7 Questions with Anne Schafer-Salinas
Name: Anne Schaefer-Salinas
Current title: Associate Head of School
Current organisation: TMI Episcopal
I have been in education for over 20 years but this was not my first career. I actually graduated with my BS in Business Administration and worked in the hospitality field for a number of years. It didn't take too many years for me to realize that this was not how I wanted to spend the rest of my years earning a paycheck. So, I began working as a Confirmation Catechist and Youth Minister while in Grad School pursuing my MA in History-and also tutored on the side. While doing that "as a temporary gig", I discovered that I actually enjoyed working with teenagers (much to my mother's chagrin and disbelief). I took a job as a long-term sub at one of our local high schools, in Spanish of all things, pursued my teaching credential and have been enjoying my work ever since.
I spent over 17 years at an all-girls Catholic High School in the San Francisco Bay Area teaching every history course we offered, with one exception: AP Government. A few years ago I transitioned into Administration and served as the Associate Principal for Curriculum and Instruction for 6 years before moving to my current position in San Antonio, TX. Here I serve as the Associate Head of School for a co-ed 6-12 Episcopal school
I am a wife, mom, and avid SF Giants fan. I love to experiment in the kitchen, read, and learn and model new ways of using technology in the classroom.
1. What have you found most challenging as a Christian school leader?
There is such a spectrum of "Christian" today. As a leader in a Christin school, you want to be true to your school mission while also not alienating those who do not fully embrace the school's definition. Every charism has unique qualities that makes that school mission and vision special and impactful. Finding the right match of students/families, faculty and staff that all whole-heartedly embrace your "brand" or are committed to learning about and living into your school's mission is a challenge that secular organizations don't face in the same way.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I start with a short yoga practice and walking the dog. These activities give me an opportunity to focus myself and reflect on what I want to accomplish in the day ahead. Once at work I spend time on the campus greeting students and faculty. After the morning bell calls everyone to classes, I then am either in meetings or working on projects or responding to emails. Lunch time is typically spent with the students and faculty, lending an extra set of eyes to supervision (SO much supervision with COVID!). The morning meetings and emails repeat after lunch. Once students are gone for the day I typically have about 90 minutes to really focus on my to-do list. When I get home, I check in with my family. If it has been a particularly draining day I will take some quiet time for myself before dinner. After dinner I provide homework support for our son, review my calendar for the next day and head to dreamland.
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
You can't overshare when working on projects.
Being only in my second year at my current school, I had honestly forgotten how much time I invested early on at my pervious school building relationships and keeping people in the loop. I now keep a running list of any possible person who might want to know about a project my office is working on. It has been a smoother, more successful second year as a result.
4. What one book has had the most profound impact on your Christian school leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I do read books on leadership and education often. But since you are asking about books that have particularly influenced me as a Christian leader, I would have to say Redeeming Administration by Ann M. Garrido. It is a small book but it is packed with lessons and reminders and examples. She breaks down her thesis into 12 tenants which she grounds in our Christian understandings. Each one is powerful on it's own. Together, they provide me with a really good touchstone against which I can review my own progress as a leader. Some of her points are expected--things like maintaining humor, having hope and courage and being reflective. Others are more thought-provoking (at least for me) like: can you be too generative as a leader? Do you knwo when to press the pause button on new ideas? This has been really important as a leader during a pandemic. We have often gotten into a reactive mode f trying to address every little shift rather than taking a step back and letting a plan play out for a while to see if you need to iterate again or not. Initiative fatigue is a real thing and we need to find that balance between problem solving and being patient. The other lesson that really stuck with me and has not only been meaningful for me but has also challenged me to think about setbacks and shifts differently is the idea of embracing death. Garrido says "Much of the ministry of administration is in the interruption." Gosh, is that true. And boy is it hard to accept at times. But trying to find the blessing in the interruption allows me the time to reflect on my direction. Later in the chapter she distinguishes between painful suffering (the type that leaves you absolutely spent at the end of the day and thinking that being a delivery driver might be a great career option!) and Paschal suffering (the type that ignites you but doesn't consume you). These moments have allowed me to reflect on what I am doing and why. They led me to seek out a new career challenge, and have helped me to find focus during the disruptions of COVID.
5. How do you find and keep great Christian teachers?
This is really all about the recruiting and hiring process. We use a panel of people and include an interview for candidates that are content finalists, with our school Chaplain. Keeping them is about a good mentorship program--which to be honest we don't have but see as a need so are working to define this year. So any suggestions you have Jonno, I would love to hear because the mentoring process is so crucial!
6. What's most important as a Christian school leader for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Gosh, I think that is the million dollar question of 2020! WE actually have a Dean of Community and Wellness. She and her team, that include the Deans of Students, school Counselor, school Chaplain and nurse all work hard to provide support for the students and the staff. It is an immense job that really needs more resources. unfortunately it has not had as prominent a role in the minds of most--until now. My goal is to slowing increase the staffing to ensure there are enough resources to go around.
We also allow students to take a Wellness Day with no academic penalty. And I am willing to support most time off requests from the faculty. It's not a perfect system of solutions, but we recognize the need and what to find ways to support the community within the reasonableness of our resources.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a Christian school leader so far?
I don't really know that I can easily point to one story. But I can point to one habit that I have that brings me joy and is meaningful to me...I am a rather sentimental person. So from my first year as a teacher I started a file for myself that I labeled: "Look At Often." In that folder I began to stash little notes from colleagues, students or parents that reinforced when I did something good. During my first years of teaching, I would look at the contents in that folder regularly when I was feeling a bit down or questioning my career path. I have kept that folder and I am happy to say that despite leaving the full-time classroom, I still am adding to that folder. Knowing that folder continues to grow reaffirms my choices. The contents remind me that we are all called to something greater than ourselves. As a Christian leader, I think that is a key lesson to always hold onto. The closing lines of Oscar Romero's prayer that "We are workers, not master builders" is so appropriate for us as leaders. My folder reminds me of this fact every time I open my file drawer and see it.