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7 Questions on Leadership with Kathleen Caslow

Name: Kathleen Caslow

Title: Teacher

Organisation: Episcopal High School

Kathleen is an accomplished educator passionate about scientific research and student engagement. With a background in AIDS and cancer research from her tenure at George Washington University and the National Institutes of Health, she brings a wealth of expertise to her role as a biology teacher at Episcopal. Kathleen's teaching portfolio includes biology, genetics, anatomy and physiology, and forensics. Additionally, she serves as a coach for the varsity cross-country team and fulfills the role of a campus supervisor administrator in the residential community.

Recognized for her dedication to advancing teaching methods, Kathleen was honored with the prestigious 2007 Frontier Fellowship from the American Physiological Society. This fellowship allowed her to enhance her teaching through inquiry-based methods and included a summer research position at Georgetown University. Her commitment to marine biology research is evident through her collaborations with EHS students on data from the Smithsonian and her exploration of Curacao reefs. Notably, Kathleen leads the Costa Rica research immersion program, which offers Episcopal students an authentic opportunity to engage in research.

In December 2022, she completed her Master's in Education with a specialization in Leadership and Policy at American University, focusing on leadership and social justice. Kathleen's multifaceted background and dedication to education and research make her a valuable asset to the academic community.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope Kathleen's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

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

As a leader, I have encountered various challenges that have shaped my growth. One significant hurdle has been maintaining an authentic sense of self, where I strive to stay true to my values and principles while leading others. Additionally, I have learned the importance of listening without judgment or imposing my own agenda, fostering an environment of open communication and collaboration.

Another challenge I aim to overcome is imposter syndrome, recognizing my capabilities and embracing the belief that I am capable of exceptional leadership. Through these experiences, I continue to evolve and develop as a leader, navigating these obstacles with resilience and self-assurance.

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

Throughout my life, I have consistently held leadership positions, with my journey starting as early as high school when I served as the class vice president. Over time, I progressed to become a department chair and eventually took on the role of a campus supervisor. In each of these diverse roles, my primary goal was to inspire individuals to believe in themselves, encourage out-of-the-box thinking, and foster a drive to accomplish goals.

Being a dedicated and hardworking individual, I have always believed in my abilities. However, it was a transformative experience in my early thirties that truly helped me recognize my own leadership potential. Despite being an introvert, I was approached to assume the position of department chair, which took me by surprise. Initially doubting myself, I expressed my concerns to the woman responsible for hiring me.

However, she reassured me and convinced me that I possessed the qualities necessary for effective leadership. This encounter became pivotal and solidified my self-perception as a capable leader.

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

My workday is consistently intricate and ever-changing, influenced by my institution's complex schedules and programming. Typically, I start my day by waking up early and being the first to arrive at the office. Upon arrival, I review my calendar and plans for the day, meticulously going through lecture notes and attending to various details.

I ensure that all necessary equipment is set up and mentally prepare myself for the tasks ahead. Before diving into teaching and coaching the students, I often take a moment to meditate and center myself. The day progresses, and after dinner, I might assume campus supervisor duty until 10:00 pm. As the day comes to a close, I take time to reflect on my actions, seeking areas of improvement for future endeavors.

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

One valuable lesson I have recently learned is the art of managing resistance. Presently, I find myself immersed in difficult discussions with administrators occupying higher positions. Together with a team of knowledgeable colleagues, I have been striving to establish a bridge program for struggling students.

Unfortunately, we have encountered significant resistance and have received minimal support. This experience has been quite frustrating, and I eagerly hope for a swift resolution to this challenge. So, in the end, I learned that I must have patience and that change in a big institution generally takes time.

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?

The book that has had a profound impact on me is "Building a Thinking Classroom" by Peter Liljedahl. While it may not be a book explicitly focused on leadership, it has given me valuable insights on transforming my approach. Through this book, I discovered that as a leader, I have the ability to cultivate an environment that encourages productive struggle and fosters genuine engagement. I have learned the power of seeking input from others and allowing them to collaborate in resolving problems and overcoming challenges. This realization has freed me from the pressure of having to possess all the answers and has empowered me to embrace a more collaborative and inclusive leadership style.

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

The piece of advice I would share is that a powerful leader listens first and allows everyone to be heard. Then as a working group that has been validated, we can move forward wit the real work at hand.

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

One crucial piece of advice I would impart is the significance of being a leader who prioritizes listening and creates an inclusive space for everyone to be heard. By placing emphasis on active listening and ensuring that each individual's perspective is acknowledged and validated, a cohesive working group can be formed. This approach establishes a solid foundation for the team to effectively tackle the actual tasks at hand, fostering collaboration and generating meaningful outcomes.

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