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Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with

Dr. Raymond J. Schmidt

helps you in your leadership.

Dr. Raymond J. Schmidt

Dr. Raymond J. Schmidt

Name: Dr. Raymond J. Schmidt

Title: Superintendent

Organisation: Escuela Internacional Sampedrana

Dr. Schmidt has been an education professional for nearly 30 years. He began his teaching career in Chicago in 1994 and that new teaching journey carried him to Arizona and then Alaska. During that time, he ascertained his Master’s Degree in Education and began teaching aspiring educators at university and in the classroom. By 2009, Dr. Schmidt began his first official education leadership position as an advisor to school principals in Abu Dhabi, UAE. From there he served as an instructional coach in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Those opportunities ignited a passion for enhancing his educational leadership skills and he returned to the States to complete his Administrative Services Credential coursework. While completing said coursework, he served first as an executive director and middle school principal and then as a lower school principal in south-central Los Angeles. In 2018, he accepted a lower school head position at Colegio Americano de Guatemala in Guatemala City. While serving the CAG community, he completed his doctorate degree in educational leadership and published peer-reviewed research on educational leadership decision-making.

Currently, he is serving as the Superintendent at Escuela Internacional Sampedrana in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. It is Dr. Schmidt’s belief that all members of a global society should have access to robust educational programs, and it is a great honor to apply the expertise acquired in his professional and scholarly career toward building a future of life-long learners around the globe. He strives to be a leader who is deeply committed to the success of all stakeholders by being organized, informative, and supportive, utilizing coaching styles that cater to varying personalities and abilities. He endeavors to challenge himself and others to think critically. Having this conviction combined with being community-minded has led to strong, long-lasting relationships with students, faculty, parents, and beyond.

It is also Dr. Schmidt’s belief that truly effective directors, administrators, and educators facilitate and empower students, faculty, and community stakeholders rather than merely transmit knowledge. Successful education professionals work together to help students, and each other, learn how to study and grow through inquiry and constructive-based education. Students and people, in general, are eager and inquisitive by nature, and with organized guidance and diverse opportunities, they will naturally seek out and discover knowledge, thus equipping them with relevant and meaningful understanding.

As an effective leader, it is Dr. Schmidt's responsibility to inspire students, faculty, and community stakeholders in the pursuit of knowledge while recognizing when individual situations and motivations may require differentiated instruction and/or a design thinking change process. It is also his responsibility to impart deep learning of principles and not just rote memorization – critical analysis and creative problem-solving instead of mere knowledge of facts. Students and faculty should not just have technical skills in a specific subject matter, but should also know how they are all built upon each other within that subject matter and how they integrate across other disciplines.

Education needs to be engaged with enthusiasm and a desire to evaluate, hypothesize, and construct. As a balanced leader, administrator, and educator, Dr. Schmidt shows support for all students and faculty as he demonstrates an interest in both their professional and their personal growth, cultivates their independence to develop and sustain high expectations for themselves, and encourages them to continually seek out new questions and new answers as lifelong, global learners.

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

As an education leader, one of the most challenging aspects is ensuring equitable access to quality education for all students. This involves addressing disparities in resources, opportunities, and support systems that can hinder some students' learning experiences. Additionally, staying abreast of evolving educational policies, technologies, and pedagogical approaches can be demanding.

Balancing the diverse needs and expectations of students, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders is another complex challenge education leaders face. As an international school leader, one of the most challenging aspects is creating a culturally inclusive and globally-minded learning environment. This involves fostering an atmosphere where students from different backgrounds feel valued, respected, and supported.

Managing a diverse student body and ensuring cultural sensitivity in curriculum, instruction, and school policies can be complex. Additionally, addressing language barriers and providing appropriate language support for non-native English speakers can be a significant challenge. Another difficulty lies in maintaining strong relationships with parents and guardians who may come from diverse cultural backgrounds and have different educational expectations.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

Becoming a leader in education typically involves a combination of education, experience, and personal qualities.

Here are some common steps that I progressed through:
1. Education: Obtain a bachelor's degree in education or a related field. Pursuing advanced degrees such as a master's or doctorate in education, leadership, or administration can enhance your qualifications. Personally, I ascertained a master’s degree in administrative services and a doctorate degree in educational leadership.

2. Teaching Experience: Gain practical experience as a teacher in various educational settings. This hands-on experience provides valuable insights into classroom dynamics and helps build credibility as an education leader. Personally, I served as a teacher from Prek through Grade 8, and then also served as a principal in all PreK - Grade 12 sections.

3. Professional Development: Continuously seek professional development opportunities to enhance your skills and knowledge in areas like leadership, instructional strategies, curriculum development, and educational policies. Personally, I have completed at least three 600-level continued education credits each and every year of my professional career.

4. Leadership Roles: Seek out leadership positions within your school or educational organization, such as department chair, team leader, or curriculum coordinator. These roles allow you to demonstrate your leadership abilities and take on additional responsibilities. Personally, I have served as a grade level coordinator, instructional coach, principal, advisor to the principal, executive director, head of school, and now as a superintendent.

5. Networking and Collaboration: Build a network of colleagues, mentors, and educational professionals. Participate in professional organizations, conferences, and workshops to connect with like-minded individuals and learn from their experiences. Personally, I have actively participated in and/or established well over a dozen local and international networking platforms.

6. Professional Growth: Engage in ongoing self-reflection and self-improvement. Seek feedback from colleagues, supervisors, and mentors to identify areas for growth and work on developing your leadership skills. Personally, I solicit anonymous feedback each school year from all school stakeholders regarding how I can better serve them and the school.

7. Continuing Education: Stay updated with the latest research, trends, and best practices in education through continuous learning. Attend seminars, workshops, and conferences to expand your knowledge base. In addition to completing at least three 600-level continued education credits each year, I am also actively writing for and contributing to various professional publications and podcasts.

8. Pursue Administrative Roles: Consider pursuing administrative roles such as assistant principal or principal. These positions provide opportunities to lead and shape the direction of an educational institution. Serving successively as a grade level coordinator, instructional coach, principal, advisor to the principal, executive director, head of school, and now as a superintendent has prepared me for each proceeding leadership role accordingly.

Remember, leadership in education is not limited to formal positions. You can also lead by advocating for educational reforms, contributing to research and publications, or taking on leadership roles in educational associations and community initiatives.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

The healthiest workday structure can vary depending on individual preferences and circumstances.

However, here's a general guideline that promotes productivity, well-being, and work-life balance:
1. Morning Routine: Start your day with a consistent morning routine that suits your needs. Wake up at a time that allows for an adequate amount of sleep (typically 7-9 hours for adults), and engage in activities that promote well-being, such as stretching, meditation, or exercise. Personally, I begin each morning with scripture reading, prayer, coffee, and exercise, in that order.

2. Prioritize Important Tasks: Begin your workday by identifying and prioritizing the most important and time-sensitive tasks you need to accomplish. This helps maintain focus and ensures critical work gets completed.

3. Regular Breaks: Take regular breaks throughout the day to recharge and maintain productivity. Short breaks every hour or two can help prevent mental fatigue and improve overall focus. Breaks might even include simply getting up and going for a brief walk.

4. Balanced, Healthy Meals: Plan and enjoy nutritious meals during the workday. Avoid skipping meals or relying on unhealthy snacks. Include a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and stay hydrated by drinking enough water.

5. Physical Activity: Incorporate physical activity into your day. It could be a walk during lunchtime, stretching breaks, or even a workout session before or after work. Regular exercise helps reduce stress, boosts energy levels, and improves overall health.

6. Boundaries and Time Management: Establish boundaries between work and personal life. Set clear start and end times for work, and avoid bringing work-related tasks into personal time. Practice effective time management techniques, such as prioritizing tasks, setting realistic deadlines, and minimizing distractions.

7. Social Interaction: Incorporate social interaction into your day. Engage in conversations with colleagues, friends, or family members during breaks or after work. Maintaining social connections helps alleviate stress and promotes well-being.

8. Wind Down and Relaxation: As the workday comes to a close, engage in activities that promote relaxation and winding down. This may include reading, listening to music, practicing mindfulness, or spending quality time with loved ones. Personally, I end each day with family prayer followed by family scripture reading.

9. Quality Sleep: Establish a consistent sleep schedule that allows for sufficient rest. Create a relaxing bedtime routine to signal your body and mind that it's time to unwind and prepare for sleep.

Remember, this structure serves as a general guideline, and you can adapt it to suit your specific needs and preferences. It's essential to listen to your body, practice self-care, and make adjustments as necessary to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

One of the most valuable educational leadership lessons to learn is the importance of fostering a positive and inclusive school culture. A positive school culture promotes a supportive and engaging environment for students, teachers, and staff. Here are some key aspects to consider:

1. Collaboration and Empowerment: Encourage collaboration and empower teachers and staff to contribute their ideas, expertise, and voice. Foster a sense of ownership and shared responsibility for the school's success.

2. Communication and Transparency: Maintain open lines of communication with all stakeholders, including students, parents, teachers, and staff. Transparent communication builds trust, facilitates understanding, and helps address concerns or issues effectively. This might be the most critical effective leadership lesson that I am reminded of daily.

3. Student-Centered Approach: Keep the focus on students and their holistic development. Prioritize their well-being, individual needs, and diverse learning styles. Create a student-centered environment that fosters curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, and a love for learning.

4. Equity and Inclusion: Embrace and celebrate diversity within the school community. Ensure equitable access to resources, opportunities, and support for all students, regardless of their backgrounds or abilities. Address bias, promote inclusivity, and create a safe and respectful learning environment for everyone.

5. Continuous Professional Development: Promote a culture of continuous learning and growth among teachers and staff. Provide opportunities for professional development, encourage innovation, and support ongoing improvement in instructional practices.

6. Vision and Strategic Planning: Develop a clear vision for the school's future and work collaboratively to create a strategic plan. Set meaningful goals, align resources, and regularly assess progress towards achieving the vision.

7. Relationship Building: Cultivate positive relationships with students, parents, teachers, staff, and the wider community. Establish partnerships and collaborations to enhance the educational experience and provide a strong support network for all stakeholders. This is another critical effective leadership lesson that I am reminded of daily.

8. Resilience and Adaptability: Embrace change, be open to new ideas and approaches, and encourage a growth mindset among staff and students. Adaptability and resilience are essential qualities in navigating the evolving landscape of education.

Remember, educational leadership is a continuous learning journey, and there are numerous valuable lessons to be learned along the way. Embracing these lessons and applying them in practice can help create a thriving educational community that supports the success and well-being of all its members.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

One educational book that has had a profound impact on educational leadership is "The Art of Leadership" by Michael Fullan. This book explores the essence of effective leadership and provides insights into transforming education systems. "The Art of Leadership" emphasizes the importance of moral purpose, building relationships, and fostering a positive school culture. It delves into key leadership concepts such as shared decision-making, collaboration, and creating a sense of ownership among all stakeholders. The book also highlights the significance of continuous learning and adaptability in educational leadership.

By reading this book, educational leaders can gain a deeper understanding of the qualities and practices that contribute to successful leadership in education. It can inspire leaders to reflect on their own practices, challenge conventional thinking, and embrace innovative approaches to meet the evolving needs of students and schools. "The Art of Leadership" encourages leaders to focus on meaningful goals, address equity and inclusion, and create a positive learning environment.

It provides practical strategies and examples that leaders can implement to transform their schools and make a lasting impact on student achievement and well-being. Overall, this book can empower educational leaders to embrace their role as change agents, inspire others, and create an educational community that is driven by a shared vision and a commitment to excellence. It offers valuable insights and guidance for leaders seeking to make a positive difference in the lives of students and the broader educational landscape.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

The best advice to give a young educational leader is as follows:
1. Embrace Continuous Learning: Education is a field that is constantly evolving. Stay curious, seek out professional development opportunities, and be open to learning from others. Continuously expand your knowledge, skills, and understanding of best practices in education.

2. Build Relationships and Collaborate: Effective leadership in education is built on relationships. Foster positive connections with students, teachers, staff, parents, and the wider community. Collaborate with others, listen to their perspectives, and value their contributions. Collaboration leads to a stronger and more supportive educational community.

3. Lead with Purpose and Passion: Identify your core values and vision for education. Understand your purpose as a leader and let it guide your decisions and actions. Lead with passion and inspire others through your enthusiasm and commitment to making a positive impact on students' lives.

4. Be a Continuous Advocate for Equity and Inclusion: Promote equity and inclusion in all aspects of education. Advocate for fair and inclusive practices, ensure equitable access to resources and opportunities, and actively work to eliminate barriers that hinder student success. Make it a priority to create a welcoming and supportive environment for all students.

5. Communicate Effectively: Strong communication skills are vital for educational leaders. Develop clear and transparent communication channels with stakeholders, listen actively, and convey information in a way that is accessible and easily understood. Keep everyone informed and engaged in the educational journey. This might be the most critical effective leadership advice that I can offer.

6. Take Care of Yourself: Leadership roles can be demanding, so it's essential to prioritize self-care. Set boundaries between work and personal life, practice stress management techniques, and make time for activities that recharge and rejuvenate you. Taking care of yourself ensures that you can effectively support others.

7. Embrace Innovation and Emphasize Growth: Embrace innovative approaches and encourage a culture of continuous improvement. Emphasize growth mindsets among staff and students, promoting a positive attitude towards learning from failures and adapting to new challenges. Encourage creativity, risk-taking, and the exploration of new ideas.

8. Seek Mentorship and Build a Support Network: Connect with experienced educational leaders who can serve as mentors and provide guidance. Build a support network of colleagues and peers who understand the challenges and triumphs of educational leadership. Lean on them for advice, support, and collaboration.

Remember, leadership in education is a journey of growth and development. Be patient with yourself, learn from both successes and failures, and strive to make a positive impact on the lives of students and the broader educational community.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

One meaningful story that comes to mind involves a dedicated educational leader who transformed a struggling school into a thriving learning community. This leader took on the challenge of leading a school that had been plagued by low student achievement, disengaged teachers, and a negative school culture. Recognizing the need for change, the leader implemented a comprehensive plan focused on collaboration, professional development, and student-centered practices.

The leader began by building strong relationships with the staff, listening to their concerns, and involving them in decision-making processes. Together, they created a shared vision for the school and set clear goals for improvement. Professional development became a priority, with opportunities for teachers to learn new instructional strategies, engage in reflective practices, and collaborate with their peers.

The leader encouraged a culture of continuous learning and provided support to ensure teachers had the resources and tools needed to succeed. To address the school culture, the leader implemented initiatives that celebrated diversity, fostered inclusivity, and promoted a sense of belonging among students and staff. They worked to create a safe and respectful environment where every student felt valued and supported. Over time, the dedication and hard work of the leader and the entire school community started yielding positive results.

Student achievement improved, and a renewed sense of excitement and engagement could be felt throughout the school. Teachers reported increased job satisfaction and a greater sense of efficacy. Through their unwavering commitment to student success and their ability to inspire and empower others, this educational leader turned the struggling school into a model of excellence. The story serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative impact that effective leadership can have on both individuals and the entire educational community.

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