Tag Archives: 8 Keys of Excellence

How to Build a Brand of Educational Excellence—The Ultimate Guide

ELA TeacherWhat is your brand? You have one. We all do—brand is how our community perceives who we are and the work our organization does.

Administrators often let their brand develop haphazardly. But the most respected brands—the ones that communicate educational excellence—are intentional.

Defining Your Brand

Your brand is your core message. It states the non-negotiables to which you are unwaveringly committed. For some districts it’s achievement. For others it’s college readiness. The more clearly defined your values, the more pervasive and credible your brand will be.

A hallmark of a strong brand is common language—a consistent message embodied and expressed by each person in your organization. Consider crafting a memorable phrase that pays. At the Oceanside Unified School District, for example, former Superintendent Larry Perondi’s phrase was “Kids First.”

Shaping Culture to Match Brand

Your brand is only as good as your organizational culture. Your brand is what you value above all else, and culture is the expression of that brand.

To ensure your culture reflects your brand, follow this simple axiom: Experiences shape our expectations—expectations shape our expressions.


Principal SignBegin by evaluating the things people say and do in your schools, at the district office, and throughout the community. These are your expressions.

Let’s say your organization values excellence—good qualities in high degree. You would expect to see excellence embodied at every level. You would see teachers attending professional development, parents engaged at meetings, students thinking at higher levels, and realtors praising the quality of education in the community.

In this example, the expressions reflect the organization’s non-negotiable values. They reflect a brand of excellence.


Next, discern what the expressions say about expectations. Our expectations shape our expressions, which are the synthesis of our perceptions, perspectives, mindsets, and beliefs.

In a district defined by excellence, for example, you would notice that decisions are made and problems solved through a mindset of excellence that permeates classrooms, staff rooms, and board rooms.

Expectations are not willed into being. Our expectations are shaped by our experiences.


Every activity, every interaction immerses people in what you value. At Quantum Learning, we teach that “everything speaks.”

When a district’s meetings respect opinions, encourage solution-finding, stay on topic, and are well organized, attendees experience excellence. When classrooms buzz with curiosity, teachers acknowledge effort, and everyone feels safe and supported, kids are enveloped in an experience of learning worth revisiting.

If what you see and hear in the community and throughout your district is incongruent with what your organization stands for, you’ve got work to do.

Educational Excellence Starts with You

Teachers of the YearOur first inclination is to address expressions directly. But in the model we’ve presented, you build your brand by changing the interactions people have with and within the district.

This is accomplished from the inside out. Brands are built from the organization’s culture out to the community and from you out to the organization. You are your brand.

Everything you say and do can add credibility to your brand. For example, Larry Perondi nurtured his brand through Quantum Learning’s 8 Keys of Excellence, which help him repeat his values consistently and often.

When you’re intentional with your brand, the positive effects will last for years to come.

Images from Ben Russell, Deval Patrick, and Tim

8 Keys of Excellence that Build Resiliency & Grit

Imagine the level of resiliency children would have if they had a strong inner core of character. They would experience less bullying, less giving up, less self-destructive behaviors. They would live lives of greater confidence, greater peace and greater purpose.

Resiliency is the focus of Educational Leadership’s September 2013 issue. Research indicates that resiliency—a positive response to failure or adversity—is a major factor in students’ academic and personal success (O’Dourgherty, Masten and Narayan in Handbook of Resilience in Children). Positive, supportive school cultures and caring, motivating teachers can help build resiliency in students, especially in children who have been exposed to higher levels of risk.

How? First, resiliency is strengthened as children learn social-emotional strategies such as identifying personal values and conflict resolution. And that is a good start. Second, it’s about strong character—the inner core of who we are. Building character in children as they acquire strategies strengthens their sense of identity, personal resolve, internal motivation and ultimately, their success. This combination develops resilience at a deep level—at the level where grit lives. Grit is the combination of perseverance and passion on the way to a goal. It’s the stick-to-it-ness needed to enjoy the sweet smell of success.

8 Keys
The quintessential question, “Who am I?” drives a nearly insatiable desire to build a solid core of values—principles upon which we guide our thoughts and actions. The 8 Keys of Excellence is a set of guiding principles that build a foundation of excellence—good qualities in high degree—upon which grit an take root.

INTEGRITY – Match behavior with values.
Demonstrate your positive personal values in all you do and say. Be sincere and real.

FAILURE LEADS TO SUCCESS – Learn from mistakes. 
View failures as feedback that provides you with the information you need to learn, grow, and succeed. 

SPEAK WITH GOOD PURPOSE – Speak honestly and kindly. 
Think before you speak. Make sure your intention is positive and your words are sincere.

THIS IS IT! – Make the most of every moment.
Focus your attention on the present moment. Keep a positive attitude.

COMMITMENT – Make your dreams happen. 
Take positive action. Follow your vision without wavering.

OWNERSHIP – Take responsibility for actions. 
Be responsible for your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions. “Own” the choices you make and the results that follow.

FLEXIBILITY – Be willing to do things differently.
Recognize what’s not working and be willing to change what you’re doing to achieve your goal.

BALANCE – Live your best life.
Be mindful of self and others while focusing on what’s meaningful and important in your life. Inner happiness and fulfillment come when your mind, body, and emotions are nurtured by the choices you make.

Build it and it will be there.
The building of character is a purposeful act, not to be left to chance. It requires the diligent and conscious attention of teachers and parents. Resiliency increases in the presence of supportive mentors who possess strong character and in an environment saturated with excellence—good qualities in high degree.

It starts from the inside out—from the core of who we are—our character. Resiliency and grit are the result of strong character purposefully developed and continually nurtured.