Responding to “How Finland Broke Every Rule – and Created a Top School System”


Instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing, screen-based schools & loosened teacher qualifications, try warmth, collaboration, & highly professionalized, teacher-led encouragement & assessment.

Educational leaders,

For years we have talked about why countries like Switzerland, China, & Finland grossly outperform America in the educational arena. As we embark on the precipice of the shift happening in public education, it is time to take a critical lens to the nuts & bolts behind these countries’ success. Finland has long been known for creating a system of top-notch educators, shattering the status quo in teacher preparation, & providing students with quality learning environments that truly embrace them where they are. This article, How Finland broke every rule – and created a top school system by William Doyle further expounds on this country’s success through his experience in a Finnish 4th grade classroom.

American school teachers & school leaders who battle with classroom management programs, procedures, & processes could glean major takeaways from Finland’s approach. According to 4th grade Finnish teacher, Jussi Hietava, he allows his students “to slouch, wiggle & giggle from time to time if they want to, since that’s what children are biologically engineered to do, in Finland, America, Asia & everywhere else.” With respect to the biological mindset & proclivities of an elementary-aged students, Finnish schooling works with students natural selves versus against it creating a peaceful & effective progression for both the student & the teacher to continue exploring the teaching & learning process.

Not only does the system embrace children mentally, but they also embrace teacher leaders as the professionals they are. Doyle notes that teacher leaders are, “not strait-jacketed by bureaucrats, scripts or excessive regulations, but have the freedom to innovate & experiment as teams of trusted professionals.” With such elevated status matching that of medical doctors, lawyers, & Harvard professors, Finnish teachers are highly coveted professionals that require a Masters degree along with specializations simply to lead a classroom! This speaks volumes to the level of systemic impact possible for other countries that do not place the same value on the teaching profession. As Time magazine so poignantly conveyed the plight that American public school teachers face simply to make ends meet, there are far-reaching takeaways that we can take from the Finnish system in taking the first steps to re-branding American public education.

Check out the full article below, & I want to hear from other school leaders & teacher leaders. What are some other takeaways we can glean from international public education? What course of action is necessary to begin re-branding the American public school system?

OPINION: How Finland broke every rule — and created a top school system


Shifting the Conversation III | Rebrand NC Education

Rebrand NC Education hosted its third Shifting the Conversation at NC State University with the theme “Future Focused Schools Led by Future Focused Leaders.” As leaders from across the state gathered at the Talley Student Center we engaged in interactive & innovative discussion around creating 21st century learning environments for 21st century learners. RE-Brand NC Education featured two keynote speakers – Dr. Latoya Dixon, Director of Innovation for the South Carolina Department of Education & Adam Dovico, principal of Moore Elementary & former curriculum director for the Ron Clark Academy! Both speakers challenged our ideals & approach to public education, offered insight on ways to transform school culture, & ultimately provided tools for school leaders to rebrand the narrative around teaching & learning.

We are proud to be recognized & featured by EdNC, one of the leading sources of educational news, data, & analysis about education for the people of North Carolina. They featured a perspective on “Shifting the Conversation” on all of their media outlets & the response has been phenomenal. Check out our feature article below for full videos from Dr. Dixon & Mr. Dovico as they shared their expertise & knowledge with NC School leaders:



EdNC Feature: Shifting the Conversation| Rebrand NC Education

It is time for North Carolina school leaders to define innovative
school leadership for North Carolina schools.

As the co-founder of RE-Brand NC Education, I could not be more proud to be featured by EdNC as they highlight the work happening with RE-Brand NC Education. What started as a conversation with another like-minded change agent has developed into a passion project, labor of love, & interactive platform that is gaining momentum by the day. I am excited to shift the conversation around public education in NC & help to shatter the status quo for NC school leaders! Check out this awesome feature from EdNC & make sure to check out our platform at



Shifting the Conversation I | Rebrand NC Education

If you are not at the table, you are on the menu. Public education is on the menu.  –     Dr. Hemphill

It is time for school leaders to define innovation for public education. We invited a group of dynamic educational change agents to pull a chair up to the table in order to activate the dialogue surrounding innovation in the public education arena & to begin developing an arsenal of innovative tools & strategies for schools & classrooms across our state. Tune in to this “Shifting the Conversation: A Recap” to see what some of the leading transformational leaders across NC had to say about changing the educational game. We invite you & other educational leaders to join our “Shifting the Conversation” movement & to stay tuned for our next meeting in April 2018!

For more information or to join us at our next “Shifting the Conversation” event email

How to Relax | Self-Care Saturdays

Check out the first video in my Self Care Saturdays series. We live in an age where productivity & busy schedules go hand in hand. But moldmakers that do not take care of themselves are not nearly as effective as leaders, movers, & shakers. Here are some tips to help you relax & take care of YOU! Make sure you subscribe to the Scholar Vlogger for more inspiration, education, & motivation for moldmakers!

Scholar Vlog – October 2016

The month of October was a whirlwind of amazing professional development opportunities, networking, & reflection! Starting with National Principals Month & ending with a day spent collaborating with statewide school leaders at the POY Summit, this scholar is so blessed to chase her dreams & live out her passion! Check out my vlog below to join me on this journey:

The Start of a New School Year 2016-17: Let’s Transform Public Education

Schools across the country have opened their front doors over the past few weeks to welcome its students back from a long, hot summer. Parents have checked & double checked school supply lists, communities & business have organized back-to-school drives, & students have meticulously picked out their back-to-school outfits. But even while the media would like to suggest that schools are miraculously prepared for the new school year in a twinkling of the eye, or society offers that confused grimace as they grapple with the understanding that yes, school principals do work in the summer, where are school leadership references in all of the back-to-school hubbub? Where are the Wal-Mart commercials depicting a school principal disaggregating EOG & EOY data while they peruse the aisles for the perfect 1.5 binders? Why doesn’t Staples create an ad featuring magnetic whiteboards as school leaders develop, edit, & revise the master schedules for the year ahead? And where are the McDonald’s jingles about the coffee that gets many a school leaders through the summer district leadership retreat?

In the wake of societal change, educational reform, & national elections it is time for us to begin painting a new portrait of the realities of public education that not only provide the masses with a trueaccurate depiction of public education, but we also must work to include the voices & lives of all those involved in the process. Back-to-school is an exciting time for millions of individuals across the United States, however the work & efforts that go into creating optimal learning environments & professional learning communities often goes unnoticed. As a school administrator, my goal is to help shed light on the process of not only opening the school year, but transforming a school as well. Last July, I was honored to be named principal at an elementary school in North Carolina. The process of transforming our school into one of the best places to work & learn has been exttremely rewarding, challenging, & intriguing & our team of esteemed educators is consistently striving toward the mark of excellence for our students.

For the 2016-17 school year, we chose IEJ Cinemas Presents… as our theme which will be infused into all facets of professional development, faculty meetings, & communication with our faculty & staff this year. In order to unveil our theme, we created a movie trailer highlighting the goals, vision, & mission for the 2016-17 school year (check it out here: & invited our team to our Academy Awards themed Opening Meeting. We even asked faculty & staff to dress up to compete for the Best Dressed Actress & Actor in an Educational Film to ramp up the excitement & engagement!

When faculty & staff arrived to the cafeteria, they had their photo taken by a professional photographer on the step and see & found their Hollywood star & swag bag at their seats. We opened the meeting by celebrating last year’s instructional accomplishments & grade level highlights as well a brief review of our NCTWC results from March. Following presentations from our Instructional Lead Team, we announced the best dressed actor, actress, & supporting roles before dismissing the faculty & staff into movie-themed sessions. From Freedom Writer, where our Instructional Facilitator laid out the reading & writing pilot for the year to Great Expectations, where administration discussed the handbook, evaluations, & discipline goals it was a wonderful morning spent arming our team with information to ensure that students were successful in the year ahead! Check out the newest video on my YouTube channel below for pictures & highlights from our IEJ Cinemas Presents…Opening Meeting 2016-17! 

On Friday, August 26 our district hosted its annual Convocation for all of our county’s school employees. Our school showed up with amazing school spirit donning our new school shirts (thanks PTO!) We danced our way into the auditorium & one of my teachers who is a Hula-fit instructor, wowed the crowd with her awesome hula hoop tricks in time with the music! As the festivities began, the finalists for the Principal of the Year were asked to stand to be recognized. Our superintendent then called one of our school’s former 5th graders to the stage. Through tears & joy, I listened to this young man share his educational journey & highlight his last year at our school. He recounted the mornings I stood greeting each student as they walked through the door, the days working with students to develop their quarterly goals, & even my driving to see our students compete in their recreational sporting events. As he spoke the words, “I want to congratulate Dr. Hemphill on being the 2016-17 Principal of the Year” I was met with screams, squeals, hugs, & love from the best school family in the world! There is absolutely no way that we would have accomplished such growth for our children without their willingness to try something new. There is absolutely no way that we could have created a brand new culture & established positive morale without their flexibility, patience, & out-of-the crayon-box thinking. And there is absolutely no way that I would be Principal of the Year without the BEST SCHOOL FAMILY OF THE YEAR! I am grateful. I am humbled. And I am honored.

The 2016-17 school year is going to be phenomenal for our students, our educators, & our community because we now understand the power of change. Let’s commit to revolutionizing education one school at a time. Let’s change the perception of public education across our hometowns, our state, & our nation. Let’s shatter some molds when it comes to doing what is good for the students who are sitting in our classrooms today. I hope my educational moldmakers will join us on this journey!

The Comfort Zone


According to the law of requisite variety, the survival of any system depends on its capacity to cultivate variety in its internal structures. In other words, you have to keep changing. Prolonged equilibrium dulls our senses, numbs our minds, and atrophies our muscles. Your world gets smaller and smaller until your universe is about eight square feet. Equilibrium is bad. Disequilibrium is good. – Mark Batterson

The comfort zone is a place of complacency. Within the comfort zone, we as humans are aware of every upcoming obstacle & we can fully anticipate the trajectory upon which we are about to embark. There is no extra planning necessary within the comfort zone. There is no need for a Plan B, and no reason to be creative or original in this space. The comfort zone is a dangerous place for moldmakers.

As we embark on a new week, how will you step outside your comfort zone? What path less traveled will you choose to follow? What critical decision will you make to guarantee a much different result than the norm? Moldmakers, here’s to abandoning the comfort zone. Here’s to a life of welcomed disequilibrium & change!