Teresa A. Cole, M.Ed. is a graduate of the University of Richmond’s Master of Curriculum and Instruction program with graduate certificate in Educational Leadership and Policy. She received her undergraduate degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University in African American Studies, Women’s Studies and English.
She has been an educator since 2008. She started her career in Richmond Public Schools, before moving to Henrico County Public Schools in 2012. She has served in a variety of leadership roles, including History department chair, English department chair, School Improvement Leadership team member, administrative aide, instructional planning committee member, and advisory committee member.
In 2017, she returned to Richmond Public Schools in a leadership position as the K-12 Instructional Specialist for English Language Arts.
Visionary and Transformational
I believe leaders must be visionary and transformational. They must work to identify needed change, utilizing a strategic process to collaboratively develop a vision, mission, goals, and action plan. This vision and process will inspire members of the group to work passionately towards executing and achieving changes and must guide every decision in that regard. This shared purpose and vision inspires and empowers stakeholders to take action. When we act from our vision, we understand where we are headed and what is necessary for getting there. As leaders, if we want our followers to buy in, we must involve them in the process. We must remember they bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the school environment, and while we may not always agree, we are better together than we are apart. By providing faculty, staff, students, parents and community members a voice in the vision development and change process, we show everyone involved that they are valuable partners in the decision making process.
Equity and Inclusion
I believe all students have the ability to succeed with the right support and opportunity. Leaders must ensure that their schools and staff are acting in the best interests of all students and create an environment and culture that promotes equity and inclusion. Leaders must include this goal in their vision for their schools. Every decision they make must be in service of equity. It is not acceptable to have disproportionately high number of students of color in special education and disproportionately low number of students of color, students from poverty, English language learners and students with disabilities in gifted education. It is not acceptable to have disproportionately high numbers of discipline referrals for students of color. It is not okay to create learning environments where teacher biases influence decisions that negatively impact some students. Our policies and practices need to ensure that safeguards are in place to protect the interests of traditionally underserved groups of students and ensure their success.
I believe leaders must embrace the power of relationships. As leaders, we must be open to being vulnerable in order to build trust. Our followers need to know that we care about them as more than just employees. They must all see that leaders are people, too. School success is predicated on the relationships fostered within and these relationships contribute to the positive school culture and climate necessary for success. These relationships and trust are built by fostering open and honest communication. Those we lead must know we are not only open to hearing them, but also that we take their thoughts, suggestions and concerns seriously when making decisions that affect them.
Flexible and Reflective
I believe leaders must be flexible and work from a growth mindset. Leaders have room to grow, just as students and teachers have room to grow. Leaders must model being open to feedback and growth, through reflective practice. The act of reflection allows leaders to look inward when making changes and not just projecting these changes on to others. When working from and modeling a growth mindset, leaders set the tone for their followers that we are all learning and mistakes are not fundamental setbacks that define our worth. When we model a growth mindset, our followers understand that to grow, we may make mistakes, but that if we stay open to learning, we will succeed.
Ethical Decision Making
I believe leaders have a moral responsibility when it comes to the decisions they make as leaders and educators. This encompasses all of their roles and responsibilities within a school. When we work from our moral compass, we make decisions that, although sometimes hard, are in the best interests of our students and our staff. If our decision making process is one that is rooted in ethics, then regardless of the outcomes, we know that we have done the right thing.
I believe schools should nurture not only the unique intellectual needs of students, but also their social-emotional growth, to develop them into lifelong learners and empathetic change agents for a better tomorrow. There are many different aspects to ensuring a successful school and district, and they are intricately interwoven in such a way as to require leaders to pay special attention to all simultaneously. Leaders must develop positive relationships among students, teacher, parents and community members by remaining open to communication and fostering engagement in education. This will also help schools and leaders strengthen academic achievement, when paired with high quality curriculum and instruction. Schools must celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity to ensure everyone is thriving, academically, socially and emotionally. These things do not happen by accident. I believe they happen only in the presence of strong leaders.