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De Facto Leaders

May 31, 2023

A lot of professional development is still delivered in the lecture or workshop format, even though there’s evidence that this model doesn’t have a significant impact on student outcomes. 

So what do people working in K-12 education need to support students and have fulfilling careers? 

I started asking myself that question when I was working in the schools, and I stumbled upon the coaching industry

This led me to discover design-thinking, a process for solving problems and innovating; something I’d never heard of in my preservice training. 

Nowadays, people are more skeptical than ever about the scientific community. Many feel that the heavy focus on evidence-based practice ignores the human component that school professionals bring to the table. 

I see design-thinking as a way we can be evidence-based, innovative, and empathetic at the same time. 

That’s why I invited Dan Kelley from DPK Solutions to episode 114 to share how he uses design-thinking to coach school leaders.

Daniel P. Kelley is the veteran principal of Smithfield High School in Smithfield, RI. He is an educator, instructional leader, and innovator. Dan served as president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) during the 2017-2018 school year and was a member of the NASSP Board of Directors for five years. He has served as a high school assistant principal; a high school and middle school special education teacher; and a middle school math and science teacher. He was named the Rhode Island Secondary Principal of the Year in 2012.

As a leader in education, Dan believes in challenging current instructional practices to provide creative and effective opportunities for students to learn, grow, and succeed. He is passionate about educational leadership that builds strong relationships with faculty and the community, utilizing social media to foster connections between educators, and establishing Personal Learning Networks for collaboration and professional development.

In this episode Dan shares:

✅Why your boss isn’t always the best person to coach you, and where you can go to get the support you need.  

✅How to use design-thinking to keep students engaged and provide real-life, project-based experiences that prepare them for adulthood.

What school staff need in a coach (and why it’s different depending on your role and your career goals).

You can connect with Dan on LinkedIn here: on Twitter here: and on his                                                        website here:

In this episode, I mentioned my free online training for K-12 therapists who want to offer social and academic support that’s evidence-based and neurodiversity-affirming. You can sign up for that free training here: