'Who You are is How You Lead': Autumn Turk '20 Reflects on Benefits of Point Park's Leadership and Administration Program Alumni Profile
Meet Autumn Turk '20
- Job Title & Employer
- Director of Curriculum and Development, Burrell School District
- Leadership and Administration-Ed.D.
- College Activities
- 2019 First Place Presentation, Second Annual Graduate Students Conference, “Using Authenticity and Relationships to Bridge Gaps within School Culture”
- Natrona Heights, Pa.; Highlands High School
- Now Living In
- Lower Burrell, Pa.
- Hobbies & Interests
- Spending time with my family, cooking, baking, yoga, taking walks and volunteering with my church
“'Who you are is how you lead' was one of the first quotes shared with us in the Ed.D. program and continues to be a daily reminder for me. As leaders, we have to be what we want to see of others and our energy has the potential to create ripple effects within our school culture. I constantly try to model and encourage others to be the person to create positive ripple effects with each other and with our students."
The ethos of Point Park University's Leadership and Administration program is summed up in a quote that faculty share with students throughout their graduate studies: "Who you are is how you lead."
At the start of their journey, students are each given a rock with an inspiring word painted on it, a token meant to encourage them to add their own rock to the mountain of research in education.
Alumna Autumn Turk '20 has held onto her "courage" rock, as well as the program's guiding mantra, as she reaches new levels of success in her career. Turk, who is the director of curriculum and development for the Burrell School District, recently added her rock to the mountain of research by publishing her own findings in two professional journals:
- "Stimulating a Gradual and Progressive Shift to Personalize Learning for All: There is Magic in the Middle," Middle Grades Review.
- "Transforming School Culture through Personalized Professional Learning and Collaboration," Pennsylvania Administrator.
In the Q&A below, learn how Turk's Point Park experience has benefited her as a lifelong learner and education advocate.
How did Point Park's Leadership and Administration program foster your professional growth?
I was able to use the concepts and ideas we learned about through the Ed.D. program directly in my work as a middle school assistant principal and now as a director of curriculum. The practical application and leadership strategies helped me to grow both as a leader and as a learner in real time. Our cohort members are a tight-knit group of individuals who provided each other networking, feedback and support throughout the program. Our instructors used adult learning theory to drive their instructional practices, which served as a great model for us to use with our teachers and school staff.
What are some of the lessons you learned through the program that helped inform the articles you've published?
I have been passionate about personalized learning and meeting students where they are by name and need to help them grow for much of my career. Through my coursework and learning experiences at Point Park, I learned the importance of understanding adult learning and that we as leaders need to be mindful of adult learning theory when designing professional development for our teachers.
Through my dissertation research, I found that personalized professional development correlated with the use of the core attributes of personalized learning, which in turn correlates to elevated levels of teacher efficacy in their instructional practices and student engagement strategies. This research inspired me to change my own practices as a school leader and ignited a passion for personalizing the professional learning opportunities and support through coaches for our teachers. My publications combine highlights of my research findings with what is currently happening in practice to offer insight into ways that schools can slowly begin to transform public education and remain relevant in our ever-changing world.
Who had a significant impact on your Point Park experience?
Vincenne Revilla Beltrán, Ph.D., introduced me to adult learning theory and has been an inspiration for how I lead those I work with. Her kind spirit and creative thinking provided me with energy and hope during some trying experiences in my career.
Karen McIntyre, Ph.D., was a wonderful guide and mentor for me during the dissertation process and continues to be one of my biggest cheerleaders, always encouraging me to reach for my dreams and stay hopeful.
Dr. Shannon Wagner, Burrell School District's superintendent, served as my mentor for the Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility practicum experience and supported me in earning my doctorate degree. She has inspired me to be a strong, female leader and taught me how to balance the demands of leadership with being a Christian wife and mother.
How has your degree helped you in your career and personal life?
It is important for me to model lifelong learning and the importance of education for my daughters – Aubrey, Addison and Avery – as well as for my students. Education is something you can earn that will stay with you for your entire life. No matter where you end up, what you are doing or how old you are, your education is the one thing that cannot be taken from you. Earning my doctorate was a milestone for me personally and professionally as it closed the "student" door and opened new and exciting doors in my journey as a learner and leader. In the future, I hope to give back to the higher education community by working with teachers and school leaders to combine what we know about learning through research with what we know about effective practices in schools in their undergraduate, graduate and doctoral studies.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“'Who you are is how you lead' was one of the first quotes shared with us in the Ed.D. program and continues to be a daily reminder for me. As leaders, we have to be what we want to see of others and our energy has the potential to create ripple effects within our school culture. I constantly try to model and encourage others to be the person to create positive ripple effects with each other and with our students." We have to be the change we want to see in the world around us, and the time for that change in public education is now!
Ed.D. Graduate Assistant Tina Cafasso, ABD, contributed to this story.