Michael has been recognized for his work in the community by both the Watsonville City Council and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. In addition, he has been recognized statewide by serving as the State President of the Juvenile Court and Community Alternative Schools Association and the President of the 58-county Superintendents Association. He was recently appointed by the California Senate Rules Committee to sit on the 5-member California Collaborative for Educational Excellence and the statewide Special Education Task Force. In addition he has served on a number of Boards of local non-profit agencies.
Michael discusses his background, family, love of gardening and reading, and some great mentors he’s had during his career (plus, he’s distantly related to both Leo Tolstoy and Jimmy Buffett!) (2:32)
Michael’s education career journey has spanned more than 45 years, and he takes us from his college graduation through today, starting with him working with at-risk youth in the juvenile justice system, then transforming a school program for special needs students, and eventually being the first African-American elected to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors (05:16)
Michael decided to move from teaching to administration for two reasons – he wanted to inspire and motivate teachers to be their very best, and he realized that minority students needed to see school administrators of color (17:51)
When running for office, Michael struggled with public speaking and building alliances, but the hard work and discipline it took for him to master these skills made him a much better administrator (22:20)
How Michael deals with being a high profile school leader, which means living your life in a fish bowl (27:10)
Some of Michael’s favorite moments from his nearly 50 year long career in education (32:07)
He says this is the best leadership advice he has ever been given – be who you are (39:32)
An open door policy toward all employees goes a long way to win over your staff (41:15)
Michael says school leaders should be reading these great authors (43:20)
Michael’s advice for school administrators on working with students (44:49)
His advice for school administrators on working with the teachers in your building – not all teachers are equal, and capitalize on the strengths of the brilliant teachers to help the others become better (46:34)
If Michael had a time machine, here’s the advice he would go back and give his younger self when he was just starting out in school administration (49:50)
Connect with Michael Watkins
Educators Lead is a podcast created to help launch educators into the next level of leadership. This show is for you if you are interested in educational leadership as an assistant principal, principal, superintendent, teacher or someone who hopes to be a school leader one day. Educators Lead offers inspiration and practical advice to help you lead more effectively. Jay Willis interviews school leaders three days a week to discuss why and when these educators made the decision to move into school leadership, challenges along the journey, and stories that made it all worthwhile. Educators Lead is a great resource for any educator looking to make a greater impact.
Educate. Inspire. Lead.