In the hallowed halls of Portland Public Schools, Dr. Kimberlee Armstrong, Chief Academic Officer, shared her insights and experiences at the Learning Counsel Learning Leadership Symposium. Dr. Armstrong's presentation served as a testament to the power of belief, the commitment to lifting the educational experience, and the importance of love in the workplace.

Dr. Armstrong opened her presentation with a poignant quote: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." This set the stage for a discussion on the power of belief. She urged educational leaders to anchor their work in the unwavering belief that they have the capacity to make a difference. This belief, she emphasized, must be at the core of every initiative, strategy, and decision made within the educational system.

Dr. Armstrong delved into the specific instructional priorities set by Portland Public Schools, centered around their roadmap to educational equity. These priorities include a focus on high-quality instructional materials, an effective instructional framework, and continuous teacher professional learning. The aim is to create an environment where all students, particularly Black and Native students, can thrive. Through these priorities, Portland Public Schools seeks to elevate the achievement of every student by addressing the needs of specific groups systematically.

Sharing a personal anecdote about her son's educational journey, Dr. Armstrong emphasized the need to make learning personal and relevant. She spoke about the transformative power of educators who took the time to understand her son's interests, struggles, and aspirations. This personalized approach, she argued, was instrumental in helping him graduate high school and embark on his college journey. The lesson learned was clear – by personalizing education, educators can unlock the potential of each student.

Dr. Armstrong also highlighted the importance of listening as a critical leadership action. Not just passive listening, but an active and intentional form of listening with curiosity, motivation, and effort. She drew on personal experiences, including her battle with cancer, to illustrate the profound impact of someone genuinely listening and understanding. In the context of education, she advocated for creating spaces like the Family Advisory Council on Education, where authentic listening can take place, fostering collaboration between schools and families.

The second action Dr. Armstrong discussed was the concept of lifting the work. She shared the journey of Portland Public Schools in updating curriculum materials, aligning resources, and committing to high standards. The process involved facing challenges and overcoming resistance, emphasizing the importance of investment, commitment, and strength. Dr. Armstrong stressed the significance of standing on foundational documents, such as the strategic plan, to guide and anchor the work of educational leaders.

In the workplace, love may seem like a word reserved for personal relationships, but Dr. Armstrong challenged this notion. She described love in the educational context as being connected, compassionate, and curious. This form of love involves seeing people before the work, acknowledging their humanity, and creating an environment where individuals feel heard and supported.

Dr. Kimberlee Armstrong's presentation at the Learning Counsel Learning Leadership Symposium was a journey through the pillars of effective educational leadership – belief, listening, lifting the work, and love. As she bids farewell to Portland Public Schools, her insights serve as a guide for educators and administrators navigating the ever-evolving landscape of education. The talk was not just a presentation; it was a call to action, urging educational leaders to embrace their power, listen with purpose, lift the work with determination, and infuse love into their professional relationships. Tune in to the video below to see Dr. Armstrong’s presentation.