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School leaders talk TLI coaching

Each year TLI partners with Oklahoma school leaders to develop their instructional leadership capacity through weekly one-on-one practice-based coaching. We serve school leaders through both our School Leader Cohort and our District Partnerships where coaches work with leaders to sharpen their instructional lens and strengthen instructional coaching at their schools. Coaches work with leaders to develop plans for school improvement and use TLI’s Leader Competency Model to set developmental goals. TLI coaches also use evidence from school observations to plan weekly sessions focused on narrow action steps that can be implemented immediately.

We sat down with school leaders and asked them to tell us about their experience working with TLI coaches. After coding interview transcripts, we  pulled out common themes to offer a holistic view of our work with school leaders. Here’s what schools leaders had to say.

TLI tailors to my needs

Perhaps the most common feedback we hear about TLI coaching from school leaders is that coaching support is uniquely tailored to individual needs and school contexts. Cushing Public Schools principal Nancy Dowell explained that rather than offer generic one-size-fits all coaching, TLI listens to her concerns and targets interventions based on the areas where she needs support. In this sense, coaching sessions offer incredibly practical and concrete interventions that school leaders can implement immediately. 

TLI coaching is aligned with our district goals 

School leaders also noted that TLI’s work was deeply aligned with districts goals and system-wide change. One school leader explained that his coach regularly communicates with his district supervisor to share information and “stay on the same page.” “That doesn’t always happen [with other professional support]. If it didn’t happen, I would be doing different things for my supervisor and for my coach. In this way, TLI coaching is specially tailored for our district and school needs.”

Principal Dowell also explained that TLI’s “willingness to work around their schedule is huge.” Similarly, Principal Nicole West explained, “One thing that sets TLI apart from other organizations is that it is very personable.” She described how her coach Nina Fitzerman-Blue makes herself widely available outside school hours to troubleshoot over the phone or give real-time feedback via email.  

TLI coaches care about me deeply 

School leaders universally describe the trusting and meaningful relationships they develop with TLI coaches. Jenks Public Schools Teaching and Learning Specialist Abbie Andrus talked about difficult feedback that coach Marissa King delivered in “such a kind and positive way.” She explained that Marissa signs her emails with the phrase “Cheering you on!” and that it perfectly encapsulates their coaching relationship. School leaders feel they can make mistakes and not be judged or made to feel less than. 

Nancy Dowell said that perhaps the most valuable part of her work with Jo Lein “is the honesty of the relationship. She always responds. She never makes it feel like it is an unreasonable question. It feels like a partnership.”

TLI offers feedback you can’t get anywhere else 

A common refrain from school leaders is that TLI offers feedback that they cannot get anywhere else. Abbie Andrus put it simply by saying, “It is (TLI) the one place I know I am going to get useful feedback from someone because that’s not something that always happens.” Principal Nicole West said, “The work is the most instructionally sound and beneficial work that I have done since I have been an administrator.” 


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