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As an undergraduate student at UT, I held a variety of jobs, including one at a convenience store. The owner, a very successful businessman who spoke few words, gave me sage advice. “Kevin,” he said, “as you go into your profession, you need to find mentors who will serve as good role models for you. That made all the difference for me.”

Fortunately, I listened.

As a teacher and assistant principal, I worked under several outstanding principals. They all had very different leadership styles, but each helped to guide me on a daily basis. I didn’t have much sense at the time, but at least I had the sense to learn from them.

As a central office administrator, I had an incredible mentor in Jerry Christian, our superintendent. He would spend many hours visiting with me (often well after the office was closed), listening to my thoughts and asking how I would handle various situations. He explained his decisions in detail and gave me tremendous responsibilities that grew my competence and confidence.

On one occasion, he even showed up at my house after a particularly challenging day, just to provide encouragement. Countless other mentors made an impact on me through the years, and I am so very thankful for each of them in my life. And as the years pass, I realize that it is my turn to repay that debt by mentoring and supporting others.

At TASA, we are expanding and enhancing our superintendent mentoring program beginning at our Midwinter Conference. For those of you “up and comers,” I hope you will heed the advice of my old boss and seek out role models. Listen, learn and lean on them for support. The challenges of the profession are enormous, but there are some amazing people in our organization who can help you. You are not alone.

To our mentors, and those who are considering this new role, thank you for repaying the debt you no doubt owe to those who mentored you. The future of public education rests with the next generation of leaders, and their success just might be dependent on you.