My mission as a leader and preservice educator

By Heather Spirko, The College of New Jersey, NJEA Preservice president

I’ve discovered that everyone defines a leader differently. Some individuals may say a leader is someone who is in charge, someone who orders others around, or someone who leads others in a specific direction. Growing up, I would define a leader in all the ways I’ve listed above, however, through research and my experience in college and NJEA Preservice I’ve realized that a leader is someone much bigger.

“I define leadership as anyone who recognizes the potential in others and encourages individuals to find their passion and voice.”

Throughout my personal life and college career, I’ve encountered countless leaders in my community and in NJEA, NEA and the classrooms in which I have had my field experiences. I was inspired by the women leaders in those settings who motivated me to find my voice and become the leader they saw in me before I did. These women motivated, inspired and supported me during my journey as the NJEA Preservice president, as a preservice educator and as a leader in my personal life.

If I listed all the women who inspired me during my leadership journey, this article would turn into a novel. It’s because of these women that I have become the leader that I always was, but had not recognized before.

The novel Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, profoundly influenced how I defined leadership. Brown, defines a leader as, “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” As the NJEA Preservice president, discovering the potential in people and encouraging those individuals to continuously develop their potential is vital to being a great leader. I define leadership as the ability to recognize the potential in others and encourage individuals to find their passion and voice.

After attending the Leader and Organizer Convening at NEA headquarters in Washington D.C., I discovered a lot about myself and my mission as a preservice educator and leader. During the convening, we were asked to create our mission statement. As I reflect on my mission as an educator and leader, I refer to the leaders who had an impact on my life and how they made me feel.

My mission as a preservice educator and leader is to advocate, support, inspire and encourage my prospective students and peers by providing a comfortable environment to allow them to continuously develop themselves and dare greatly. In order for me to advocate, support, inspire and encourage I must, as Theodore Roosevelt would put it, be the one standing in the arena with those individuals to challenge them to dare greatly.

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