Becoming a Leader Doesn’t Have to Wait

Steve Carroll has been fortunate enough to start applying his leadership ideas while still a master’s student

Master’s students often can’t wait to apply the things they have learned and the ideas that have come to them in classes and internships. Many students have to wait until they secure a position as a principal or assistant principal before they are able to apply their ideas. However, some, like School Leadership Program master’s student Steve Carroll, are fortunate enough to get started while they’re still in school.

Carroll is about to begin his fourth year at American Leadership Academy, a charter school in Spanish Fork, Utah. While serving half-time as a classroom teacher and half-time as an administrator, he has many unique opportunities to initiate positive changes in his school.

“It gives me the opportunity to try out new things in my own classroom before I ask other teachers to jump on board,” Carroll said.

Carroll headed up the research and the development of a standards-based grading program within the school.

“Through that project, I have had the opportunity to educate both parents and teachers about the benefits of this grading system, and I have seen those benefits firsthand in my own classroom and in the classrooms of the teachers who have been helping pilot the change,” Carroll said. “I have also been able to develop a behavior grading system to partner with the standards-based grading, and I am currently working on teacher behavior standards as well.”

Having more opportunities to get to know the teachers in his school has been Carroll’s favorite aspect of being an administrator.

“I get to know teachers better as I observe them in their classrooms, and my respect and love for them grow with every lesson I see,” Carroll said. “They truly want students to succeed, and that is apparent as they pour their souls into their work.”

Carroll also appreciates the time serving in administration has given him to get to know the students of his school and to understand all that today’s youth are going through.

“When I get the chance to meet with students individually, I actually have the time to really talk with them,” Carroll said. “Our students are incredible human beings doing their best to meet the demands of today’s world and succeeding under some of the most grueling circumstances. The courage and dedication of our young people give me hope for the future.”

While in the program, Carroll has been profoundly impacted by what he has learned and experienced. Much of what he learned caused him to rethink some of his own ideas, and he was surprised by the changes he has seen in his personal views of education. As he has kept an open mind, these changes have allowed Carroll to prepare to be a better leader.

“Through studying the history and philosophy of western education, researching our traditionally accepted teaching methods, and investigating twenty-first-century innovations, I saw my foundational beliefs about the purpose of education change,” Carroll said. “It was scary for me to realize and accept that I no longer agreed with my own pedagogy. Instead, I have begun to look at everything we do in education and ask if we do these things because they are really best for students or because they are convenient for teachers and/or parents.”

Despite challenges of being a dedicated teacher, administrator, and student while also being a dedicated husband and father, Carroll loves being at BYU and knows that it is worth the sacrifices. The experiences he’s had in his classes and in his course work have helped him to grow intellectually and spiritually.

“My favorite assignment was when I was asked to develop my ideal, innovative school,” Carroll said. “That assignment turned into an emotional journey as I explored my new beliefs and future goals I have for education, and I built a theoretical school where children could thrive as whole individuals, not just in knowledge.”

BYU’s focus on the gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ provides a special experience for many students, including Carroll.

“I love studying at BYU because we are allowed to actively study from the teachings of the Master Teacher Himself, not only learn from secular teachers,” Carroll said. “Being an effective leader is more than just knowing skills and strategies; it’s about being an exemplary individual. Our religious leaders teach us to transform ourselves before we try to lift others up; we can only succeed if we lead sheep as shepherds, rather than drive them as sheep herders.”

Carroll took these lessons to heart and keeps them in mind as he sets out to be a guide to others as an administrator.

“Even if I can’t preach to my teachers and students, I can pray for them and be guided by the Holy Spirit to help each of them in an individual way,” Carroll said. “This program has helped me see that the higher my position of leadership, the more responsibility I have to serve. As an administrator, I must minister to my teachers, not only administer policies.”

Carroll truly found joy in education and knows that this is the right career for him.

“Every day is a new adventure, and every moment is filled with meaning,” Carroll said. “It’s easy to go to work when you know you are going to improve someone’s life through your regular day-to-day interactions. I never wake up dreading going to work, and that means everything to me.”

Carroll graduated from BYU in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in English education. He was the only English teacher at Liberty Academy in Salem, Utah, for two years before moving to American Leadership Academy.

Carroll lives in Springville with his wife and two children. They are expecting a third child in October. They love to hike and ride bikes as a family. Carroll also enjoys writing novels. His third book, a young-adult science fiction novel, is in the final stages of revision and is currently being reviewed by an agent.

Writer: Kirsten Clancy

Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922