Episode 49 - Networking for Impact in Education with Cheryl Cook
Cheryl Cook graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in May 2002. She later pursued a Master's degree at Ohio State University and graduated in 2004. Cheryl embarked on her 19-year career at Lawrence School in Cleveland, Ohio. Lawrence School specializes in serving students with learning differences, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and ADHD.
At Lawrence School, Cheryl initially taught upper-level math and science before transitioning to an administrative role as the Upper School Academic Dean. During her tenure as Academic Dean, she focused on curriculum development, instructional methods, and assessment for students in grades 7-12.
In March 2023, Cheryl and a group of colleagues founded the Association of LD Schools (ALDS). ALDS is dedicated to supporting schools with a similar mission to Lawrence. Cheryl now holds the position of Executive Director within the association.
Outside of her professional life, Cheryl enjoys traveling, watching sports, and camping with her husband and three boys.
[00:00:00] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Welcome everyone to the READ Podcast, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast. My name is Danielle Scorrano, I'm the host of the READ Podcast. READ is produced by The Windward Institute, which is a division of The Windward School. And we're recording live, and Jamie's going to tell you why we're doing that, for those of you that are at home watching this in October.
But, for those of you just tuning in, READ is a podcast that connects you with researchers and educators and thought leaders in education and child development, like our esteemed guest here, Cheryl Cook. I just want to give a little bit of context about this episode. This is our fourth episode of the LEAD on READ podcast series.
So Jamie and I started this. This was a little bit of an idea last year, and it's a quarterly episode on essentially the question, what does it mean to be a leader in education right now? And so with that, I feel very like Katie Couric, Robin Roberts right now.
[00:00:53] Jamie Williamson: You're rocking it.
[00:00:53] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I know, right? I'm like manifesting, right? I want to introduce you to my co host who will be introducing our guest. So [00:01:00] Jamie Williamson is the Head of School at The Windward School, the executive director of The Windward Institute. How are you today?
[00:01:06] Jamie Williamson: I'm good. I wouldn't probably even add co host and party crasher, because this is your party, right?
So the READ Podcast has been your baby since you started this, and you've done such an excellent job. And coming out of a meeting we had last summer, down in Charleston, I'd been on a panel, and I was like, wouldn't it be really interesting? So I have a lot of harebrained ideas, and I love to play the "what if" game.
So I played the what if game here with Danielle. I said, what if we had a leadership addition to your incredible podcast? And just maybe we could have a special guest as a host. And just maybe that person could be me. So, I kind of crashed her party, and hopefully she will forgive me down down the road. But we've actually had a lot of fun doing this. It's been a lot of fun.
And so from a contextual standpoint, we're actually here on stage today live with some people in the audience here, our first live audience. The last version that we did of this, we actually, it was our first in person recording of this.
As we're [00:02:00] coming out of the pandemic, things are changing. But for those of you who aren't here in person right now, some context here as to what we're doing here and why we're all here together. So about nine years ago, one of our esteemed colleagues at another school down in Buffalo called the Gow School started a leadership retreat for schools like ours.
And that's just been steadily growing over the few years. And that really came out of the luncheon that had been hosted at IDA for schools like ours that serve students with learning differences, learning disabilities. And so this is a really great time to be here. And at Windward, we decided to host this year.
So we actually had 180 people from across the country. I think 55 plus schools represented here. So it's been a wonderful three day process, lots of great energy, amazing conversations, great connections, and some really informative discussions and panel discussions. So like, I'm coming at this a little tired, because we have been, we've been hosting for three days and I feel like I have been on 24 hours a day since we got here.
[00:02:57] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Hosting extraordinaire.
[00:02:58] Jamie Williamson: Yeah, yeah, we're trying to do my best. [00:03:00] But I'm actually full of energy coming off all these really great conversations we've been having. And so, you know, Cheryl is coming to us here as the new director of the Association of Learning, LD Schools, the Association of LD Schools, ALDS, for those of you at home taking notes.
But this is actually, I think that there's actually a really interesting line here. So, we started with the luncheon, schools like ours finding a space to get together to create some community, to collaborate, to have some conversations. That transition into the leadership retreat where we're trying to build the next generation of LD school leaders. So when you think about, like, what could be next? The idea of our schools coming together and actually having an association that brings everybody together, that brings us all under kind of one big umbrella to help you know us work through some things that we're all sort of working through. We're all solving similar problems. Let's find some ways to collaborate. I think we're a lot stronger together.
And I could not be more pleased that Cheryl has taken the helm of this organization. But I do want to, I do want to say a little bit, [00:04:00] because I've actually known Cheryl now for, what, 13 ish years, somewhere in that neighborhood?
[00:04:04] Cheryl Cook: Yeah, I feel like it was even more than that.
[00:04:06] Jamie Williamson: Maybe, maybe it's more but time gets blurry post pandemic, right? Maybe it was, maybe it was 14 or 15 years, I don't know. But anyway, so I was on an accreditation visit for ISACS, the association I was previously part of. And we were down at the DePaul School in Louisville, Kentucky.
And it's like a team of like nine people going in to evaluate a school program. And, I happen to be on that thing with Cheryl. So, we're also two night owls, you know, I think that's a safe thing to say. So after we were done working and writing and doing all our observations, we would pop down and, and, you know, grab a drink and chat.
And what I found was a colleague that was so interested in collaborating with other people, so interested in making connections, and it was just an instant friendship, and I have valued that friendship for a long, long time. But this is also part of my origin story, I think it's, I think it's fair to say, because her head of school at the time, Lou [00:05:00] Salza, who's been a dear friend and mentor to me, but not yet. I had, no, I didn't know, didn't know this man from anyone. And so we were working together. I was the co chair of this team, and he broke his tooth on the opening night of this. So it's a little happy hour, hors d'oeuvres, past hors d'oeuvres, and he breaks a molar off.
Now, Cheryl's husband happens to be a dentist.
[00:05:22] Cheryl Cook: Correct.
[00:05:22] Jamie Williamson: So, who had some connections in Louisville.
[00:05:24] Cheryl Cook: Yes.
[00:05:24] Jamie Williamson: This gets weird, so forgive me. So, she sets him up with an oral surgeon for the next day to fix his tooth, and he comes to me and says, I'm the chair of this, but tomorrow you're leading everything. You've got to do the board meeting, go to the parent meeting, go to the student meeting, the teacher meeting.
And I was like, sure, got it. So he comes back, new tooth, uh, in mouth, ready to go for the next day on Monday evening. And he leans over and he says, so when are you going to be a Head of School? Because I was, at the time, I was a principal program in Cincinnati, Ohio, called Springer, and I'm a school psychologist by training.
So I had a, you know, I was not sure I was ever [00:06:00] going to be sitting in a chair like that. And I was like, oh, no. And stop. No. And he's like, are you willing to move? I said, no. He said because I'm going to be giving your name to people. You need to be doing this work. You're ready for this. And I was like, again, no.
So he was a polite nudger of me. And so he, and then since that, and since that time, he's really become such a great friend and mentor, and we love Lou Salza, so, I'd I'd like to think that we have a little bit of a shared sort of, you know, person in our origin story here.
[00:06:28] Cheryl Cook: Yes, absolutely.
[00:06:29] Jamie Williamson: So we're super excited to have you here today.
[00:06:32] Cheryl Cook: Why, thank you so much. And what was funny about that trip down to Louisville was that I didn't know that there were other people out there running LD schools, and I, I really, I guess, I don't know why, but I thought that our school in Cleveland, Ohio, was one of the only ones doing it. And so when I met Jamie, I was like, Wow! There are other people doing work like this? I need to meet more people! And it's just been a [00:07:00] very pivotal moment in my life and my career and what I've been able to do.
[00:07:05] Jamie Williamson: And I think there's so many schools like ours setting in a space where they might be the only school in the state sometimes, or in the city, who have this We're the only school who does this, right?
And what they don't realize is that there's probably about 200 ish schools floating around the country who do this, very similar types of work. So, again, a big part of this ALD piece is to find them, go out, you know, like Indiana Jones style, right? Go out and find these schools, find ways to bring them together, connect them, and provide some good support and service for them moving forward. So, so yeah.
[00:07:35] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I love that, and I already feel the sense that you two are talking about connection and collaboration. And for those of you who are listening on audio, you have Cheryl's formal bio, but I wanted to have a couple of key items of some of your, part of your career and then just ask you how you're doing.
I know it's been a couple of, a really rich couple of days, but for those of you who don't know Cheryl, I actually just had the opportunity to [00:08:00] officially meet you a couple of weeks ago, and I was absolutely blown away. I often, Jamie, you talked a little bit about READ, and the LEAD on READ aspect of this is just learning from each other, and I've learned so much, and I've just gained so much inspiration from the impact that you've had.
And so, for those of you just meeting Cheryl for the first time, I know you started out your Master's in Engineering, which is really interesting, and we'll talk about that, to the Lawrence School, and now is the new Executive Director of ALDS. The other piece I think that's so important here for us to know is that this episode comes out in October, so for those of you listening on Wednesday, October 5th, maybe it is.
And for those of you now here as we're recording, this is Dyslexia Awareness Month. And so, as we talk to you, Cheryl, I'd love to know more about your journey as an advocate, as a leader in this field as well. So, but before we get into that, before we really dive into it... How are you this morning? I mean, it's not even morning, I think it's the afternoon.
I just had lunch, but how are you showing up to this conversation?
[00:08:58] Cheryl Cook: I am [00:09:00] really feeling amazing. As Jamie said, we just had two, three days collecting, collaborating and connecting with some of my favorite people in the world. Um, and to be able to have these rich conversations and reconnect and see that what we're doing here with ALDS is It's going to impact so many people. I just feel really great. I'm in a very good place right now.
[00:09:24] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Amazing.
[00:09:25] Jamie Williamson: Yeah. That's fantastic. So, it has been, it has been, it's been great. So, so yeah.
[00:09:30] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: And then in talking and thinking about your leadership story, you did talk about ALDS. One of the reasons why we started LEAD on READ was to learn more from leaders in the field to really have those conversations tell the story about what it means to be a leader right now So can you start by telling us your leadership journey, probably before you even thought about education to where you are now.
[00:09:54] Cheryl Cook: Yeah, absolutely. So I'll go all the way back to when I was in high school, right? So I [00:10:00] loved going to school. I loved getting my class schedule every year at the beginning of the school year. I loved playing school when I was a little kid in grade school. My sister didn't like it because I always wanted to be the teacher, and she didn't like being the student, especially because she's older than me, but that's a sidebar. But I just loved being in schools and being part of school. And I found this amazing teacher in my high school. He was my physics teacher, and then we went on to take AP Physics.
I wasn't really an AP student, but I really loved physics. And so, when I decided, what am I going to do for college, I ended up going to Miami of Ohio, in Oxford, Ohio. And I got my undergraduate degree in engineering physics, because I just wanted to take more physics classes, and I really liked school.
After that, I went to Ohio State and I got my master's in mechanical engineering. And once that was all said and done, I wanted to know what I was actually going to do with my life. And leadership was always [00:11:00] part of who I was. So I was part of a sorority at Miami, and I was one of the vice presidents of the sorority going through it.
I was just, there was a part of me that always felt like I was a natural leader. But I still missed being in schools. I remember the day when I was just randomly looking on Monster, for those of you who are old enough to remember what Monster is, it was well before Indeed, for a job. And I found this opening at the Lawrence School. And it was for a math and science position, so I applied for it. Believe it or not, I went to OfficeMax to fax my resume over. But I did, the next day I got an interview, and then three days later I was starting my journey at Lawrence. At the time, I also was able to meet some really fantastic people who were in my cohort of new teachers at Lawrence.
One of which is Ryan Masa. He runs the Assets School in Hawaii, and [00:12:00] he was a teacher with me at the beginning, and then within the first couple years, he ended up becoming the academic dean at the school. And I had so many rich conversations with him and saw him as such an incredible leader.
But for me, I loved being in the classroom. I wasn't leaving the classroom. I was never intending to do anything except for teach because I loved the kids, I loved interacting with the parents. It was just part of my DNA. And then Ryan left, and we couldn't find an academic dean at Lawrence. And our head of school at the time, Lou Salza, who Jamie just was talking about, came to my classroom one day and said, Cheryl, I need you to do this.
You're my person. And I said, Okay. Can I still have summers off? We negotiated that, and I ended up in this leadership space that I never intended to truly be in. And from there, I really feel privileged to [00:13:00] be able to, even though I was no longer in the classroom, I was now able to help more teachers be good at what they're doing, and therefore help more students, and make a bigger difference.
Even though it wasn't me in the classroom day to day, it was me helping those teachers. And we all know math well enough to know that the impact of if you help two teachers, you've now doubled your impact in the community. So I've been at the Academic Dean at Lawrence for a very long time, and when I met Jamie, and I decided I needed this, like, cohort of people, or I needed to find some friends, we went to the local International Dyslexia Association annual conference.
And that is really when I got the opportunity to get myself into a leadership space on the more global scale. I saw these two heads of school running the luncheon, that we, that Jamie talked about. And they were doing a great job, but they needed somebody with a little organization [00:14:00] and maybe, I don't know, just a little female touch in there.
So I emailed them afterwards, I said, hey, next year, do you need some help? They immediately jumped on it and I then have had the opportunity to lead that luncheon at IDA every year for this same space of LD school leaders across the country.
[00:14:18] Jamie Williamson: Thank you, thank you. And I, you know, and I can certainly sort of echo Cheryl's meaning making, right? So she jumps in, makes some meaning, creates some plans, comes at it from a very organized perspective. And I think it's really helped make that luncheon a much stronger event. So as we've reflected over the last couple days, it's been wonderful to be with our colleagues and spend some time really, you know, decompressing a little bit, sort of honoring, I think, the work in so many ways, but also honoring, like, the struggle of the work, right?
I think right now, I don't think I'm about to say anything shocking and unknown to people, but... But life's hard, right? Running a school is probably one of the hardest times I can remember, in recent history, to run school programs. To be a [00:15:00] parent. To be a human being in this world. And so, what do you, from your vantage point, thinking about, you know, the work you're trying to do with ALDS and our field in general, what do you think are, what does it mean right now to be a leader in education? So, if you were to, sort of, summarize that up in a few words, what would that be?
[00:15:19] Cheryl Cook: I really believe it's about building relationships and growing other leaders around you. It is really hard. It's a hard job and not one person can do it. So knowing that as a leader you have other really great potential leaders or actual leaders surrounding you. And so that's what I really think it means to be a leader is to have relationships. Be very in contact with folks and rise up other leaders around you.
[00:15:49] Jamie Williamson: Thank you. I love that.
[00:15:52] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I'm savoring that. As you were talking, you talked about impact and you also reference relationships, cohort [00:16:00] models, making a greater impact. And I see this through line in your career and one one thing that, I'm writing down all these notes already for what people are listening and what teachers who are aspiring leaders or what leaders just are aspiring to grow and be better in their field and maybe people outside education who are just curious to see what it means to be like a leader in education.
There's a vast number of listeners and so, again, I want to circle back to what you said about the beauty of relationships, the beauty of cohorts and I actually knew about you way before I actually knew Cheryl Cook, from Jamie actually. He was just becoming the head of school at The Windward School, and I met him at a conference. And he said, you know, I have a colleague. Actually I really want you to tell the story, but I'll tell the story. Actually I'll pause there.
I'll let you tell the story, but I have a colleague who does this really awesome thing at conferences, and the way that they connect. I'm just going to toss it [00:17:00] up to you. Tell us about the thing you do that's just amazing the way that you connect with people.
[00:17:05] Cheryl Cook: I appreciate that. It's kind of embarrassing too, but I'm going to tell the story because I do think it's worthwhile. So again, back to my original story. I met Jamie, and then I wanted to meet more people and really find a connection of my own. So I went to my head of school, Lou Salza, and I said, I'm going to this conference, here's the list of participants. Who do I need to meet? And he helped me kind of look through it, talked to me a little bit about who the people were, and we came up with a list.
And there were five, six people on there. I got to know them kind of through their bios, looking up their schools, so I had an idea of what they looked like and who I was looking for. And then when we got to the conference, I sought out to find those people and get to know them and to have a meaningful conversation so that I could make a connection that I could bring home with me. It did turn into a joke after some time because, you know, people would show up and be like, who's on your list [00:18:00] this year, Cheryl? But I just needed a strategy because as much as some people might think I'm a super extrovert, I'm more of an amniovert.
And so, for me to be in an environment, I needed a plan. I needed some sort of structure to how I was going to go about making these relationships.
[00:18:20] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I see you're very similar in that way, too. Yeah. In the way of just ability to connect, to understand it deeply, get to know someone, right?
[00:18:28] Jamie Williamson: Two birds of a feather, right? I've always admired Cheryl for the intentionality with which she approached that sort of, that conversation, right?
Because when you go to a conference, you're sitting in a room full of 200 people, you're like, okay, I'm here. Now what? And you might be at a table and you might have a couple good conversations, but really she would be like, okay, this person is the academic director here. I've heard really good things about their program.
I want to find out about their math vocabulary instruction. And she would go for it. And so I think that bringing that [00:19:00] layer of intentionality to how you're going to expand your professional network is really, really huge. And now as we're sitting here on the precipice of establishing the first association for schools like ours, coming off the heels of the largest LD school retreat that we've had in history, in the last nine, in the nine years it's existed. We're coming off a time when many of our schools have had the opportunity, given the economic and the uncertainty in the world and educational sort of uncertainty, to grow a little bit and to be safe havens for families.
I just think this is a really interesting time, right? And so, as we sit here and think about, you know, your work and... You know, what are you hoping to kind of push forward in this idea of bringing these schools together? Like, what's the benefit of having everybody together?
[00:19:45] Cheryl Cook: So I feel like we have done an outstanding job as schools that serve kids with learning differences in connecting heads of schools. But what we saw here these last couple days is that there are more than just the heads [00:20:00] of school who need a network, who need to learn from each other. And so my primary goal of the is to figure out how do we reach the other people in the building, the academic leaders, the enrollment management directors, the advancement crew, the college counselors, and in, at some point, in some way, the teachers. So that they know they're not the only art teacher teaching kids with learning differences in a high school, even though they feel that way sometimes.
[00:20:33] Jamie Williamson: Yeah. Thank you.
[00:20:35] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I want to circle back to what you had said, that we are better together, right? And I think that's such an interesting part of ALDS, right?
And expanding about that, you talked a little bit about the origin story, but I want to dig a little bit deeper. What was it, and what makes ALDS so unique and so special in connecting educators? Because there's a lot of different type of educational organizations, and [00:21:00] I think I'm an am, ambivert, ambivert? Extroverted introvert.
[00:21:05] Jamie Williamson: An ambivert, yeah.
[00:21:06] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Maybe I just don't know much about my personality. Like, am I an extrovert? Am I an introvert? Because there are people in this crowd being like, you're definitely an extrovert. And I'm like, no, I'm totally an introvert. But I'm, I'm a conference thriver. Like, I love being in connection with others and learning from other educators. And, yeah, like, I get, you know, just a sensation of energy when I'm ever connecting with other educators who are just as passionate. So, tell us a little bit more. What makes ALDS so unique in the sense of what your hopes are to achieve with this.
[00:21:35] Cheryl Cook: So, if we go back to my story a little bit, after I started trying to meet people at conferences and make a connection, I was able to come across a really unique group of people. We called ourselves the Sisterhood Collaborative, only because we couldn't come up with a name, and someone named us, and then it just stuck. But it was a group of five, six different schools. [00:22:00] And it was the academic leaders on the campus. So whether it was a division head or an academic dean, a curriculum coordinator or a teacher, all of us were charged with leading our academic work.
And so what that gave me was an ability to ask questions that I couldn't ask in the other associations that our school belonged to. At Lawrence School, we were part of the Cleveland Council of Independent Schools, which is a fantastic group. However, it was hard for me to find other academic leaders there who understood the population that we were serving.
And so, when I look at ALDS, I think what gives it its uniqueness is that, we are often geographically the only school or one of two or three schools in an area. But yet our leaders need to be able to connect with other leaders doing that same work. I can tell you that Lawrence School is better because of the [00:23:00] sisterhood and all the ideas I stole along the way, meeting people, talking to them, going to see their schools in action. And I just am really excited about the opportunity to make it easier for other people to be able to find those same connections.
[00:23:17] Jamie Williamson: Thank you. I love that. I want to take just a brief pause here to talk about passion. Yeah. Right? Because when I hear you talk about this, like, the passion is so clear. And and just like you kind of like, it sort of exudes from you, right, radiates, if you will. And I think sometimes people think passion is this kind of internal reflectiveness, right? Like, okay, this is a thing that I'm thinking about and I want to do more of this. But actually, I don't think that's actually where passion actually really kind of gets to thrive a little bit.
I think it's when you look out into a space and maybe see a need in the world, right? And then there's almost this like, maybe not clinical level of compulsion, but there's almost a little bit of a compulsion to like fill the need. Yeah. And I think that's where, that's one of the [00:24:00] things that I love about this journey that you're on right now, Cheryl, is that you have seen this need for collaboration, for connection in our school programs for a while.
And that's one of the things I've just loved about you. And when I see that need, out in the community with you through your lens and your eyes and watching how passionately you've been pursuing that connective tissue, right? That's really, for me, like the, such a big, important part of that origin story is, it's not that you just like, you like to connect for the good of connecting. It's like, you see this need out in the community for our schools and our field. That we, we have a chance to kind of come together, be a little bit better. And not just for ourselves. There's part of that's worth for ourselves, right? You get to learn from some other people. You get to be a little better today than you were tomorrow. But it's also, in the grand scheme of things, we're making things better for kids. On the whole, right? So, sorry for the tangent.
[00:24:52] Cheryl Cook: And it's 100% my passion. I mean, I have goosebumps up here just talking and listening to all of this. And Jamie, you talked about the kids and it [00:25:00] is, it's about, it's always about the kids. And so my passion truly comes from being able to see our schools improve and therefore, then more kids get the services that they need. And hopefully someday by being a real association with a name and a 501c3 status that we will be able to help other educators in other settings understand the models that we're using that can translate to different settings so more kids with dyslexia and other learning differences can truly thrive and see their potential in the world. And I, again, still have goosebumps. I get very excited.
[00:25:41] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Thank you. Thank you. Well, there's an advocacy piece to this, right? And us sitting here in August, again this will come out in Dyslexia Awareness Month, but Dyslexia Awareness Month for us is all, every month, right? Every day. Every day that we serve a child with a language based learning disability, that's where the passion comes into the [00:26:00] advocacy piece.
And I oftentimes think about people who are truly advocates, it often comes as, I don't want to say a consequence, but an amazing product of following the work and filling the need that we're so passionate about. So I love that. For both of you, I guess, Cheryl, you as the leader and executive director of ALDS, but Jamie also being part of this origin story, I guess my question is twofold.
We talked a little bit about the mission, right? But is there anything in the mission that we didn't touch on? And then, second part, for all those following in the past couple of days, we've talked about tying our mission with vision. Right? So, what is it that you both, and you specifically, Cheryl, see in terms of how we actualize that mission into a vision for the future?
[00:26:49] Cheryl Cook: Yeah. Yeah, that's really great. And we've taken the time to really look and put those things on paper, in words. And in our vision right now, is that [00:27:00] someday all kids can learn from the collective expertise of our schools and that we reach a larger population. We talked a lot about Lou Salza. There are some other really great leaders in this field, but they grew up, and they've retired. Some have passed, and they started this work decades ago, and it is our responsibility as the leaders in this space now to continue their legacy in a way that allows them to be able to know that they made a difference in this world, even if they never get a chance to know that.
[00:27:43] Jamie Williamson: You know, kind of building on that is that these are all folks that you're talking about. These are kind of the giants of our field who went well before us and have established, founded schools, really worked to kind of create opportunities for legislative priorities to kind of get shifted, you know, state level programs, [00:28:00] and really deliver a lot of great education to kids across the country.
And I think The vast majority of those folks would be so happy to live in a world where our schools didn't need to exist, right? That's one of the things I love about it. And earlier today, we spent time actually listening to one of the founders of one of the public schools in the DOE in the New York City, in the Bronx, South Bronx, is actually trying to start a school, and they're moving forward.
They've got a PS number, they've got a leader. They've got a small school pilot that's happening and they're growing that pilot. But a public school designed to serve kids, right, which is what we would all love, is to be able to say, we don't need to be on the front lines in our buildings doing this work.
I have a feeling we're going to need to be here for a while. But we really want to make sure that there's access and opportunity for every child in the country to have access to a really good reading education.
[00:28:51] Cheryl Cook: Right. And I remember even hearing them say in the past these same great leaders that were trying to continue their work: we know we've done it when we've put [00:29:00] ourselves out of work.
[00:29:02] Jamie Williamson: Yeah. And I just, I think the vibe right now in the world is that we're on a really good, really good pathway here, like to, to making some really significant impact. So when you think about some things that you're hoping to accomplish, you know, over the next, maybe first couple years as ALDS.
So bring in, certainly bring in some folks together. But what is your vision for sort of programmatic sort of things that you might want to kind of move into or sort of help expand and help schools kind of grow in.
[00:29:29] Cheryl Cook: Yeah, so, you know, we have actually launched ALDS in that we've been, we've reached out to our community and asked schools if they wish to become what we're calling founding schools.
Very excitingly, we are up to 54 founding schools within a month. We didn't even do any recruitment. They just were just so excited. Clearly there's a need. But one of the programmatic things that I would love to do sooner than later is talk to those schools and find [00:30:00] out what is the thing that you're really doing that is fantastic that you just want to tell, like you just love this part of what you're doing at your school. And then finding a way to share that information, whether it be through blog posts or through Zoom webinars. Ideally we could get some of the non head leaders in schools to be willing to host a webinar to talk about this really awesome thing that they're doing.
And now we have 54 really awesome things that are happening in these schools shared amongst the entire group, so that maybe 1, 2, 3 of those things are things that could help at the Windward School, or that could help at Lawrence School, or that could help at any of our schools across the country.
So programmatically, that's one of my initial goals, is to find out what are these schools doing well, how do we highlight what they're doing well, and then share that really awesome stuff.
[00:30:58] Jamie Williamson: Yeah, I love it. And you're [00:31:00] lifting some voices up, right? Yes. Because if you happen to be a READer, you know, or a listener tuning into this, you're thinking, well, I didn't know there were other schools like this. And then you find out, oh my gosh, there's a school doing this work in, plug in name of city, that I didn't know they were doing it in. And occasionally, that's a city you happen to live in, right? I mean, coming from Ohio, sometimes I'd be involved in conversations with folks about Springer or in Columbus at Marburn, or even up here, in Westchester where people are like, oh, I've never heard of that.
I didn't know there was a school for kids who struggle with reading. Like, wow, everybody who has a child should understand, here's a whole slate of things that can occur in a child's life. And here's where some things are, or some places that you can go get some help with some of these things.
[00:31:43] Cheryl Cook: Yeah, and to that end, I have to do just one more sidebar on here. So, I found my passion for this work well before I had children. And I've now, I have three children of my own. [00:32:00] Between the three of them, they have eight different diagnoses. Two are dyslexic, one has ADHD, one has generalized anxiety, there's some type one diabetes in there as well.
And just being a mom in a space, where I knew, I mean, this is the work I do. I know about dyslexia, I know about ADHD. But my kids didn't get diagnosed until I did something about it. And so, to what you're saying, Jamie, I feel like these families in these areas need to know more. One, that there are schools out here like that.
But two, there may be a name to that thing that's happening with your kid. I, to this day, remember my child coming home at the end of third grade and saying he was being bullied for not being able to read well in class, and I mean, my head almost exploded, of course, because now it's not just [00:33:00] my passion, but it's my passion and my child.
And what we were able to do for him once we knew that. But again, for a parent who's going through this traumatic experience with their child, they need to know, it needs to be easier for them to find schools like ours if that's what they're choosing to do, to find resources. Many of our schools offer assessment centers where kids can get diagnosed because in the public schools sometimes it just takes a little bit longer for people to be able to do it. Again, just letting the parents be able to access those resources easier.
[00:33:39] Jamie Williamson: Because really, between all these schools, there are parent educational seminars almost at every school on this list in the country doing this work. There are often either diagnostic or screening support services through that work.
There are tons of opportunities for tutoring, for academic enrichment, for academic support, summer camp programs. And again, I think that those [00:34:00] schools and those areas are doing great jobs getting it out to the micro community, but just beyond that edge and that border, there are kids and families who need access to that. So I think there's just a tremendous amount of opportunities there.
[00:34:12] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I often think when I'm on the podcast, about this network that's just happening in my brain right now. I make all these connections, and it truly is translating to the network that the two of you are talking about. When our teams first started talking about Dyslexia Awareness Month, the key piece we wanted to highlight here was uniting the disparate groups to drive systemic change. And these are the things that we're talking about. And, I'm like, I want to just jump off the stage, I'm so excited. Because it's reinvigorating what I've seen, and what I've, how I've grown professionally, right? Working at a school like the Windward School, now working with the Windward Institute, having been truly blessed with all of the institutional knowledge and expertise that expanded, I mean, we're at the centennial hundred year coming up in [00:35:00] 2026, right? And knowing that we sit on so much institutional expertise that we can share and also learn from others. As you were talking about outreach opportunities, as you were talking about different ways that our schools are connecting and learning from each other, I think that's the crux of, uniting disparate groups for systemic change, and the one thing that we're just so passionate about sharing with the community during Dyslexia Awareness Month. Do you want to add anything else to that?
[00:35:26] Jamie Williamson: No, I, you know, the word collaboration has been thrown out here and I'm sort of like getting my, kind of my values censors up here, right? And so as a leader, I think the conversation around values is so important. Because I think it really is guideposts internally that whether we name them or not that are guiding our actions, our behaviors, and I think it's the same for organizations when they understand who they are at the value level, I think it gives them clarity about what's important, what's in what they're going to do next, what they could be spending their time doing.
So can we maybe talk just a little about, maybe you're [00:36:00] someone, I have a feeling that I'm going to guess, I don't want to guess someone's values. But I'm going to let you sort of spend some time there because I feel I could guess a couple at least your values. But from a value perspective, Cheryl, If you could talk about your personal core values, maybe one or two of those. And then, what are the core values of the organization that you're now pulling out of the ground? ALDS. Yeah,
[00:36:19] Cheryl Cook: Thank you. For me, I really believe in collaboration. I believe in learning from others. I love to learn. Remember my story, I wanted to be at school all the time. And I just loved being with other people and learning from other people. So that's definitely somewhere in my core values, however you say that, but learning and learning from other people, connecting, collaborating with them. One of my other core values is inclusivity, and I feel like with the sisterhood, one of our critical flaws was that we couldn't bring more people in.
And so in thinking about what ALDS [00:37:00] could bring to our communities of schools, it was really highlighting that core value for me, that we could be more inclusive. We could bring more schools together, and we could build a model that would allow for everyboy or whomever wants to, to be a part of the association.
So, collaboration, lifelong learning from others, and inclusivity would probably be what I would drive.
[00:37:29] Jamie Williamson: So, launching from the personal to the organizational, how would you define the values of ALDS?
[00:37:35] Cheryl Cook: Yeah, so the values for ALDS start with connection. We talked about our schools and making sure that other people know about it. We maybe already talked about it, but like there are other schools out there that we don't even know about. I was out trying to connect with schools for a very long time, and I knew nothing about The Windward school until Jamie ended up coming here and becoming head. And so, we want to be able to [00:38:00] connect schools, so connection is one of, one of the core values there.
Collaboration, which aligns very well with, you know, my personal core values, but finding ways for people to learn from each other and collaborate. And then growth. Growing, not in size and number, but growing in who we are and seeing that no matter how good we are as individual schools, as individual teachers, as leaders in different spaces, there's always something that we can do to be better for the sake of the kids. And so how do we collectively grow together so that our kids can have the resources and support the best of the best.
[00:38:42] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I want to dig deeper into values. I think values, when I first did values exercises, Dr. Brene Brown's work was the one that really introduced me to values work, and as I continued in my doctorate program on leadership, values continued to come up again and again in some of the current frameworks on leadership. [00:39:00] And for me, it's always been a touch tree. And not the, okay, now some people are laughing because I actually have a touch tree in Central Park that like, if I'm feeling a little down, I'll go touch it on my way back from work. It's a little strange.
[00:39:12] Jamie Williamson: I didn't hear that correctly. A touch tree.
[00:39:14] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: A touch tree. Okay. Yeah, so a touch tree is just what's grounding you in the moment, right? And I actually have this one hundred year old touch tree in Central Park, just north of the reservoir. Okay. And it, she's beautiful. And every time I'll take a picture, send it to my mom. But the point of that actual touch tree and the metaphorical touch tree is it's very grounding. And it's my north star. And, when we talked with you, Cheryl, when Jamie and I talked with you, I got a little vulnerable with you, and I said, two values are community and learning, right? But I have a third value that doesn't really show up at work, and that's spirituality. And I define spirituality, faith, as trust in the unseen order, another Brené Brown definition. And I [00:40:00] said, you know, I don't feel like it's ever against or in, it's a disalignment, not in alignment, not in alignment with my work here. And so the reason why I bring up that story is because I think values for someone, when you have personal values and you're so steadfast in those, and then you translate those values to professional context. Perhaps you think about, do my personal values align with the professional values? And what happens if they don't, right? And so how do you conceptualize values in that way? And particularly in alignment and how we live our lives, both personally and professionally.
And Jamie, you said some really great things too on that call that I wish I had my notebooks. I was writing it down. So this is really for both of you in terms of how you see values and alignment.
[00:40:53] Cheryl Cook: Yeah, it's really hard for someone to live their life in two different spaces, in two different [00:41:00] ways, when values don't align. I do believe that you can have values that are part of who you are at home, and values that are part of who your organization is at life, but they have to align in some way. They don't have to be the same values. But they certainly can't collide, and or be opposites of each other in any sort of way that makes you feel like you're not able to be your whole self or your true self when you are in either environment. Right.
[00:41:32] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: And there's one of you had said in the call that it, that the values may not be exactly the same, but they're enriching the experience. And that to me was mind blowing. Like, that was the thing I learned. I was like, wow. That made so much sense. Jamie, do you want to add to that?
[00:41:49] Jamie Williamson: I mean, absolutely. I do think that, I think Cheryl's right. Like, when they collide, that's real problematic, right? So, if you were in a space, if you were in an organization that valued nature. And you [00:42:00] hated nature, right? That's probably not a space where you'd want to spend a lot of time. That's maybe a dumb, extreme example. But the idea of working in a way that, where your values feel like they're in congruence with, not in opposition of, I think that gives you a much firmer grounding. And again, I think all the shades of value perspectives that get sort of brought together in an organization of multiple people really have an opportunity to enhance, I think, the strength of that value, maybe even the perception or the expression of that value in day to day behaviors.
But I I do think it's hard to exist in a space where you don't have that alignment. I think Cheryl is in a very unique position here where, you know, she gets to help start an organization. She has values as a human being. We have a board who I think has similar values to Cheryl in a lot of these ways and are very aligned with the hope and mission and values for ALDS.
So it's an opportunity, right? But when I, like when I got here to Windward, we had not really defined our core [00:43:00] values as clearly. So I didn't come in as a newnew , head of school, or CEO and say, here's your new values, Windward. Guess what? I wrote these down. I was coming back on Metro North and I wrote all these values down.
You're going to love them. What I did was, we did some core value exercises to have people understand the interaction of values and behaviors and how that guides and sort of shows up in your life. And then I ask everybody, what do you think Windward's values are?
And there was a lot of data we sifted through. We created thematic groups. We validated those. We talked about them. We changed the name. But we kind of tried to figure out where the big, big things were. And that's how we kind of land on the values. Because I don't believe that as a CEO, head of school of an organization, I have the right or the ability to dictate.
I have the right and ability to discover them, not to dictate them. So, and then once you discover them, you get a chance to kind of lift them up and honor them. And have them sort of get permeated through your hiring practices, through your teamwork, [00:44:00] through your personal interactions. Because I do think there are physical expressions in the world where you can see and come back and do the old proverbial scratch and sniff and say, Oh, that's that. I see that. It's there and it's actually in expression in a day to day basis.
[00:44:14] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Yeah, I love what you both said and that just reminded me of some of the work that Jon Rosenshine and I do with self determination theory. Probably going to butcher the quote, but when Deci and Ryan talk about autonomy, sure, there are people talk about choice and autonomy. But what he, Jon, actually explains with Deci and Ryan is this sense of purpose, and that one could actually autonomously endorse, let's say, a practice or a value, a behavior of an organization. Right, I mean, he's nodding, so that's great. So, I think that's a good point, right? And that just reminded me of the endorsement of the values when you said, helping to discover as opposed to dictate, right?
And that's a really interesting quality for a leader to have, right, is to say, okay, I see these values. And perhaps, Jamie, when you came in, I think [00:45:00] one of the things that saw, was that we all probably have our values, like, on our sleeves, right, when you first came in here. Like, oh, I know exactly what Windward is about. And, right, you saw that and it was really your practices as a skilled, great leader to help us to be intentional and discover those values.
[00:45:19] Jamie Williamson: And I can see my alignment before we had them defined. Because again, I can see the expression of those values, right? So one of my personal values is the idea of growth. And like Cheryl, I don't mean it in terms of size and numbers. How I interpret growth is really about this idea of being a little better today than I was yesterday. And being open to feedback, being open, reflective, and then working and setting goals and trying to kind of elicit some positive change in myself. And I could see Windward's focus on growth and learning with their professional development model. I could also see this idea of them wanting to have a bigger impact in the world.
And with The Windward Institute and this idea of we know there are more kids [00:46:00] who need our help than the kids who walk in our door every day, so what are we doing as an organization to expand that impact? And that's, again, that's a secondary value for me. I have always been somebody who has wanted to knock the walls of my sandbox out and make the sandbox bigger and try to find some ways to have more impact in this world and leave it a little bit better than I found it. So that's where, like, even though Windward didn't have its values kind of clearly articulated in that way, I could see those behaviors playing out. So I knew enough about the community to know that like, I feel like I can fit here. So, I was really surprised whenever we actually did this and we came through and I was like, Oh my god, I'm really aligned with this, right? Because it's I think it's a really nice space to be in when you feel that, that level of congruence.
[00:46:43] Cheryl Cook: But it's also really critically important what you did in defining and getting them clear for everybody in the organization so that when you look at your personal values, if they're not clearly defined in an order, like if a leader is not telling, working, [00:47:00] making it very obvious what the values of the organization is, it makes it really hard for me or others in that organization to decide if they align. Maybe they're seeing something different, and especially in education where you're a teacher in a classroom and you're really just working with your students in that classroom and maybe collaborating with some colleagues here or there. So I just, I commend you for what you did here at Windward in terms of making sure that those values were very defined so people can make decisions about whether those values align with their personal values.
[00:47:32] Jamie Williamson: Thank you. It was fun, and now we have a nice little cultural blueprint that we can refer to in lots of conversations. So, you are a leader in transition right now, Cheryl. So, you're still, I think, officially, I know your last day was at Lawrence was what?
[00:47:46] Cheryl Cook: It's July 31st, which hasn't happened yet.
[00:47:49] Jamie Williamson: That's what I thought. So, two weeks from now. So, last day in two weeks at an organization you spent a lot of time with. And now you're transitioning into a new executive director role. So, over the [00:48:00] next few months, and actually, not over the next, like, over the last few months, you've had a lot of "fun firsts."
So you're transitioning from having a boss to working with a board, which is a very, as we talked about this week earlier, can be a terrifying thing for folks. And learning how to kind of navigate that. We've had to do some interesting tax forms. You've had to do some interesting legal stuff, understanding what director in offices or insurance is and all and everything goes and actually you've even become a webmaster in the process, right?
So, you've been expanding some skills. So as you think about the things that you are focused on right now and the work that you're trying to do, what are some leadership oriented skills and practices that you're trying to kind of really be mindful of as you're moving through this transition?
[00:48:43] Cheryl Cook: Yeah, so, you know, it is a pretty large transition, and I was talking to executive director of another association just recently. You know, you're not just changing [00:49:00] jobs, like you are changing your career. And even though you're still in education and or working with educators, this is a career that people go to college for to be an association executive. And you really have to think about it that way. And so right now, for me, a lot of it is learning what that actually means. And trying not to miss steps along the way that I didn't even know were along the way. I was very fortunate at Lawrence that I was able to do very similar work for a long time. And when I would go in, I knew what I needed to do and I would get it done. And now I don't even always know what I need to do.
But I have a great team, I have a great group of people to help me figure that out. But yeah, that will definitely be one of the skill sets I'm trying to like hone in on is figuring out what is it that this, you know, association executive needs to be successful and how can I make sure that I'm learning what I need to [00:50:00] learn.
[00:50:00] Jamie Williamson: Yeah. And I would also imagine, I mean, because having had a little bit of a front row seat to this sort of development here, that there's been some times when, you know, doing something brand new in a space that hasn't been done just yet. It's been done in other spaces and it's happened before. But you're trying to bring different groups of people together, different school communities together, align them in some way, gather some feedback.
So how have you done some work, because I know you've been doing this work, individually with people and in small groups. How have you brought people along with the vision of ALDS and included them in that?
[00:50:32] Cheryl Cook: You know, for that, it's very conversational. I like to have conversations with people. This event has been really helpful to be able to have some more conversations. Anybody with any trepidation, it was reaching out and saying, let's get on a Zoom call and let's just talk. And within five, ten minutes, it was, you know, they were equally as excited. They could see the passion in me for what this association was going to bring to them and to their school.
And so, again, building those [00:51:00] relationships that a good leader needs to be able to do, is how I've been able to continue to move in my new career, the skills that I were very strong with in my old career and bring me here.
[00:51:14] Jamie Williamson: Thank you, thank you.
[00:51:15] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Well, we have about to wrap up time, and we are going to end with our READ bookmarks, Jamie. And this is a new type of READ bookmark. Do you have any other burning questions for Cheryl before we get into it?
[00:51:25] Jamie Williamson: No, I think, I think we can get right into the bookmarks.
[00:51:27] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: All right. I'm excited about this new, this new bookmark. Yes. So for those of you that have been following READ for a while and have looked on all of our free resources on the READ Podcast web page through The Windward Institute's page. We have something called READ bookmarks, which is top moments from each episode that we think are really impactful and inspiring. And we thought for the LEAD on READ episodes, you know, actually Jamie and I have been thinking, we need to end in some fun way, right? We need to think of something that's just maybe rapid fire or just something we can just take away that's going to increase inspiration, information, impact for those folks that are listening.
And so [00:52:00] for this version of bookmarks, these are key highlights from leadership. And so what we're going to do is we're going to ask you to finish the sentence for each of these. And maybe this is a rapid fire, maybe it's the first thing that comes to your head, maybe you're like, I need to chew on that, but we're just going to see how it goes.
[00:52:16] Jamie Williamson: I love her face. Did you all see that? There was a change in body demeanor instantly.
[00:52:23] Cheryl Cook: They did prep me for this, but it's the one part I'm most nervous about.
[00:52:28] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: So I think, I'll start with one, you start with one, and we'll just see where it goes, right? I am going to start with, since alignment is something that's really, something that I took away from you, I want you to finish the sentence: I am in alignment when?
[00:52:44] Cheryl Cook: Oh, see this is why I was nervous about this part. I'm chewing. I am in alignment when the things that matter most to me personally are things that I see in the organization and the work that I'm doing with other people. [00:53:00]
[00:53:01] Jamie Williamson: One non negotiable act of self care.
[00:53:06] Cheryl Cook: One non negotiable act of self care. Do you see the strategy I'm using where I repeat the question so I can think while I'm repeating the question?
She's stalling. She's stalling.
Just so you guys know. So, for me, it's traveling. I love to travel. I love to travel with my husband, with my family, with my friends. And so, you know, it's not a daily type of thing. I'm not traveling every day, though it does feel like that right now. But that's my non negotiable, getting out and laughing, when you're away from home, I feel like you just have a whole different perspective and ability to do things.
[00:53:38] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I love that. I love to travel too. In honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month, and advocacy all year round. What it means to be an advocate is. Or maybe you don't have to use is. Just what does it mean to be an advocate?
[00:53:53] Cheryl Cook: Being able to speak for people who can't or don't know how or don't have the words to speak for [00:54:00] themselves.
[00:54:01] Jamie Williamson: Thank you. When I get stuck I...
[00:54:04] Cheryl Cook: Call someone! Right? So we talked about relational, you know, being able to have people. Somebody said it earlier today in one of the sessions, you don't have to know everything. And if you act as a leader like you know everything, you're doing something wrong. So when I get stuck, it's about finding that person I met along the way who would know the answer or might be able to help me and calling them and seeing, Hey, how would you get through this?
[00:54:31] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I love that. Thank you. Final words of hope slash impact to leave with the audience.
[00:54:40] Cheryl Cook: Boy, this one's really hard. I know.
[00:54:43] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Okay. I'm like, a little like sweating a little bit.
[00:54:45] Cheryl Cook: I know. What would I say? It's like the summary. It's all about you. It's like the wrap up in a class, right? Yeah. As a community, as a group of people, as a group of leaders, we will be better for kids, and so [00:55:00] collaborating, connecting, growing together is the key to ensuring that all kids get the support and resources they need to be successful in life. I've got goosebumps again. But that's it. That's it.
[00:55:15] Jamie Williamson: Thank you. Well said, well said. So I, I just want to say how much of a pleasure it has been to have you on on the podcast.
When you reached out to me a while back to talk about this, what's next for Cheryl Cook, I got really excited for you. Because I could hear the excitement in your voice. I've been a long time fan, long time supporter, long time colleague, and it's just been really wonderful to see you grow into this space, and I cannot wait to see what you do with ALDS and what we do together.
So, thank you for your commitment, your passion, your drive, your organization, all the great skills that you bring to the table to make sure that this whole thing gets off the ground in a really great way. So thank you. Thank you.
[00:55:55] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Just to echo that, you are such an expander. I've learned so much from you since, talking to you and [00:56:00] during this conference. Jamie, thank you. You are also an expander. I mean, talk about what this was last year, how much your leadership has taken us, and I just really appreciate the conversations that we've been having. And specifically here, being the host with the most, like, what do they say, host with the most? Host with the most? Yeah, like, talk about what an incredible conference of learning, and I just really appreciate this.
[00:56:24] Jamie Williamson: Thank you. And I have to say, I just, a big thank you for letting me crash your party. There's a lot of things as a head of school you get to do on your daily and weekly, monthly, yearly basis that, that feels like a really hard move, right? You've got to do this, and it takes a lot of energy and effort. This has been just a moment, a pure moment of joy a couple times during the year that has just brought me some incredible joy. So thank you for everything that you've done to make this a great partnership. I've really enjoyed, doing this with you. And I can't wait to see what, four guests we have next year.
[00:56:55] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: I know, right? Quarterly dream team right here. I love it. And thank you all for [00:57:00] being here with us for this live recording. Thank you for those of you that are watching on YouTube or are hearing us on your ears.
Tim Odegaard actually said "Ear READers" back when I interviewed him, so I love that. So for those of you that are "Ear READers", thank you for being here. We will have more information on The Windward Institute's website as well as on YouTube, multiple podcast networks for you to check out all of our past LEAD on READ guests and past READ guests, and all the things. And we have so many resources for you at thewindwardschool.org/wi.. And that is it. So actually, the last word is for you. So at the end of each episode, I'm sure as you've been listening, we always say, until next time READers. And so we want to give you the final mic, and for the final send off and say, until next time READers.
You ready for that?
[00:57:50] Cheryl Cook: Can I say leaders instead of READers or no?
[00:57:52] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Oh my, well, you know, it's so funny. I tried leaders on READers and it's not, it just doesn't work. But because this is, we're highlighting you as a leader. [00:58:00] I love that, until next time leaders.
[00:58:02] Jamie Williamson: You've got this, go for it.
[00:58:03] Cheryl Cook: Until next time leaders.
[00:58:05] Jamie Williamson: Well done. Thank you. Thank you.
[00:58:08] Dr. Danielle Scorrano: Thank you.
In this LEAD on READ episode, co-hosts Danielle Scorrano and Jamie Williamson interview Cheryl Cook, the executive director of The Association of LD Schools (ALDS). ALDS is a formal community for schools that educate students with learning differences like dyslexia.
This episode invites READers to learn about
- the benefits of networking in education for building relationships, sharing resources, and inspiring each other.
- how collaboration fosters communities of advocacy in LD schools. Simply put, “we are stronger together.”
- why alignment of personal and organizational values matters in educational workplaces.
This episode is timely for expanding information, inspiration, and impact for professionals across educational organizations to actualize their purpose, build leadership skills, and collaborate with others to better serve our students.
Top READ Bookmarks
Each episode, host Danielle Scorrano identifies key takeaways or “READ bookmarks.”
1. What it means to be a leader in education right now
Listen to 15:19 – 18:20 to learn more.
Relationship-building is at the center of effective leadership. Leaders leverage relationships to lift up the potential of others.
“I really believe leadership in education is about building relationships and growing other leaders around you. It's a hard job and not one person can do it.”
Cheryl discusses the power of building connections in the field of education and the benefits of intentionally expanding our professional networks.
2. The Association of LD Schools (ALDS)
Listen to 19:04 – 23:08 to learn more.
ALDS was founded in 2023 as a formal community for schools that specialize in education with learning differences. Learn more about ALDS here: https://ldschools.org
“I am really excited about the opportunity to make it easier for other people to be able to find those same connections [that I found].”
ALDS brings together educators with a shared sense of purpose and service of students with learning differences to build connections, learn from each other, and ultimately make a greater impact for students.
“My passion truly comes from being able to see our schools improve and therefore, help more kids get the services that they need.”
3. The Role of Alignment and Values
Listen to 36:07 – 47:32 to learn more.
Cheryl, Danielle, and Jamie discuss the importance of personal and organizational values as providing clarity and guidance for prioritizing what is important and identifying the behaviors that operationalize these priorities. Cheryl shares the values of ALDS as connection, collaboration, and growth.
Recognizing the degree to which personal and organizational values align or enrich your experiences in these spaces requires awareness and intentionality.
Listen to 40:12 – 47:32 to learn more.
“I do believe that you can have values that are part of who you are at home, and values that are part of who you are in your organization life, but they have to align in some way. They don’t have to be the same values, but they certainly can’t collide in any sort of way that makes you feel like you’re not able to be your whole self or your true self when you are in either environment.”
4. LEAD on READ Reflection Bookmarks
Listen to 51:29 – 54:31 to learn more.
At the end of the episode, Jamie and Danielle ask Cheryl to respond to leadership reflection prompts. Read her answers below:
- I am in alignment when the things that matter most to me personally are things that I see in the organization and the work that I'm doing with other people.
- One non-negotiable act of self-care is traveling.
- Being an advocate means being able to speak for people who can’t or don’t know how or don’t have the words to speak for themselves.
- When I get stuck, I call someone!
- My hope for the community, as leaders, is we will be better for kids. Collaborating, connecting, and growing together is the key to ensuring that all kids get the support and resources they need to be successful in life.
- Listen to past LEAD on READ conversations:
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About READ: READ, the Research Education ADvocacy Podcast connects you with prominent researchers, thought leaders, and educators who share their work, insights, and expertise about current research and best practices in fields of education and child development.
Note: All information and insights shared demonstrate the expertise and views of our guests and does not constitute an endorsement by The Windward Institute or The Windward School.