heal Welcome back to love, sweat and tears ingredients for transformative campus leadership. Today I've got Dr. Catherine Kennedy with me and she is amazing all about relationships and how to build them and maintain them. And it's so good. Dr. Kennedy has been a classroom teacher. She has been an admin at the pre K level at the elementary level and at the middle school level. And then she was also the assistant superintendent over middle schools in her district and he started district in El Paso, Texas, which is my hometown. So it was wonderful talking to just such an incredible, authentic, powerful and intelligent woman from my hometown. Dr. Kennedy, thank you so much for joining me that day, y'all. You're in for a treat. All right. Today we have Catherine Kennedy with us. She will tell you more about herself, but she's been in the sled ISD in El Paso, Texas for years, couple decades. Ah, three decades. Okay, awesome. Tell us more about your story. I'd really like to start with your school experience. What was school like for you as a kid? And what kind of student were you?
I love school. I love the learning. I love the preparation for learning. I was the student and even adult that gets excited about buying school supplies for the first day, first week of school for the whole year. Basically. It just really it was just something about learning was very exciting for me. And I think I was very blessed to have great teachers. In fact, starting from kindergarten, I still remember my kindergarten teacher and we reconnected last year. Wow, it was the best experience ever. I when I saw her I cried. And I felt like I was the five year old that was in her classroom. But we went full circle and that her grandson was going to middle school. And so for the last nine years, I have been the Associate Superintendent of our middle schools. And her son was going to start new school and she saw my my face on the website and took a chance to see if this was her student way back when and you know, from the very beginning school has been just something very important in my life. And something that I just I just love. And so again, great experiences, I was at a K eight school for the longest time and then the board, my end the end of my seventh grade year, the board decided let's make Scottsdale elementary a case six. And then I had to go to a middle school. And that was literally like, the worst experience ever. So I laugh when in the role that I have that I am actually taking care of kids in a place where I didn't feel successful. It was just a very big school and and just overall Middle School in general is hard. It's it's physically, socially, you're going through an awkward. And so I was I was lost for a good year. But what was really good about that experience is when you get to middle school, you are exposed to a lot of different things. And one being an array of electives that you can take together is different experiences with athletics. I was not an athlete whatsoever. But I dabbled in taking an art class that was not for me. And went into a speech and debate class not even knowing what that was going to be about. But the teacher took me under her wing and took a bunch of us under her wing and we competed. There were contests. I didn't know anything about speech contests. And we were performing. And at the end of that performance, I had a teacher that came up to us and said, I hope you all are going to to enroll in my class next year because we're going to high school didn't know who she was. So I thought wow, this lady really took an interest and so I for her class. And lo and behold, I became a Speechy and I was in speech and debate for four years in high school and the skills that you learn from that experience is unmatched. And so I did everything from poetry, prose, a lot of interpretation events. And then my junior year she said I want you to try to bait I had no way i That's not me. And she had me pair up with another peer of mine and we ended up being ranked 16th in the state of Texas. And it was just an amazing experience and and because of her I really credit the things that I was able to do after high school.
I love that she pushed you a little bit like she believed in you and I think even just that belief that someone else sees something that you don't really see You'd be so powerful in helping students kind of experience that struggle and success in school that's so important at that age.
Absolutely, absolutely. I don't know if you've seen the movie a million miles away. No. That's a movie about the first migrant farmer who became an astronaut. Yes.
On prime is that I think I've been saying things about it. Yes, yes. Yeah,
I was watching it Sunday night, and I am crying because literally, it happened because of the power of a teacher. Yeah, the teacher that believed in him gave him an assignment, you know, what do you want to be when you grow up? And he drew a picture of a rocket, and he said, I want to be an astronaut. And his teacher encouraged him. And it was, oh, it goes full circle. It's a beautiful story. And I think everybody needs a teacher like that. Yeah, it's so important.
So was it some of those experiences with teachers that saw you that kind of made you want to go into education? Like, how did you make that decision for yourself?
So believe it or not, my first degree that I was pursuing was not an education. I wanted to go into communications, and again, because of my experience that I had, but at that time, the university was going through like a rehaul, they restructuring the department, and I thought, you know, maybe this isn't for me. And my sister had just started teaching. And again, I love teaching and learning. So I thought, I'll give it a shot. And I fell in love with it. Oh, my goodness, I fell in love with it. I do my student teaching, I was able to leave early. And I got a job in November, I remember the date, November 5 1990 9090, actually, because that was the birthday of one of my students. And at the end of the day, she came up to me and she said, You're my birthday present. And to this day, we are still in contact, thanks to social media. And it was just it was a great experience. And I loved my kids. I had 20 Kids the very first year and I thought that was gonna be like the norm. And then my second year, I had like, 2728 kids. And I remember going to the administrator saying, I think I have too many kids. And he's looking at me like, No, you're good. Yeah. And I just, I just fell in love with teaching. And everything I did was because of my kids. And so when I would talk to them after they left my class, and they go to sixth grade, or they went to middle school, and they will come back with just a horrible experience. And that really saddened me, because I thought everybody felt the way that I felt. And if they didn't, there must have been a reason. And that's why I thought, well, maybe I need to be that principal that helps motivate and keep teachers excited about teaching and learning. And so I decided to go into administration. But alongside that, I wanted also to be an attorney. And I thought maybe I can be an attorney of educational school law. So I just dabbled in, in seeing what would that look like. And I applied to law school I didn't get in my first year, but decided to go forward with my masters at UTEP as well. Loved that work met a lot of wonderful people. It was just a great experience, still pursuing trying to get into law school. And then the last semester that I was going to graduate, I get accepted into law school. And so I went home, of course, you know, always excited tell my parents and, and my parents, they were just very hard working people that were formerly was really important, kept us very close together, and breaking the news that their daughter wanted to leave El Paso and pursue this. It just wasn't going to happen. And so I thought, okay, and my dad was very practical, very sensible, and just basically said, you know, you tell me that you love what you're doing. Why don't you just stick with it, give it a shot and see what happens. And so I turned law school down and finished my degree and, and was hired pretty pretty quickly and became an administrator after five years in the classroom. Okay,
so tell me about those first few years as an admin, did you feel supported and successful? Did you feel like you were floundering, like, what was that like as you kind of stepped into that transition?
You know, I'm very true to my faith, and I think God puts you where you need to be. And he gave me the best mentor ever. And I thought that that was the experience everybody had, because I felt so confident in fact, my first day, I was hired in like October so I didn't even start the school year with with this faculty. And when I went to actually meet everybody, we're going into the library and my job five to the principal is shorter than Mission five foot five feet. And she whispered in my ear, and she says, stand tall. And I walked in there with just like this confidence that came from her. Because again, she did believe in me. And it was a wonderful experience. What I've learned from her are things that even 32 years later, still hold true to my heart. Still share with aspiring administrators, she truly took me in, gave me so much autonomy, but with a lot of guidance. Did I fail? Oh, yeah. But she didn't demean me. She didn't reprimand me if anything, every day was a teaching moment. So I never felt by myself, I never felt like even though I did fail, in my mind, I didn't feel defeated. And it was a great three years, but personally, personally, I decided to get married the first year, have my son the second year, and then my daughter, the third year, and it was a whirlwind. And so my mom was a stay at home mom for many, many years. And I thought, You know what, I think I want to stay at home, I want to take care of my kids. And I took a year off. And that was the hardest year of my life, cried a lot. Call my mom a lot like, Mom, how did you do it, you have four kids, too. And I realized too, that I missed working, I miss being around school, the kids, the whole, you know, hustle and bustle of what we do. So went back to work, but there weren't any openings for administrators. So at the time, our district was partnering up with the university. And they established what was called the up hustle collaborative. And that allowed every school to hire a literacy leader, which is what we call now instructional coaches. So that was an eye opening an eye opener for me, learning how to really teach reading and writing across the board. Now my job was in the classroom five years for only one grade level. And now I have to go back and teach best practices reading and writing grades Kinder through sixth grade. And it was a wonderful, wonderful experience, I went back to the school that I was the AP. So I saw somebody in my role as an assistant principal, and I had to let go of that. And then just focus on being that coach, that literacy leader. And and it was it was a great experience. And it really helped strengthen me, professionally. And we always say that our administrators need to be that instructional leader. Yeah. And I was really given the tools to make that happen. Because I stayed in that role for about a year and a half, and then went back into administration. Yeah,
that's fascinating that you have that component of your career to kind of take back into the administrative role.
Right. Wow. I think everybody needs to do that. Yeah,
yeah. So as you kind of go back into administration, how was that? Did you feel that importance of the instructional coaching? To like pressure to like, get in there and help teachers? Were you able to do that? How did you maintain that balance?
Yeah, absolutely. And that's, you know, you hear it all the time, they great principals never forget what it's like to be in the classroom, right. So I carry that with me and even whatever role that I had, because my job is to help make that person, the campus the kids better than when they started. And so my experience at working with the apostle collaborative, really opened up my eyes in terms of the capability and the abilities of kids. And so I left Elementary and went into working with a pre K center, we have a slot to our two pre K centers. So it was just four year olds all day long. And to see the practices that I saw at the elementary level being implemented and delivered with our four year olds, it was amazing. Yeah, and the added plus was my own kids are now at that age level. So whatever we did at school, I would come home and replicate it
my kids got immersed in loving literacy and books and knowing the importance of taking time to learn new words and, and to know authors know authors as if you knew them like they're your best friends. And so, it was it was a great experience that helped me further on and so what I love to tell aspiring administrators or current administrators is everything that you are currently doing is preparing you for what's next. And although you may not understand it, you've got to know that what you're going through You were destined to go through that. So my next leap was after I left as an assistant principal at the pre K center, I became the principal at the other pre K 's. Okay. And so I was able to merge both we to have a good collaboration between both centers, again, very blessed to work with a phenomenal principal. And she really helped me prepare for at the other pre K center. And it was a great partnership for a good two years.
And so then at some point, you become this as assistant superintendent, what was that? Like? What, what led to you making that decision?
Oh, boy. So I, after the pre K, I was a principal at an elementary, okay. And I did that for about six years. And then again, having somebody see something in you, I would have never thought that I would jump into the middle. And when you are approached by a couple of people, when been my my counselor that followed me from pre K to elementary, she left me at elementary, try not to take that first. She was ready to go to the middle school. And after a year or so that she was there, she called me up and you know, talking to me and said, you know, you would be a great middle school principal, I thought, Oh, no way i That's I'm staying here Elementary. And then the associate superintendent at the time, also encouraged me and said, You should really consider doing that. So I did. And it was wonderful and wonderful in that when I was the principal at the preaching center. Those kids are now my middle school students. So it was great to see them, they still same face, just taller body needs to because again, middle school, you're going through that adolescent phase, and they'll tell you the research is there that that adolescent phase is really comparable to going through your terrible twos, just, you know, bigger bodies and stuff. So it was it was great to make those connections connections with not just them, but with the students as well. And then, at the end of the, I guess my sixth year at the elementary campus, my, my father unexpectedly passed away. And that was really difficult for me to go through. And I didn't want, I didn't want to allow myself to breathe, and I needed to distract myself. And going to school was like the best way to do it. So I went to UTEP and and enrolled to got accepted into the doctorial program there. And was able to complete my study did my dissertation on on observation on walkthroughs. And, and it was my, I guess, second year at the middle school. And then I finished my degree. And then central office, we were going through a change of superintendents, and the superintendent, Dr. Delgado, who was still the superintendent in my ISD came to visit my campus. And we were talking and he's asking me the question, you know, what is it that you want to do? And, you know, just graduating with my degree feeling that I was on top of the world, I just said, I want to take your job. And he was like, okay, and it just things fell into place. And there was an opportunity, and he was able to hire me as one of his associate superintendent. Wow,
that's crazy. I love how much support and encouragement you've had all along the way. Is that part of what made this position and this role of supporting administrators so important to you? Like how did you use that experience? As you supported campus admins?
Yeah, just you know, using the same philosophy, I think what's important as a leader that you already know who you are and what you stand for. And again, knowing that first and foremost, my job is to help coach and make people better. And going into education. I mean, you you are a gift to so many. And you also need to make sure that you value and appreciate the people that you work with. Leadership is is a difficult and lonely job. But if you've got the right people that will encourage you and help you, it is so rewarding, and you'll continue to do your best and you'll continue to to succeed because of the people that believe in you. And so the people that I surround myself with, I want to make sure that they're given the same experience that I had. And again, there's a reason why I went through what I did and I have met people along the way because they impact you they may play a certain role in your story, whether it's it's a type Have a chapter or the entire chapter, or a good three quarters of the whole book, these people, there's a reason why they're in your life. And so I want to make sure that I am able to play a significant role in the people that I work with. There's a reason why that yeah, there's a reason why they're there in your life. And so you want to make sure or I want to make sure that I also play a significant role in the lives of the people that I that I supervise that I work with. I just read recently that a true measure of success is truly how you treat others and how others remember you by and so how you treat people is important. And that's something that growing up, my father would always say, you've got to live by the golden rule. And as simple as that phrase is, it's difficult. It's not very easy for people to treat people nicely, under the fact that we have to have what's called an SEL class, because people are forgetting how to treat each other. That's that's significant.
What did you do for administrators that didn't feel like they have people that they can lean on like that, that don't fit, feel alone or isolated? If a campus little admin is hearing this and saying that sounds great, I don't have that. Where can they go to get that? What would you say?
I think it's important that you seek out a group of mentors, whether if you don't feel you have that support in your district, there are people around the city that are pretty prominent and and they carry a good reputation. And, and you need to reach out and and find some help and, and network with each other. Everything that you do as a leader has to be so purposeful, so deliberate. And so when we plan for meetings, when we plan for just one on one conversations, it's gotta be something that you need, that you know that when they walk away, they're gonna, they're gonna learn something from that. I just, you know, as, as a leader, I've just always made it very wanted to make sure that they didn't feel alone. And so even as a leader, if I see somebody that's struggling, and I'm not, quote, unquote, their supervisor, I have a responsibility and an obligation to help them. And so I will, you know, provide that support. And so if anybody needs help and support, they can definitely call me because I'll be there for them.
So sweet. We talked about this kind of motto of know yourself, know your people and know your plan. I'd like to kind of break that down a little bit and talk how we can do that, and why it's important. So talk to me about that knowing yourself element, we've touched on it. But how was it that you came to know yourself? And how did you lead people in knowing themselves as an administrator, as a leader?
So I would tie everything in with with values? What do you what do you stand for? Who are you? What are you going to advocate for and fight for? And so, you know, if I were and there's so many, every year, you need to start by reminding your staff, the values of the campus, what do you hold true to yourself, and it starts with you. Because as a leader, you want to try to sway people to the vision that you have in place. And so you need to define those values and make it very clear that you are a person of integrity, that you're going to be honest with them. You expect hard work, and you model you have to model those behaviors all every time, because you're on 24/7, right? So once you do that, and you're able to persuade, convince that people really believe in what you're doing, then they'll follow you, and and there's nothing that they won't do for you. So once you know who you are, what you expect, then you need to start thinking about All right, so what is what is your mission, the vision is defined by the organization, you need to make sure that there's true alignment with that. And then you need to know what your plan is, what exactly are you going to accomplish? And how are you going to get that done? Yeah, outline it. And everything that you do must be part of that framework, that plan.
I would love to hear about knowing your people. What are some ways that you've seen that practiced really well?
So when you talk about success and the culture of an organization, it's all about relationships. And the research is there you'll find it whenever anybody talks about culture, they'll tell you it's relationships, relationships, relationships. So you've got to be very A genuine. And one thing I remember because, you know, campuses are you are dealing with so many different personalities, just like with as a as a parent, your kids are very different, right? And I remember having a conversation with a former superintendent of mine, and I was having some difficulties with with just getting along with with individuals and and he told me says you got to remember, you've got to love all your people. I said all of them. Yes. All of them. Yeah. And so what exactly does that mean? And it's just simple things that make a huge impact, huge difference. And one is truly taking the time to get to know who they are as people, not as the fifth grade teacher or the secretary, but who they are as as a person. Because you don't know, their story, you know, there's, you know, their their home life and their work life. And in order for them to be successful at work, they've got to be successful at home too. And so they need that support. And that's when you come in. Because when you've got employees who have kids that are sick, or they're, they're the caretaker of their parent, you've got to be empathetic, and know that there are some things that are going to happen. And they're going to need time. And they need to trust you that they can confide in you. And once you have that established, then you know that when they're at work, they're gonna give you 100% and and do whatever you ask them to do that will go above and beyond, because you went above and beyond for them as well. So you have to be genuine, and and take the time to talk to them and really know who they are as as people.
What were some of the ways that you did that? Would you meet with folks one on one did you meet in groups or teams? Like, how can we make time for that we know it's important, why it's important, but it seems like there's a million things that have to get done. And truth be told, we can't do the job well without it. But we it can fall through the cracks. So what are some ways that you would actually do that make that time to get to know your people?
Yeah, so every year at the beginning of the year, you have those one on one conversations with them, just to get a pulse check. I think when you are a principal for the first time, you definitely set up those meetings and really ask them a lot of questions and and, you know, get to know them. But make sure that that's not the only time you do that. Because every year is a new year. And so you need to invest at the beginning of the year, actually, throughout the year, a simple things that I would do every year, I would have a form that I would ask them to complete so that it would remind me the name of their spouse of their kids their favorite snack, their favorite book, candle scent, because then throughout the year, if you know when when time was right, I would, I would really look at that information and make sure that they know that I remember and do things like write them notes, make sure their favorite candy was in their mailbox, birthday cards, Christmas cards, one thing I would do is I know that there's life outside of school, I would take the time to write Christmas cards and send it to them regular mail and include their their spouses name their kids names, because to let them know I'm thinking not just about you. But I'm thinking about your whole family because they are just as important to me as they are to you.
That's great. I love that. Um, let's see, I want to talk a little bit about peer relationships, and then mentor relationships. We've talked so much about the importance of relationships and how to build those. How did you like if you know, you're administrator on campus with you? You're not connecting? How can you build that relationship? And how can you build other peer relationships, though, so you feel that you have like a team kind of in the trenches with you.
It takes time. It doesn't happen overnight. I was very blessed, however, to work with just incredible leaders that first and foremost, we all want the same thing. We want our kids to be successful. And after Middle School. We we are we're very competitive. I mean, we wouldn't be leaders if we weren't competitive. But we also were very supportive. And so I wanted to make sure that when they walked in to a meeting or whenever I had a one on one meeting with them, it was just a very comfortable, sincere setting. I didn't want them to think I didn't want to be the person that when I walked into their campus, they were thinking oh gosh, why she here? I Want to walk in where they were like, Oh, thank goodness, she's here. And it's just setting that that tone, your your Appearance is important, your demeanor is important. Because when you need to have uncomfortable conversations and you will, it's not, it's not a bad conversation, because you've already established good rapport with them. And then in terms of our peers, because I was a middle school principal, in at st District, where I was the associate, I knew how well we work together. And that grew organically because we'd never we didn't have the organization chart where you have an associate over elementary, middle and high as middle school principals, because we felt like the middle child, we felt left out, we created our own little cadre. And, and that really helped me when I transitioned as the Associate because I already knew just how powerful this group is. So that whenever any new principal came in, I would tell them from the get go, you're gonna walk into a group of principals that are very cohesive, very supportive, so that anything you need, we will make time to talk about it to help each other so that they don't feel like they're the only ones going through certain things. And it's uncomfortable to air your your laundry out to others, because sometimes you feel you're the only one going through certain problems. But in reality, we all go through it. And so they need to know that they can count on each other, to make sure that that if they have a question, they can reach out and call whether it's me or whether it's their their colleagues, we establish that that rapport with them.
I know that you've done some work with associations in the state also, especially for you know, principals and rural districts, or where there's really not very many other people, what have you gotten out of that kind of relationship.
So working with organizations is so important. And I recommend that for everybody, you need to get involved outside of your campus outside of your district, because you only know what you know. And so when you start looking elsewhere, you see, wow, there's just great opportunities across the board. And so I was very blessed to work with, with bylaws, which is the Texas Association of Latino administrators and superintendents. And it gave me a great feeling. Because I've only been work, I've only worked with one district. And to have an opportunity to work with all of the districts in the region, my team, it really opened my eyes to think, okay, we're, again, very competitive. And so we want, of course, you want to work with a district, that's the district of champions who wouldn't want to work for that organization. But you've also got to realize that education you are dealing with working with our future or our kids. And so you want every child to experience top notch quality instruction. And if you think, you know, I'll give you an example, you're only slotted we've got some great systems break people in place. And so you think that that's the way it is across the board. And when it's not, then it's like you what I've got a responsibility to to help others. Because you want the best experience for all of our kids, regardless of they go to your district. And again, you're you are advocating for your region, you want me and my team to be the top of the state. And so being able to work with different people, different leaders was was very eye opening, very helpful. And it just made me realize that we've got a lot of work to do. And and we've got to be ready to roll up our sleeves and help each other out because our kids is we're dealing with a different student profile right now. True.
I'd love to talk about that talk about how you've seen that change over your career.
Oh, my goodness. It's, you know, back when I was teaching, it was whatever the teacher says that's the way things are, you know, parents are very supportive. Parents were very respectful, very appreciative and, and so that cascaded to their kids. And that's how the kids behavior responded. And now it's just, there's just a lot of challenges. Going through the pandemic that we did. Social skills are so vital, so important, and our kids lost out on some very critical lessons. And so we need to go back and talk about going back to basics, but, you know, we just need to be mindful and cognizant that there's some things that were taught at home, that now need to be taught at school and, you know, again, things like getting along with each other and being respectful and, and also, teaching to the way kids are learning now, technologies is big. And I was I was not very tech savvy as the way that I am now. And it wasn't because. And it wasn't because I didn't want to I was just I wasn't forced to because I knew I had other people to help me. But when we went remote, it forced us to really use our tech skills in a way that we probably would not have done before. And so now we've got to have a good balance, because a computer cannot take away that that relationship piece, you know, to each other. So we need to make sure that we are still taking time to really get to know our kids and making sure that they know how much you care about them.
What, you know, what kind of brought you into Dallas, like what was it that drew you either to that particular organization? Did you know that you wanted to affiliate with some kind of platform? And that was the like, what what was that like?
So, you know, going as a student, whether it was elementary, high school, I was very much involved in a lot of clubs and organizations are love that it's that sense of belonging. And, and that shouldn't have left and and for some reason, it, you know, I just didn't pursue that type of involvement. And our superintendent was very much involved in that organization. And so he brought that awareness to our district. And, and I thought, well, you know, this could be a good start. And then the thing things just fell into into place, there was a vacancy on the board. And to people that I've never worked with in our district, or in the city, because they don't work in our district, I got a call. And they asked me if I wanted to be if I wanted to fulfill that vacancy. And I was like, this is a great opportunity. Why not? I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I will tell you that. Because as I read the role of President Elect, it meant that I needed to put together a conference for the chapter. And I thought, How am I going to do that I'm used to attending offices not putting things to. And so that was, it led me to reaching out to others to help and support me make these conferences happen, and establish some great committees. And they they helped really put this this conference together, they really made me look good for the last two years. And I'm indebted to them greatly. And so it's also a great way to give back to the community. I'm also involved in the Texas Women's Council. And so that's a wonderful organization for female leaders. And there's conferences locally, and also go to also statewide as well. And so it's important that you give yourself that time, it means talking a little bit about self care or self care is also making sure that you grow professionally. And personally, at conferences like that give you that opportunity.
What are some other ways that you kind of implement self care to make sure that you can, you know, come back day after day with the energy and excitement to do the job?
Yeah, yeah, it's, it's tough. It's tough. A lot of prayer, I'm not gonna lie, a lot of prayer, I really believe that, you know, when I wake up, I know that whatever happens during that day, was supposed to happen. And so I always give myself some time just to reflect even before the day starts and ask for strengthen and acceptance and then just be grateful, be grateful that I've been given another day to live the grateful that you know, I've got a wonderful husband and kids and and, and they're going to help me get through the day and, and so just being grateful for things really changes your mindset, it makes you start in on a positive note, exercising, I get up at 430 in the morning, and I'll go do my spinning class. Now that I'm retired, I'm able to add a walk to that. So the first time that I got to walk around the park and I started really noticing my surroundings, to be able to look up in the sky and to see just the beauty that we have. It's just really changed my whole perspective on things. You really got, you know, you as them You know, you set the tone and the culture of the school. And so you really need to be very positive. And in order for that to happen, you've got to fill your cup. And so filling my cup also means that I take care of myself, I surround myself with with positive people, people that are going to help me learn from them. I love reading the audio books have been a godsend recently. And then listening the podcast and learning learning from others, you know, you don't have all the answers and nor should you. And so every day is a great learning experience.
I want to I want to talk about you know, as we're talking about self care and filling your cup and doing things that kind of feed your soul. What was the difference for you when you were at home and didn't wasn't finding that? And you came back to work? What was it about work that you found kind of did that for you?
I think and I thought about that a lot. Because now I think the last like three years of my career, I'm like, I think that to be a stay at home mom now. And granted, my kids are like, now they're 2526. So yeah, of course, it would be easy. But I think just being in the trenches, and knowing that you've got kids, and my kids rely on me too. But just knowing the impact of of working with hundreds of kids and, and working with educators that we're all here to help mold the life of of our future. And that's as cliche ish as that may sound. That's the whole reason I went into teaching to make a difference in the lives of kids, and the impact that you have, because it doesn't matter, you know, where I may be out at a restaurant or shopping, or run into somebody that I have known that I either taught that I was either their assistant principal or principal, I may not be very good with names anymore, but they'll remind me. And that's just real, that's very rewarding. And it just makes you understand the impact that you have. And so it did it take a toll on on my personal life with my kids? I think it probably did. There was a lot of practices and games that I missed for my kids. That because I had to be at work, I had to be taking care of things and you know, looking back, yeah, I probably could have changed things. But I don't regret what what has happened and anything I've learned from it so that I'm able to tell, again, aspiring leaders, new principals, make sure you honor your family. As much as
you mentioned that, you know, wherever you go, you run into people that you have known professionally. I know that has to be weighty, like you're like you said earlier, you're always on how do you how do you kind of carry that weight in a way that doesn't drag you down in a way that I don't know is manageable for you.
I think again, it goes back to your values and your character. Yes, you know, you are who you are when nobody's watching. And so if you really say that you you lead with integrity, or that you are an honest person or that you're hard working, then it really shouldn't matter wherever you go. Because you are exhibiting or practicing those behaviors. And so you just, it just creates who you are as as a person. And so you're mindful about it. But I also understand that this is a career choice that I mean, I chose to be this person. And so I need to be able to stand up and live up to that.
I'd love to ask what are some leaders or who are some leaders that you really look up to and respect that have taught you and what have they taught you and how have they taught you when you think of man, I wouldn't be who I am today without this leader that you had. I'd love to hear some stories about people that have impacted you as your leader.
There's quite a few oh my goodness, I will start first with that high school teacher. Read Arlen and she was just a strong teacher very passionate teacher. So from her I learned passion. See love what she was doing and you could tell as she wanted people to feel the way that she felt. And so she really instilled that in me as a as a high school student, as a leader or as a as a teacher, just so many of them, but I'll start with Triana of leave us who I was my principal when I was the assistant principal. And with her, I learned the importance of of details, not to let any stone unturned, you've got to take care of everything and and to really appreciate and love your people, she loves me in a way that I to this day, I'll never forget, in fact, my daughter is named after her. And I would have never thought that I would I would name my daughter or name somebody, right. But the impact that she has made in my life, you know, it still touches me to this day. It's great superintendents that I've worked with Hector Montenegro, Dr. Hunter more than ever was one. And he was one that took a chance on me and said, All right, you're at a pre K center, I need you to go to an elementary campus. And he was very charismatic. But one of the things that he did, that I have never forgotten, and I still tell him to this day, his first day on the job was, there was like 6364 principals in the room. He went to each and every one of us your name, and he knew the campus that we were leaving. That was the first day that he was on. And that was that left an impression on you. Because again, it makes me feel like I'm important to him, he knows who I am. And so it's important to that, you know, your kids and having campuses with 700, kids up to 1000. Kids, you know, you've got a dynamic principal, when they can tell you not only the names of their kids, but the stories behind them. That's that's building relationships right there. Then the last superintendent that I worked with Dr. de la Florida with him, he very bold. But he's one that made sure or really modeled and also told us look, we're going to make mistakes. But what's important is that we take responsibility for those mistakes, and we learn from them, so that it's not repeated again. And so I learned that from him. But I think my the biggest leaders or mentors, are my parents. Without a doubt, my parents, they really just fostered that love of family, and really had, you know, they taught us was truly as important. Because in the grand scheme of things, you can make all this money and have these wonderful possessions. But if you don't have anybody to go home to and to share that with, then your life really isn't fulfilled.
Oh, I love that. We're coming up on our time here already. I can't believe it. But before we go, what would you love to tell our audience of principals out there that feel isolated or that are just under resource that are new to the roll and still learning a lot? Or are in a big, giant district and just feel like that forgotten middle child? What would you love to leave our audience with today?
Well, first and foremost, never forget why you're there. And you're supposed to be where you're at never, never doubt or question that you're there for a reason. And so once you realize that, that's your purpose. Everything will fall into place. One, you're not alone, because we've all been where, where you are your principal, or your superintendent or your associate. We've been where you are. And so we're here to help and to support. Know that every day is a clean slate. And so whatever happened the day before, again, you're going to learn from that and make sure that tomorrow's a better day. Take time to reflect. Know that that it's it's not a one size fits all. You know what works at one campus may not work at the other campus. But you've got to believe in yourself. Because if you don't believe in yourself, then how are you going to help others and when you don't have confidence in yourself and your ability, then it's really hard to be that leader for everybody else. And so don't feel guilty, taking some time to take care of you. Read, learn, you've got that self determination and that initiative to work harder and to do you know more than what is expected. Just never forget, never forget who you are and, and you'll be fine. You'll be fine. 3032 years flew by so quickly. I'm not going to I couldn't believe it. And if somebody were to told that fifth grade teacher, what she was going to be doing for the next 32 years of her life. I would have never believed it.
I love that Katherine, thank you so much for joining me today. I can't wait to connect more. Are you gonna still be around and mentoring? Like, what's next for you? Are you just, hey, I did my time and I'm stepping out. Are you staying connected to educators? Like what does that look like for you now?
I am I am, it's hard to just totally separate because consume my life. I am definitely going to continue with one educating myself and, and and staying involved. I am still involved in the organizations, my hope is to mentor aspiring leaders continue with that aspect. There's so much out there and I didn't realize that there's there's life after, after taking over a school or district, but still be in the education field. And so I want to continue doing that. I would love to start writing a book on leadership. There's so many, just great gurus out there that you're learning from and you're thinking, I could do that. I can do that. And so yeah, this is just another another chapter in my life. Definitely want to travel with my with my husband. We got married and have kids right away. And so we're going through that empty nest syndrome and and re, you know, discovering each other. And it's been a wonderful experience to do that.
Katherine, is there any way that folks can get a hold of you if they just really feel like they're connecting with what you're saying? How can people kind of find you or get a hold of you?
Oh, my goodness, definitely. I mean, do I share my phone number and email to Yeah,
if you'd like if you'd like or I can I can share your email in the shownotes. And we can just direct folks there. Whatever your Yeah.
Yeah, yeah, we can definitely.
Okay, great. Yeah, I'll make sure y'all you can find Katherine's email in our show notes today. If you'd like to get a hold of her. You can do that that way. Katherine. Thanks so much. Thank you. And There ya have it, folks. Dr. Catherine Kennedy. Catherine, thank you so much for joining me that day. It was so wonderful to chat with you and hear your stories. As always, this podcast is produced and edited by Erwin Sobat. Our logo design and all of our branding work for this podcast was from Alana Conroy at still Consulting and this whole production is brought to you by responsive learning, you can find links to all of the resources that Dr. Catherine Kennedy mentioned in the show notes below, including links to Dallas and to the Texas Council of Women. School executives. That's it. I always forget that one. Um, as always, y'all thank you so much for listening and I hope you have a great rest of your day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai