How leaders can build powerful connections at school

Being a learner, leading by example and sharing the importance of connecting are key
By: | January 3, 2020
(Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash)(Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash)
Jacie Maslyk is the assistant superintendent of Hopewell Area School District in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. She is a featured speaker at FETC 2020.

Jacie Maslyk is the assistant superintendent of Hopewell Area School District in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. She was a featured speaker at FETC.

Our role as educators and leaders has shifted over the past several years, as technology, careers and the global economy have changed at a rapid pace. We now have a responsibility to serve as stewards of innovation—finding potential partnerships that will move our schools forward and building relationships that will open new learning opportunities for our students. For some of us, this is a new role. 

In addition to delivering instruction within the classroom, today’s educators are connected facilitators expanding learning beyond the classroom walls. School leaders can’t simply manage their buildings; they need to advocate for their schools and look for every chance to advance student learning and prepare young people for the future.

Powerful learning does not happen in isolation—not for students, not for educators and not for leaders. 

Powerful learning does not happen in isolation—not for students, not for educators and not for leaders. Connecting as a leader means that we need to build relationships that can leverage learning for those in our schools. It means creating a network of learners (students, teachers, parents, community partners and leaders) who can support the positive things happening in our schools.  

We can do this in part by focusing our energy on three strategies: be a learner, lead by example and connect to lead.

Be a learner

We need to nurture our own learning if we are going to lead learning for others. When we take on the responsibility of being a connected learner, we must seek out ways to invest in our own personal and professional development. Being a role model as a learner means taking time to explore new digital tools, read blogs and advance our learning. Whatever learning style works best for you, pursue new knowledge that you can share with others so that you can move your school forward. Here’s how to start:

  •     Carve out time each day to devote to reading an educational blog. 
  •     Commit to learning one new app this month.
  •     Follow 10 educators on social media this week.

Lead by example

Being a connected leader means that you use your learning network to show others the power of personal connections. Leading by example means that you are intentional about building relationships both in and outside of school, which can create opportunities for the learners you serve. Consider these four strategies: 

  • posting a video to share how connected learning is happening at your school
  • joining a weekly Twitter chat, such as #masterychat, #tlap or #formative chat, and connecting with other educators
  • starting a book study group with others in your professional learning network
  • sharing the importance of connecting

As leaders and learners, when we share the importance of being connected, we provide others with a potential path for their own learning. We can do this by sharing the stories from our classrooms, schools and districts. Sharing our celebrations on social media helps us to convey the relevance of our work as well as connect with the broader school community.  


Read: Digital tools for every administrator


Look for ways to share the importance of connected learning. Consider exploring the use of digital tools as a means of sharing your message. FlipGrid or Smore can be used to share the learning experiences of your students with friends, family and community members, and expand classroom connections. Also, think about starting a personal blog as another means of communication. Regardless of whether you are a classroom teacher, a building principal or a district administrator, blogging is a great way to establish connections with other educators while also reaching out to those in your school community. 

Connect to lead

It is our collective responsibility to move our schools forward. The way we choose to do that may be unique to our school system, but there is a real power in the connections we establish with others. Building learning networks can leverage learning for our students in ways that can open up new opportunities and create meaningful partnerships for schools. Learn more about Connect to Lead and discover ways to create a learning network that will move your school forward here.


Jacie Maslyk is the assistant superintendent of Hopewell Area School District in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. She has served in public education for the past 23 years as an educator and school and district leader. She is a consultant, speaker and author focused on leadership, creativity, literacy and technology. She was a featured speaker at FETC.


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