Leadership through equitable investment in all people

The day I first met Mr. Charles Anderson as the new principal at Michele Clark, I was certain it was going to be a disaster. I had become accustomed to leadership changes in CPS; he was to be my fourth principal and eleventh administrator in five years. As I had a good working relationship with my previous principal, I was skeptical. It was two months into the school year. I felt like I had found my rhythm for the year, and if you had asked me then, I would have confidently proclaimed that there was no way the new guy in the colorful clothes and bow ties could possibly improve the school or make me a better educator. 

It wouldn’t take me long to find out how wrong I was.

Mr. Anderson spent his first months at Clark building relationships with the staff, students, parents and community members. He was relentless in making sure that everyone knew he was here to serve, not to command. In a myriad of interactions, I witnessed him build consensus where there was discord and strengthen relationships where they were broken. I’ve seen Mr. Anderson create structures that ensure all stakeholders receive the support they need and their voices are heard. And I’ve seen him mentor countless staff members to help them reach their fullest potential, even if that meant they left Clark and Mr. Anderson had to find someone else to fill that void. I’ve experienced his support first-hand, and it has, without question, changed the trajectory of my career.

On the day Mr. Anderson came to Clark, I assumed I had already reached my capacity as an educator and would have been happy staying in that role for the rest of my career. He made me see that I was capable of so much more. With his encouragement and support, I would soon find myself leading students to the Hamilton stage, leading staff professional development sessions, and joining the first cohort of CPS Restorative Practices Leads. Mr. Anderson continued investing time and care in me, pushing for me to have an impact in roles as varied as the director of our new Restorative Practice Department, as a Teach Plus Change Agent, and even at network and district leadership sessions. I am now a teacher leader, affecting learning in and out of our building, because he saw that path for me and helped me believe that I could walk it successfully.

There are dozens of educators who have seen their craft sharpened and their careers accelerated by Mr. Anderson’s mentorship. He genuinely cares for his staff, sees the best in everyone he works with, and tirelessly strives to ensure that everyone receives the support they need to achieve their full potential. I am so grateful that Mr. Anderson is still at Clark, five years later, pushing us to be better. And I will always be grateful that my first impression of what his impact would be turned out so spectacularly wrong.

Steven Roseman teaches social studies at Michele Clark Magnet High School. He is a former Teach Plus Change Agent. His principal, Charles Anderson, is leading a Professional Learning Community during the 2019-2020 school year.