Future Focused Leaders: Relate, Innovate, and Invigorate for Real Educational Change


Bill Ziegler & Dave Ramage

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    Praise for Future Focused Leaders

    As Bill Ziegler and Dave Ramage note, “Learning is the goal.” They relentlessly focus on that goal and demonstrate the ways in which school leaders can ensure that all students do, in fact, learn. Their work advances the equity agenda and contributes to the overall understanding about the ways in which school leaders can work smarter, not harder. I appreciated the examples in this book that can be used to inform the practices of school leaders everywhere.

      Douglas Fisher,

      Professor of Educational Leadership

      San Diego State University

      San Diego, CA

    In my own work I have come to the conclusion that the best ideas go from practice to theory. If you believe this, as I do, Future Focused Leaders is for you. Ziegler and Ramage have provided us with lots of ideas, stories, and key takeaways from many practitioners who have succeeded. Be prepared to be a proactive consumer of the ideas in this book and you will be amply rewarded.

      Michael Fullan,

      Professor Emeritus

      University of Toronto

      Toronto, Canada

    School leaders will find many one-stop ideas that will help them innovate their school in practical, inexpensive ways.

      Virginia E. Kelsen,

      Executive Director, Career Readiness

      Chaffey Joint Union High School District

      Ontario, CA

    Future Focused Leaders touches on all the topics that are relevant to school leaders today. Bill Ziegler and Dave Ramage hit on those nagging obstacles we face as school leaders and provide real examples of school leaders who turned obstacles into opportunities to innovate and invigorate their students, staff, and community relationships. The solutions offered in this book are unique and replicable. . . . The book challenges the status quo and pushes the reader to look at obstacles as an opportunity to innovate.

      Nancy Alvarez,

      Assistant Principal

      Herman Lawson Early Childhood School

      McKinney, TX

    This is School Leadership 101—a comprehensive view of current and evolving leadership practices in an era of shared leadership, social networking, and envisioning the future of public education.

      David G. Daniels,

      High School Principal

      Susquehanna Valley High School

      Conklin, NY

    Are you looking for ideas on how to build a better school community where technology isn’t an outlier but part of the core conversation? Future Focused Leaders is the book for you. Through practical stories from practicing K–12 leaders around the country, to their Relate, Innovate, and Invigorate framework, you will walk away with a plethora of ideas and actionable steps to get those ideas started.

      Peter DeWitt,

      Corwin Author/Consultant

      Finding Common Ground blog (Education Week)

      Albany, NY

    Future Focused Leaders delivers on its promise to provoke a dialogue about meaningful change. Learn from leaders from every corner of the country and hear how they are innovating to meet the needs of all students. This is truly a book about a better tomorrow and how to get started today.

      Brad Gustafson,

      National Distinguished Principal and Author of Renegade Leadership

      Greenwood Elementary School

      Plymouth, MN

    This project is a wonderful tool for a lead learner to develop skills for next-level impact. These practical and powerful examples from #educhampions are powerful, practical, and will make a difference for students and staff in your school.

      Derek McCoy,


      West Rowan Middle School

      Salisbury, NC

    The authors eloquently tell stories of educators in the trenches leading change and enhance them with innovative resources. This book contains nuggets of information that are attainable for all of us and will be a reference source for me when setting goals. Ziegler and Ramage have produced a must-read for all school leaders and a reflective tool for leading and managing change.

      Bethany Hill,


      Central Elementary School

      Rancho Cucamonga, CA

    The educational world is full of linear ideas, one-size-fits-all best practices, and data- driven theories that continue to persuade school leaders to create second-rate replicas from the past. Thankfully, Future Focused Leaders provides hope for students and leaders who are strong enough to rise up against traditional silos. It showcases a diverse group of leaders who thrive on practice over theory, while providing an abundance of strategies for others to follow to create schools of tomorrow.

      Glenn Robbins,


      Tabernacle Township School District

      Tabernacle, NJ

    Equity, sustainable change, innovation, and moving the deep-seated attitudes of a community—these are all matters of culture. These issues transcend a single classroom, and none of this can take hold without principal leadership. Our work is so important, and it’s crucial that we get it right. This book provides practical inspiration for all future focused leaders.

      Alan Tenreiro,

      NASSP Principal of the Year 2016

      Cumberland High School

      Cumberland, RI

    School and district administrators understand that the role of leadership has become more complex and changes rapidly in response to demands and expanding knowledge. A major role for school leaders is to harness the expertise in their schools to lead successful transformations. Future Focused Leaders provides perspective and ideas for implementation, as well as inspiration for any leader. If you’re looking for a book that will help you leverage digital tools, jumpstart innovation, or design learning environments where creativity is encouraged and transforms learning, then look no further! Bill Ziegler and Dave Ramage have successfully curated ideas and examples that will get you on your way!

      Tammy Gibbons,

      Director of Professional Development and Information

      Association of Wisconsin School Administrators

      Madison, WI

    Future Focused Leaders is a fantastic resource for administrators at all levels of school leadership. The success stories lend themselves to change that can be made immediately to help students, staff, and communities. The Relate, Innovate, and Invigorate framework is a wonderful model to enhance leadership capacity through activities that will move your school and district forward!

      Joe Sanfelippo,


      Fall Creek School District

      Fall Creek, WI

    Bill and Dave capture the essence of school leadership, bringing it to life through their voices and the dynamic, authentic actions of school leaders across the nation. School leadership is about passion, people, and communication. They bring these qualities to the forefront with practical, and replicable, examples that make a difference in schools nationwide. Read this and prepare to “Relate, Innovate, and Invigorate.” You will be the difference.

      Michael E. Allison,


      Hopewell High School

      Aliquippa, PA

    What a smorgasbord of greatness! Bill Ziegler and Dave Ramage will exceed your expectations in all they have poured into this book—including their hearts. They provide dynamic and realistic tips with real examples and tools. I’ve not seen a more inclusive book!

      LaVonna Roth,

      International Speaker/Consultant

      Creator and Founder of Ignite Your S.H.I.N.E.®

      Riverview, FL

    Future Focused Leaders is a must- have for all leaders and aspiring leaders. Bill Ziegler and Dave Ramage frame their work in a way that makes it accessible to all readers. Not only do they provide ideas and share their thinking, but they also spotlight real-life examples of things happening in schools across our country today. They speak to the importance of communication in leadership and how that impacts relationships, engagement, and overall success of the community. This book serves as a guide of what could be when leaders make a dedicated and intentional effort to change things!

      Tony Sinanis,

      Author, Speaker, and Presenter

      Plainedge Public Schools

      Massapequa, NY


    I always enjoy reading books that help school leaders improve their ability to change the culture in their schools and communities. As principal at a K–8 school in a high-needs community in Wilmington, Delaware, I am often the first in line for inspiration when authors or speakers offer information on developing relationships with our stakeholders, innovating in our schools, building community, and leveraging technology across all grades and supporting teachers with high-quality professional development. For too long educators and leaders have focused on what we have always done instead of what we need to do to impact the future for our students. Future focused leaders shatter the status quo. They build capacity in their schools and prepare their students and teachers for innovative changes that will challenge them to grow to new heights.

    In this career and life-changing book, Bill Ziegler and Dave Ramage provide a plan for school leaders to not only embrace educational technology, but to incorporate it into every aspect of the lives of their students and staff. What makes Future Focused Leaders unique is the emphasis on the voices of school leaders and stories about the fantastic work happening around the country in our schools. I am a huge advocate of school principals and teachers promoting the positive culture and success in our schools and classrooms. Oftentimes the view from outside a school is much different than the perspective from the inside. In this age of social media, we need to master brand our schools. As educators, it is time we begin to brag outright about our schools and the wonderful things our teachers are accomplishing with our students. In addition, readers will learn how they can meet and network with school leaders and district administrators on an interactive website to engage in conversations around leadership. Now that is taking 21st century learning to another level!

    I am recommending Future Focused Leaders to all school leaders who have a desire to learn more about building relationships, nurturing creativity in teachers and students, changing school culture, inspiring others to greatness and servant leadership. This book will quickly become a field manual for those on the front lines who want to be recognized as leaders who are making an impact on schools of the present and future. Bill and Dave have challenged us all to be better role models and leaders, and they have given us the tools to succeed on this very important mission. Future Focused Leaders will be on my desk next to my bible, and in the libraries of leaders around the world. I hope you will join the revolution to transform leadership and foster resiliency in our schools!

    —Salome Thomas-EL (Principal EL), Award-winning Principal, Author, and Speaker


    We are writing this book with hopes of engaging in a dialogue with fellow school leaders and stirring them to a call to action. We want to use the resources in this book, our combined leadership experiences, your leadership stories, and untapped opportunities to relate, innovate, and invigorate our schools.

    Much has been written about the promises and potholes surrounding educational technology. The rapidly changing world of digital learning seems to be calling us forward and yet backward simultaneously. The shift in technology has taken many leaders by surprise, not because they didn’t see it coming, but because they underestimated its relevance.

    We (the authors) would be considered early adopters. We do not move away from technology—we’re more like moths to the flame! But even in our most successful moments of leading and extending learning with technology, we hear a voice calling us back to use technology for the greater good. We are reminded of a higher call.

    School leaders have a unique responsibility to care for our greatest asset as a nation: our children. Families, faith communities, law enforcement, businesses, communities, nonprofits, agencies, and schools must work together to make a difference in the lives of our students. Because of this stewardship we cannot be mesmerized by the glitter of gadgets. We must connect with every student, show them a way into an unknown future, and celebrate our successes together along the way.

    Relate, Innovate, Invigorate

    When schools miss the opportunity to know a student, invest in their life, and build a connection with them we become the worst example of a factory model. If we cannot relate to each other we are simply turning out isolated learners. At the 20-year reunion of this year’s graduating class, alumni will not be talking about how you taught them their ABCs or how to solve a word problem, they will not be reciting the sonnets of Shakespeare or the Preamble, and they probably will not be discussing logarithms before they toast to 20 sweet years. But, they will be reminiscing about the relationships shared with teachers, coaches, principals, and other staff members. These relationships, and the environment of trust built together, allow a learning organization to change and grow. Engaging an organization in new learning and thinking requires clear, consistent communication and trusting relationships to nurture a culture of innovation.

    If we fail to model and teach innovation to our students we are destined to become a nation of followers who simply implement the powerful ideas of others. Arguably the one characteristic that sets us apart as Americans is our ability to innovate, yet if we are not careful caretakers of this legacy we will lose our defining trait. High-stakes testing, the elimination of art, music, and dance all nip at the heels of our innovative spirit. Let’s use the power of technology to nurture and grow this vital, future focused skill.

    We hope the chapters that follow will invigorate your work. There are plenty of political, financial, and societal complaints about schools. We don’t turn away from our failures as an institution, but we recognize the need to celebrate our strengths. We celebrate the best that our collective practice has to offer—and highlight some of these practitioners in the pages that follow. Their success encourages and inspires us.

    Special Features

    Future Focused Leaders has a structure that lets you read from start to finish, or jump in with a chapter that piques your curiosity.

    • We start and end each chapter with a School Leader’s Story. Including the voice of school leaders is a way to encourage all of us in the work. It’s reassuring to learn how leaders are making a difference in the lives of their students, staff, and community.
    • Key Chapter Takeaways appear near the end of each chapter and serve to focus ideas and inspire action. Remember, our desire is to have school leaders make a difference, not simply learn more stuff. We hope the chapters will get ideas flowing for your own leadership practice. This part of each chapter is designed to help move thinking into action where authentic learning can happen.
    • The Relate, Innovate, Invigorate sections are designed to extend your learning. Practical ways to use the ideas from the chapter are organized in the three categories of Relate, Innovate, and Invigorate.
    • Each chapter also includes an opportunity for your core leadership team to gather, engage in a Team Talk experience, and share your results with other school leaders. These suggested tasks provide a practical, doable way to put ideas into practice. Share your experiences with other school leaders at www.chaselearning.org/TeamTalk.
    • We hope you will be intrigued by the Hyped-Up Front and Back Covers. The front cover of this book and the author photograph on the back cover contain augmented reality messages for school leaders. In order to view these videos, follow these instructions:
      • Download the Aurasma app on your mobile device.
      • Open the Aurasma app. If you don’t have an Aurasma account, create one.
      • Search for “Future Focused Leaders.” When you see the campaign that includes the Future Focused Leaders book cover, select it and click “Follow.”
      • On the Aurasma home screen, click the icon at the bottom center to open the viewfinder.
      • Point the Aurasma viewfinder at the front cover of Bill Ziegler’s photo on the back cover and WOW! After a few seconds, the photo will transform into a video.
      • Caution - you need to be logged into your account for the app to work
      • To access the video, continue to hold the viewfinder over the image, if you move the viewfinder away, the video will stop playing.
    • In addition to all of the resources you will find in this book, you will also be invited to participate in our interactive website to meet, share, and network with other school leaders. There you will find an authentic way to make our dialogue a two-way experience. The goal is to create a space where the conversation becomes relevant and timely long after the ink has dried on the pages of the text. Visit www.chaselearning.org.
    Why This Book

    We believe this book offers school leaders a distinct and unique experience for leadership learning. After reading this book, you will gain insights, tips, and tools on how to

    • strengthen your school culture by building deeper relationships through more meaningful conversations,
    • effectively leverage digital tools to improve your school brand and build community partnerships,
    • pursue partnerships to improve student learning,
    • jumpstart innovation because the future is now,
    • design learning environments where students thrive as creative innovators,
    • leverage the unique strengths of your team to transform school culture,
    • recall the reasons you entered into the education profession by re-examining the call to be a servant leader, and
    • become a learning leader—one who is dedicated to personally learning every day.

    We listen, create, fail, learn from mistakes, move ahead, and keep that cycle going for the sake of our students, staff, and community. We press on because we know it’s our collective future that’s at stake. Not knowing what the future workplace looks like is part of the challenge, but it’s also energizing. We can provide skills and experiences that equip our students to thrive in the unknown future. One thing is certain: We cannot fail our children. If we lead to the future together, we will serve our students well.

    “Technology has transformed our lives but not our learning. We have a responsibility, as school leaders, to use technology to engage, equip, and inspire students to change our world for good.”


    I want to thank my parents, Bill and Linda Ziegler, who raised me to always have a curious mind, to show kindness to others, and to give my best in all that I do. Their love blesses me beyond measure. To my sister, Jane, thank you for teaching me about life’s beautiful blessings; I will forever live out your legacy. Philippians 4:13.

    I am grateful for the love and support of my wife, Kim, and our two children, David and Hannah; you inspire me each day to press on, work hard, and to dream big!

      Bill Ziegler, EdD

    I want to thank my first educational leaders, my mom and dad. You both modeled lifelong learning (still do) and helped me find the joy in reading, questioning, creating, and learning. You made sure I learned all my kindergarten lessons well.

    There’s no way I could accomplish the work of writing, or leading, without the support of my wife, Diane, and our children, Matthew, Laura, and Emily. Each of you is an inspiration to me, and I’m truly blessed to have you in my life. We press on together, striving for what lies ahead—always more to learn.

      Dave Ramage, PhD

    Special thanks to Arnis Burvikovs and Desirée Bartlett at Corwin Press for their leadership and expertise. We would like to also thank the Corwin team of Kaitlyn Irwin, Bennie Clark Allen, Terri Lee Paulsen, Anupama Krishna, and Nicole Franks, and our peer reviewers.

    We also want to thank the many educators and leaders who helped guide our thinking and our leadership practices. Not all can be named, but each interaction has helped shape us to be the people we are today. Thanks to all the school leaders working diligently to make a difference for your students and your community.

    About the Authors

    Bill Ziegler is a high school principal in Pennsylvania. He was recently honored as the 2016 Pennsylvania Principal of the Year, the 2015 National Association of Secondary School Principals Digital Award winner, and was selected to serve on the United States team of school leaders to the Great Leaders Summit in China. Dr. Ziegler has more than 24 years of service in public education where he served as a school leader for 20 years. He has served as a high school social studies teacher, high school assistant principal, middle school principal, and he currently serves as a high school principal. He also earned Apple Teacher certification and was recently selected to participate in an Apple Research Study for School Leaders. He is honored to be part of the Corwin Consulting Team that provides high-quality professional development to school leaders. Dr. Ziegler also serves as an adjunct professor at Temple University in their Masters of Education department. He is very active in his state; he served as the president of the Pennsylvania Principals Association in 2014 and 2016, and was honored to be selected as treasurer and southeast regional representative for the same association. Dr. Ziegler presents regularly around the world on school leadership. He has presented at national conferences such as the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Association of Curriculum and Supervision Development, International Society for Technology in Education, and many more. He spoke on Capitol Hill to lobby for better E-rate coverage for schools throughout the United States. Dr. Ziegler also hosts a nationally syndicated radio program called “TIPPS” (Teachers in Public/Private Schools), where he provides tips for students, parents, and educators on education. He also volunteers with Christian Educators Association International. Dr. Ziegler is the owner of Chase Learning (https://chaselearning.org), a private educational consulting firm designed to provide high-quality and engaging professional development to strengthen school leaders throughout the United States. Personally, he is married to his beautiful wife, Kim, and they have two high school aged children. He can often be found fly fishing in the streams of Pennsylvania, cheering on his favorite Philly sports teams, or playing his saxophone in church. Contact: Twitter: @drbillziegler Voxer: drbillziegler E-mail: drbillziegler@gmail.com Website: https://chaselearning.org

    Dave Ramage is a practicing school leader serving as a middle school principal in Pennsylvania. He has served in the public school system for 30 years as a music teacher, K–12 instructional coach, coordinator of technology staff development, director of education, assistant principal, and his current role as middle school principal. Dr. Ramage earned his PhD in educational leadership and technology learning from Drexel University, where he serves as a member of the adjunct faculty. He is blessed to be married to his bride, Diane, for 30 years. They have three children. He is an avid bass player and loves to spend summer vacation time at the beach with his family.

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