A school principal has a multitude of responsibilities to juggle, but Darryl Coppedge understands that at its core, the job is about empowering teachers to do excellent work in the classroom.
“The classroom is where the rubber meets the road, so if you can be a strong, effective leader for teachers, supporting them to be the best they can be, those teachers and students will thrive,” he says.
After a dozen years as an elementary school teacher, Coppedge is enrolled in Chalkboard’s Aspiring Leaders program through Portland State University* to become a school administrator. As part of his training, he spends half his work-week serving a practicum as a shadow administrator at Verne Duncan Elementary in the North Clackamas School District. He spends his time doing everything from observing teachers in the classroom, supervising students in the cafeteria, facilitating meetings and much more.
“The practicum gives you a hands-on perspective on how much responsibility there is in the job, and how anything and everything comes up every single day,” he says. “That’s why you need successful leaders.”
Coppedge became an educator despite being an indifferent student in his youth. Growing up in Eugene, he struggled to stay engaged in school and didn’t earn the best grades. However, he managed to earn a track scholarship to the University of Montana and a master’s in teaching from Pacific University.
From there he joined the Peace Corps in Tonga and went on to travel and work in Asia. The diversity of his experiences abroad (and his own biracial background) continues to inform his views on equity.
“My travels taught me a lot about race and culture, and what it means to be culturally proficient,” he says. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher who was able to engage and inspire my students.”
Upon returning to the U.S., Coppedge taught in Gervais before moving to North Clackamas a decade ago. He is used to taking on leadership roles as a teacher, developing new curriculum, delivering training to colleagues. It made excellent preparation for moving on to the next challenges in his education career.
Every aspect of Aspiring Leaders, from the coursework to the practicum to the “amazing, talented, diverse group of teachers” he has the privilege to learn alongside, has been invaluable, he says. The program has deepened his understanding of equity and the vital role it plays in student success.
“Equity really can be simple,” Coppedge says. “It means that you care about the needs of every student and family that walks in your door so you can adapt your instruction and your community to those needs.”
Coppedge is eager to find a position as an assistant principal, and can envision a role in public policy sometime in his future. He is confident that Aspiring Leaders has prepared him for any opportunity.
“I’m so thankful,” he says. “I truly believe everyone going into leadership deserves this experience.”
*Note: The Aspiring Leaders Program is a partnership between Chalkboard Project, the Oregon Department of Education, and two preliminary administrative licensure programs, Portland State University and COSA Leads. Darryl Coppedge is a participant in the program at Portland State University.
- School Leadership