Seth's Reflections

I’ve struggled to think of the right words to say over the past few weeks. Ron was a great colleague, mentor, and friend to me. I learned an incredible amount from him over the past four years and have lots of good memories. He spurred me to new thinking on education and teaching every day and I feel greatly blessed to have had the opportunity to work with Ron, particularly in those early years, to help construct the case for the need for building teaching into a true profession. He was my Sizer.

He taught me lessons beyond just teaching and learning – leadership lessons that I will carry with me wherever my career leads. I’ll share just a few examples of what he taught me.
  • When the Board had setbacks, he did not dwell on them, but instead would say every crisis provides an opportunity and we would get quickly to work on strategizing next steps for getting back on track.
  • The importance of stories to make your case – he would say, “yes, data is important but it’s stories that truly change minds and reach people.”
  • Deciding what not to focus on as an organization is as important as deciding what to focus on. Ron understood that the Board was the only established, national advanced credentialing organization for teachers and that we should own that space. This meant that we should not try to be a professional development organization or teacher evaluation organization – we should partner with others to move this work forward but we should focus our own capacity on board certification and building a pathway for getting more teachers to the accomplished level. This kept us to a coherent vision as an organization and ensured we were all broadcasting the same message to external partners.
  • The importance of listening to your experts on the ground and ensuring their voice is at the table and leading the work of the organization. When Ron came on board, the Board had zero full-time Board-certified teachers on staff. We now have 12. What a difference! And these are/were game-changing NBCTs – Genevieve, Andy, Peggy, Michaela – names that made news and changed perceptions just by joining the Board. As you know, that first year, Ron spent most of his time on the road, traveling across the country to hear from Board-certified teachers about their views on the organization and the board certification. He listened and carried what he learned with him to guide major decisions about our direction.
  • The importance of “big events” to rally people around your vision – events like the Capitol Hill event with Board-certified teachers and doctors were key to getting continuum language in ESEA. Teaching and Learning; the WH event on his fifth day (!) as President; 25th Anniversary event with Governor Hunt and Secretary Riley – each served notice to stakeholders and policymakers that the Board had new leadership and new ideas and eventually translated into policy wins on the federal (ESEA, i3, SEED), state and local level.
There are many others, but I’ll stop there. Beyond feeling blessed and honored to have worked with him, I’m so glad that he was able to clearly get down in 16 pages his authentic voice for where we needed to go as a profession – I find myself referring back to his New England Journal of Public Policy article nearly every day and it will always be the compass in my career for where the work of teaching and learning should head.