Meet Our Community Champions

We celebrate the following Community Champions from across the nation for their exceptional work promoting key leadership principles and a well-rounded education in their respective schools, districts and communities. Learn more about the Champions in their profiles below, podcast series, blog posts and more.

Beth Mohler

Principal, Rutledge Elementary School | Austin, Texas


The best part of Beth’s job? “When you can look at a kid and see that ‘magic moment’ of when learning is happening,” she says. That’s what it’s all about when you’re living out the mission of education. And, she adds, Leader in Me gives kids the tools to be leaders, causing the moment of learning to really take off from there. Trish Hassell from FranklinCovey, who has worked closely with Beth in her school, describes this veteran principal as masterful at creating a vision her team can follow. Beth calls this the most exciting of the Essential Roles of Leadership.

Habit Highlight:
Like many, Beth starts right with Habit 1, Be Proactive. There’s a lot happening in the world right now, creating plenty of challenges, but we can’t let circumstances control us. We have the opportunity to take charge, she shares.

Betsy Wierda

FranklinCovey Coach | Jacksonville, Florida


Betsy is passionate about her role in helping schools determine what measurable results they can―and should―be able to achieve in their work with Leader in Me, and then assisting them along that journey. “It’s all about the schools and what they want,” she says. Betsy currently supports more than 50 schools in Florida and Georgia, and describes what’s so powerful about the process of coming in to help schools. “I’m not only bringing help, but also bringing hope,” she explains, and it shows educators that their district is investing in their success.

Habit Highlight:
Betsy describes her perspective on Habit 5, Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood, in the following way: “Empathic listening is life-changing. It’s a highly effective practice to say, ‘no autobiographical listening, no probing, just listening.’ This can change relationships and really can change the world.”

Leadership Perspectives

Read the latest blog posts to learn what Community Champions are working on, and what works in their schools.


Brad Starnes

Superintendent, Wabaunsee School District | Alma, Kansas


“Your word is your word. We can solve anything if we understand that from the beginning,” Brad says. This is why inspiring trust is the leadership role he’s most passionate about. Trust is earned, and earned continuously, and when a leader can keep this in mind, the sky’s the limit. When he thinks about the best part of his job, the answer is easy: “Having the opportunity to influence lives. We got into education because we care about kids.” As the first Leader in Me district in Kansas, Wabaunsee has seen the benefits firsthand. The process helps them get kids ready to come to school and learn, forming the foundation for every achievement thereafter.

Habit Highlight:
Habit 1: Be Proactive, stands out to Brad because it teaches students they are responsible for their own destiny. “It’s a great ‘ground floor’ to understand and push forward with,” he says.

Daniel de los Reyes

Principal, Darwin Elementary School | Chicago, Illinois


In less than nine years, Daniel made the jump from paraprofessional all the way to principal, and it started because someone saw his potential and believed in him. “I wasn’t particularly interested in becoming a teacher at the time, but others in my school saw my interactions with students and saw something in me. They gave me the information to get a grant, go back to school, and get certified.” After Daniel became a teacher, his classroom had the highest reading scores in a 32-school network for three years running. When reflecting on his journey, he now encourages others to begin with the end in mind. Set your goals and you can achieve them.

Habit Highlight:
Getting out of the typical mindset of zero-sum games and “getting my piece of the pie” inspires Daniel to focus on Habit 4: Think Win-Win. “You have to live it before you give it,” he says.

Get Involved

Get more involved with Community Champions, make a recommendation for the program, and learn more about Leader in Me.


Dr. Isabel Govea

Principal, Harkness Elementary School | Sacramento, California


Addressing social-emotional needs in both kids and adults is essential, especially in challenging times. “As a leader, I need emotional intelligence to be able to lead my staff. It’s important for the school community to know and understand our philosophy so everyone sees how they can contribute to our success,” Isabel explains. When it comes to students, Leader in Me provides a process for working with each learner regardless of individual needs and “opens the door for academics to flow in,” she adds. To ensure her school is continuously improving its ability to meet the needs of all students, Isabel focuses on developing the leaders in her school.

Habit Highlight:
Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind is of particular relevance to Isabel’s approach. “I’m a planner,” she says. “I like to provide people with a clear goal that we’re working toward.”

Jill Scheulen

FranklinCovey Coach | St. Louis, Missouri


Most people define genius in a narrow way, but to live out the Paradigm of Potential, we want to value differences and seek third alternatives. This allows us to embrace the unique genius that individuals bring with them, which is how we get to synergy, where the whole is much more powerful than the sum of its parts, Jill explains. She’s spent eight years leading district implementations and loves the process of helping schools achieve the results they desire, for both personal and professional success for stakeholders. “When people can become more effective, opportunities are unleashed for them and they begin to see their own greatness more clearly, as well as the greatness in others,” Jill explains.

Habit Highlight:
Habit 6: Synergize, goes to the top of Jill’s list. “I truly believe when we value differences and seek third alternatives, we get the result of 1 plus 1 equals 100,” she says.

Community Champions in the Media

Listen to the latest podcast discussions with Leader in Me Community Champions to hear practical leadership perspectives.

Mathew Portell interviewed on Transformative PrincipalBrad Starnes interviewed on TL Talk Radio

Mathew Portell

Principal, Fall-Hamilton Elementary School | Nashville, Tennessee


“Connections,” Mathew says, when asked to name the best part of his job. “It’s about connections with fellow human beings of all roles in the school and community, and seeing growth among all of us.” He focuses closely on the 5 Core Paradigms to See Differently, and specifically the concept that change starts with me. “I’m an activator,” he says. “If something is inequitable, I’m not going to wait―I’m going to disrupt.” Education systems may be large and ingrained, but each leader has the power to drive change.

Habit Highlight:
Mathew loves Habit 8, Find Your Voice, because of the resonance it has with kids. He’s currently working on helping his students with restorative self-advocacy and group advocacy. It’s powerful when kids learn to speak up for themselves and their peers.

Dr. Shaun Nelms

Superintendent, East High School and Professor, University of Rochester | Rochester New York


Everyone can be a leader. This belief is core to Shaun’s approach. At East High School, the administration and faculty have embraced a distributed leadership model that identifies and creates spaces to ensure everyone steps into a leadership role. This approach is consistent with Shaun’s feeling that the best part of his job is the idea of building capacity in others. “Five years from now, we want the systems and structures created to be owned by the people who created them,” he says.

Habit Highlight:
Habit 3, Put First Things First, resonates in East High School. “Define what the ‘first things’ are, and anchor actions back to those elements,” Shaun says. “Keeping in mind mission and vision, how do we evaluate and determine our approach?”

Dr. Tiffany Brown

Principal, Wendell Smith Elementary School | Chicago, Illinois


“As a principal, you set a vision, but when students really begin to see the fruits of their labor, that’s when the vision comes alive,” Tiffany shares. “The best part of my job is seeing the light bulb go on when the kids ‘get it.’” In every aspect of her work, Tiffany focuses on developing the whole person. In fact, when she started in her position nine years ago, she didn’t inherit any staff, so she worked on building a team and continuously building their capacity. She’s a believer in coaching each person’s potential to take the school from good to great.

Habit Highlight:
Tiffany wants to keep herself, her faculty, and her students in the mindset of being positively solution-oriented. To this end, she’s an advocate for Habit 4: Think Win-Win, and explains that having a plan and a positive attitude calms everyone and keeps them on track.

Tom Mahoney

Superintendent, Oregon CSD | Oregon, Illinois


Tom lives by the mission of his district and makes it personal. The district aims to educate students to be lifelong learners who are productive, responsible citizens and Tom delivers on this through his personal mission statement: Lead, Grow, Serve. It’s always about growth and taking personal responsibility for that growth: “I take me with me wherever I go,” he says. “So if I’m not making me better, things aren’t going to get better.” This also leads into Tom’s investment in empowering students to own their learning. “Self-efficacy has enormous effect size on students,” he explains. The industrial model makes this challenging, but when teachers understand the concept, learning takes off.

Habit Highlight:
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood stands out to Tom. “We do so little true listening, asking questions, investing in others,” he says. “But when you build those deposits, you get immediate dividends.”


Sign up for our Newsletter

Are you passionate about education? So are we!

Access events and resources on a variety of current education topics.

Please fill out the form below to subscribe to our Newsletter!

Franklin Covey Education