredibly valuable to me as a future administrator.” Joe Rosel, technology and engineering teacher at Normal Community West