Iron Sharpens Iron

Recently, I attending the annual MEMSPA (Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association) conference. While there, I had the chance to connect with over 500 educational leaders from across the state. The keynote speakers each gave a needed bit of wisdom. Sean Covey, our opening keynote, gave a presentation designed to improve our practice. MEMSPA executive director, Paul Liabenow, and chief deputy superintendent of MDE, Sheila Alles, gave an update of the state of education in Michigan and shared a vision of where we are going. Kim Campbell showed the importance of keeping a healthy sense of humor as educators and closing keynote speaker and author, Jimmy Casas, inspired us to lead courageously from the heart. In addition to the keynotes, there were many inspirational breakout presentations led by principals sharing out best practices and innovative ideas.

There is a saying that “Iron Sharpens Iron” meaning that we sharpen or improve ourselves when we associate with people who push us and encourage us to be the best we can be. For me, the MEMSPA conference is a perfect example of this. Here are some ways that I was “sharpened” through my time at the annual conference.

New Ideas: With each new session I attended and each new speaker I heard, I gained new ideas or insight for doing the same things in a slightly different way. When we fail to connect with others, we are limited to our own ideas and experiences. I’ll be the first to admit that most of my best ideas, weren’t my ideas! They were from mentors, authors, speakers, and colleagues that shared an idea that I adapted to my own practice or building. As many have said, “The smartest person in the room is the room“.

Challenge My Thinking: Some of my favorite educators and some of my best friends are those that challenge my thinking. As much as I love it when people agree with me or tell me I had a great idea, I gain more insight from those that stretch my thinking or challenge me. I’ll never forget the time that I was sharing out why an idea would not work, when a friend and colleague pointed out to me that I was focusing on barriers and not solutions. Jimmy Casas reminded us in his presentation that educational leaders should never be “the lid”, but should help find ways to make things happen at school!

Inspire: My “Why” in education is to inspire others. I want to inspire teachers to be the very best they can be, I want to inspire students to reach their full potential and I want to inspire all educators to find or reignite their passion for their calling in this noble profession that we share. To inspire others, I need to remain inspired myself. How do I do this? l read books from inspirational authors, I associate with friends who encourage me to be the best version of myself, and I attend conferences (like MEMSPA) to “fill my bucket” with inspiration.

Connect with the BEST: Spending several days with principals from across the state is energizing, but these are not just any principals. The principals who attend the conference are those that have chosen to improve their practice, take a risk and present in front of their peers, and are open to new ideas.  They are the movers and shakers in our profession. In my opinion, they are the best of the best! That’s who I want to learn from, interact with, and be like. Now there are many great educational leaders that do not or cannot attend the conference. But the ones who are there have made a conscious choice to learn, share, and improve! It has been said that we take on the traits of those we surround ourselves with. If that’s true, I’m glad to be surrounded by my MEMSPA colleagues!

Getting “sharpened” at the annual MEMSPA conference is only the first step. Once iron is sharpened it needs to be used. Now comes the next step of taking what I’ve learned and using the inspiration I’ve received and applying it to my own practices and sharing with our building team. I hope I can continue the process of iron sharpening iron and help ALL those I work with to find their inspiration and be their best!



“Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you higher.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Surround yourself with smart people who will argue with you.” – John Wooden

“Surround yourself with people who take their work seriously, but themselves.” – Colin Powell


Jonathan Swegles                               Cyndi Nickel


  • Monday, December 10: Celebrate Monday Assembly 9:05 AM, Achievement Team (Trantham) 2:35 PM, iReady Window 2 Opens, Santa Shop Opens
  • Tuesday, December 11: Achievement Team (Kaufman) 8:15 AM, District School Improvement Committee at Central Office 5:30-7:30 PM
  • Wednesday, December 12: School Improvement Team Meeting 8:15 AM, Elementary Principals Meeting 1:30 PM, Lunch Monitor Meeting (voluntary) 2:35 PM, PTA Cookies with Santa in East Commons 6:00-8:00 PM
  • Thursday, December 13: Collaborative Learning Time 7:50-8:50 AM
  • Friday, December 14: Santa Shop Closes


  • Monday, December 17: Student of the Month Assembly (EMPATHY) 9:05 AM
  • Tuesday, December 18: Achievement Team 8:15 AM
  • Wednesday, December 19: Pizza Party with the Principal 12:10-1:00 PM
  • Thursday, December 20: Staff Holiday Celebration in LMC 8:00 AM
  • Friday, December 21: iReady Window 2 Closes, Carols in the gym at 3:15 PM

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