Interview with RLRP Coach Pat Ours
Q: What is your professional experience (teacher, school level administrator, district administrator)?
A: I taught for 17 years. My experiences were mostly in middle school in ELA and Math. I was an assistant principal for 3 years and a principal for 2 years before moving into a position in the Central Office of my district. Once there, I did a great deal of professional development and coaching of teachers. I wrote and co-wrote grants, and generally did anything and everything that my supervisors requested. I attended many conferences and presented at both state and out-of-state educational events.
Q: Why did you decide to work for AIE as an RLRP Coach?
A: I became interested in AIE as a vehicle for getting certified administrators for my district. Our school administrators are usually hired from our system because we are rural and do not offer salaries that are as high as surrounding parishes. I initially coached three of our teachers toward certification and became very excited about the program and what it offers as an alternate certification pathway.
Q: In your opinion, what sets RLRP apart from other principal certification programs?
A: The individualized, hands-on approach of the program is different from the typical classroom setting in which I took my certification hours. RLRP allows the residents to use their own school and district as the setting for exploring and learning about the real work of administrators. We focus on current issues as well as an historical view of how education has evolved to what it is today in Louisiana and throughout the world. We expose our residents to a wide network of people and resources that inform them about best practices in educational administration. We also focus on the entrepreneurial aspect of promoting a school, a district, or a program as a business that enriches the lives of all in the community.
Q: What has been your most rewarding experience since becoming an RLRP coach?
A: Just like teaching, there are rewards anytime I can help someone realize his or her potential. The most rewarding thus far has been seeing my residents use what they have learned to become administrators and teacher leaders in their schools. Because we use evidence-based rubrics to assess each resident, it is easy to tell when they are progressing. Their action research projects are also useful to their schools and districts to inform and evaluate programs in use. The residents are positively impacting students while they are learning and growing into administrators.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge as a coach?
A: The biggest challenge has been helping teachers understand that what they learn as far as best practices may not be what they are experiencing with their own school administrators. However, even though this is challenging, it is important that we learn to adapt and work together to further student learning. It gives us all a chance to focus on being professional and working within the construct that we find ourselves. I am always open and available to the school administrator as she/he has a very demanding job. As the coach, it is my job to answer questions and provide assistance where possible.
Q: Why would you recommend the RLRP principal certification program to aspiring school leaders?
A: RLRP is not an easier way to become certified. It is faster than the traditional, but is rigorous. Because the learning is practicum-based, I recommend it to those who want to learn as much as they can about the real day-to-day work of a principal. Reading from a textbook and theorizing about how the work should be done is not the same as seeing and feeling it first-hand. It is also very easy to fold into the teaching life of a resident. The resident’s school and community becomes the learning site for most of the required activities.
Q: What piece of advice do you have for anyone considering the program?
A: First, decide if you want to spend the time and money necessary to achieve Education Leadership certification. Next, let your family know that for the next 14 months you will be extremely busy. Lastly consider your teaching site; you will be working closely with your school administrator and a coach assigned by AIE. Can you be professional in all you do and say? Many activities are self-directed so laziness will not serve you well. All things considered, I find that residents, who truly want to impact the lives of students, do very well.