BRANDYWINE — With 34 years of educational experience as a principal at Brandywine Elementary School, it’s fair to say Bruce Miller knows a thing or two about how to run a successful school.
The Indiana Principal Leadership Institute has taken note of Miller’s expertise and named him one of 13 mentors for the members of the second Indiana Principal Leadership Institute class.
“They had sent out some emails statewide asking if any principals would like to part of the institute and trained by the institute,” Miller said. “I’d gone through the old leadership academy years ago, so I didn’t need that training, but the concept of being a mentor to less-experienced principals intrigued me.”
The Indiana Principal Leadership Institute at Indiana State University was created by bipartisan legislation two years ago. Housed at ISU’s Bayh College of Education, the program is designed to address the professional needs of Indiana public school principals with an emphasis on student success.
Miller said he elected to apply to become a mentor because he believes in the program and knows young principals need all the help they can get in the current educational environment.
“One of the mantras of the old academy that has been taken up by the new institute is that no matter how good you are, you can always get better,” Miller said. “The idea is if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward; and if you are standing still, everyone is passing you up.”
Miller also decided to apply for the mentor role because he thought after 34 years as an administrator, it might invigorate him as well.
“I’d like to be a sounding board for them,” Miller said. “I think it is really going to be neat.”
After several days of training at ISU this summer Miller met the three principals he’ll be working with this school year. He’ll be mentoring principals from Anderson, Blackford and Jay County.
“It’s a two-year deal where in the first year we focus on improving the leadership skills of the principal,” he said. “The second year is more of an application into using those skills to improve their schools.”
In addition to the 13 mentors such as Miller, 11 Hoosier educators are continuing to mentor 57 principals who already are participating in leadership institute’s program.
“Our first (group) has demonstrated how critical mentoring and support is to the overall principal experience,” said Linda Marrs-Morford, executive director of the institute. “As we are learning in the process, mentoring does more than personally benefit each principal: It ultimately is enabling them to make their schools better places for their students to learn and grow.”
Miller said the program will allow him to meet with his principals alone four times during the year. All the mentors and their principals will also gather at ISU for one-day seminars in September, November, January and April.
“On the off months, I will meet with my cohort and my focus group,” Miller said. “Really, except for the month of December, I will meet monthly with my principals, but I do anticipate weekly emails and a lot of checking in with phone calls and those kinds of things.”
It’s all about networking, Miller said, noting that two heads are always better than one, particularly when the one of the heads is full of so much experience, as in Miller’s case.
“There is no teacher like experience,” Miller said. “You can talk about theory and what the book says to do and what you have learned in your classes with a professor, but there is nothing like personal experience. I can share some of that, some of the good things and some of the bad things, and how to deal with those.”