Josh Holliday

An assistant principal details how his master’s degree in Educational Leadership helps him to create success in his students.

Blue Ridge Elementary assistant principal Josh Holliday lives for the moments where he sees his students enjoying school and succeeding.

“I know it sounds cliché, but it is good to see the success stories,” Holliday says. “It’s good to see any student be successful at anything. I love my job.”

As an assistant principal, Holliday oversees many of the background activities that allow a school to function efficiently, from managing the facilities, to discipline, to developing curriculum and helping to implement it in the classroom.

Holliday had always been drawn to challenges and leadership roles throughout his life. It’s what drove him to become a teacher in the first place, and what later led him to assume an administrative position. In Holliday’s second year of teaching, one of his administrators approached him, urging him to enroll in an educational leadership program because of his natural leadership skills. After several more years of teaching, Holliday enrolled in the University of Kentucky’s master’s in Educational Leadership program.

Holliday’s program focused on everything from discipline, to curriculum and “pretty much every aspect of administration.” By gaining a broad view of all administrative responsibilities, Holliday felt prepared to tackle any challenges he came across.

“My program taught me I need to be looking at research, to stay up to date with research,” Holliday recalls. “So I do a good bit of journal reading and try to stay on top of the hot topics in education – and that comes directly from my studies. We would constantly look at things that were going on in the nation at the time.”

While Holliday says many aspects of education can be learned in books and studies, the most beneficial aspect of his degree program was the real-life experience it provided him. While he was learning about theories and strategies in discipline and curriculum development, he was also interning as an administrator at several schools and putting those skills into practice.

Serving as a middle school dean, then high school assistant principal, Holliday gained experience in discipline and instruction before settling into his position as an elementary school administrator. Now, he pulls skills he gained directly from his classes and experiences to enact positive school-wide changes.

“As a leader, you have to have knowledge in all of the areas – whether it’s finances or actually directing the business of the school, the operations of the school, or if it’s the curriculum,” Holliday said. “We had to know what to do, and what not to do. I think the whole program really taught me the vast spectrum of education and educational leadership.”

Holliday says he’s an instructional leader, helping to set the best practices in the school. One of those major responsibilities is discipline, which is challenging, but is all for the benefit of the student.

“When I handle discipline as an administrator, I want to make sure that not only are the students in class getting the most instructional time, but that also that student being disciplined,” Holliday said. “We want to make sure they get back in that class and get the instruction they need.”

Holliday believes his educational leadership program gave him the skills needed to see the root of disciplinary issues, and gives him the ability to see both sides of a problem.

“A lot of the times, when they’re acting out, there’s an underlying problem there and we have to problem-solve to figure out what’s going on,” Holliday said. “We’re here to educate all of the students and want them all to learn.”

Discipline is a tough area for many teachers to manage, and Holliday’s program strongly emphasized the need to be consistent. Holliday says that codes of conduct and rules must be followed, but he understands the need to view each problem individually.

“That’s the difficult thing to do, because a lot of times, you don’t know where the kids are coming from,” Holliday says. “You have to learn that. You have to build relationships with students to know where they come from and what the response is. That’s something I’ve learned in the program and from real experience.”

Holliday’s approach to discipline fits in with the overall theme his educational leadership program stressed: communication and research. By understanding the importance of communication and researching the issues, Holliday’s leadership style has evolved through the years.

“I guess really the main way my leadership style has changed – we’re a public service, and dealing with people, whether that be students or teacher, that’s changed a lot because I’ve been more informed of issues, I’ve dealt with people more, and can see both sides so to say,” Holliday said. “People skills, communication, those things are really encouraged as a leader. I’ve learned how to focus on my goals, on the schools goals, and the mission of the school to create productive citizens.”

At the end of the day, it’s watching his students succeed that leads Holliday to love his job. Even if he must address behavioral concerns and emergencies in the school, Holliday’s desire to help students succeed has paid off for him.

“Just seeing a difference in students I’ve had in the past – students that I’ve had in the past come back and tell me about their successes, especially in high school,” Holliday describes. “I’ve always offered to help students and it’s good to see them come back and share the successes of things they’ve done. That’s what makes my day, that’s what I’m there for – the students. That’s the best part of my job.”