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Veteran educator reflects on 20 years of teaching in Detroit

Stateside Staff

How important is leadership to the success – or failure – of a school?

After 20 years as a teacher and principal in the Detroit Public School System, Antoinette Pearson is making the argument that it is fundamental.

In her new book, Truth Transforms Education: A Framework for New School Leaders, Pearson describes three different leadership styles and the effects they can have.

Transactional leaders work in exchange for something they desire: a higher salary, for example. Transformational leaders are motivational and charismatic, but the energy they create often leads to an early burn out.

Pearson told us that it is the third type of leadership – servant leadership – that provides the most promise for our schools.

“Servant leadership is different in the fact that it focuses on the people that you are leading, and how you can build those people, how you can invest in their skill set, how you can help them take that skill set and move toward the goals of the organization,” Pearson said. “So it is not dependent on one person. It really is a collaborative effort.”

Of course, Pearson recognizes that leadership alone cannot fix the many issues facing Detroit public schools. She said poverty in the school district is a challenge that cannot be ignored.

“A student is going to find it very difficult to concentrate when they’re hungry, or they haven’t had sleep, or they don’t know where they’re going to sleep the next day,” she said.

Listen to our full interview with Antionette Pearson to hear more about her experience as an educator in the Detroit Public School system, and how it has informed her views on leadership.

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