Ed Eval TIG Week: A People Vision by Amy Zilbar

Hi! I’m Amy Zilbar and as a veteran elementary school principal, evaluation is a large part of my role as the instructional leader of the school.  In my post, I will touch on some of the things that I value as a leader that I hope will shed some light on how education evaluators can work with local agencies in a collaborative fashion. I enjoy collaborating with teachers and looking at ways to improve instruction in order to reach every student.  What I often find as principal is that no matter how collaborative I want to be, the “principal hat” is always on.  However, my two key learnings have been:

  1. People, people, people
  2. What is your vision (your “why”)

People, people, people

In any organization, getting to know the people, their strengths, and the things they enjoy allows you to see things through many lenses and this helps move the organization forward.  I work in a school with an amazing community of educators, students, and parents where we solve problems collectively through problem solving protocols and build personal connections. Taking time to recognize and appreciate their contributions is important because they ARE valued.

What is your vision?

This is at the forefront of many educational leadership research and resources.

Rad Resource:

Simon Sinek’s “Leaders Eat Last” and “Start With Why.” The first step for any supervisor is to clearly AND frequently communicate their why.  It drives every decision and every system aligns to it.  Our why is simple and was created together: “Guide Learners to Success.”  It is what we do every day and we all work to ensure that each and every student is successful.  Teachers are also learners and we want to be successful teachers that inspire and engage students everyday

Even though a supervisor will always be the supervisor, to be a true collaborative thought partner, you need relationships and a clear why.

How feedback and suggestions are received during evaluations depend on the relationships that have been established and that everyone knows your why. During the last 14 years as the official and final evaluator of teachers, I have learned that evaluation is only one component.

Rad Resource:

“Thanks for the Feedback” by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. They share three forms of feedback:

  1. Evaluative
  2. Appreciative
  3. Coaching

It would not be sufficient to offer teachers feedback once a year during their formal evaluation. Both myself and our assistant principal provides specific, appreciative feedback each week, so every teacher knows what we saw that was powerful to student learning and why it is appreciated.

A formal evaluation may only happen once a year, but it is not just a score, it is a reflection on the feedback, practice, and impact throughout the year.  It provides reciprocal feedback to the evaluator on what tweaks might be needed.  It is a true partnership and can be a positive and collaborative experience for both!

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Ed Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the PreK-12 Educational Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Ed Eval TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

6 thoughts on “Ed Eval TIG Week: A People Vision by Amy Zilbar”

  1. Hi Amy,

    Thanks for your post! As a current virtual grade two teacher and Professional Master’s of Education student studying program evaluation, I was excited to see evaluation from the eyes of an elementary principal, something I aspire to be one day. I could not agree more that the education world is about relationships. Building connections and understanding strengths is definitely key in moving an organization forward. I really appreciated your mention of the three forms of feedback: evaluative, appreciative and coaching. As a brand-new teacher, I am constantly looking for opportunities to evaluate my teaching and to receive feedback from others. It is so great to hear that you are providing teachers with weekly feedback and appreciating them! There are definitely times when I could use this kind of feedback. I would be thrilled to be a teacher at your school! Do you have any advice for me as a new teacher?


  2. Hi Amy,
    Thanks for a great post. It really made me think of program evaluation in a whole new context. As some others have noted here, the use of the three forms of feedback, instead of a one-and-done approach makes so much sense. Regular, appreciative feedback would do so much to develop the relationships with and culture of your staff, and ensure the more formal, evaluative feedback is received with a much different attitude. It is similar to how hard we work to develop relationships with our students before we evaluate them. There is certainly merit to the idea that people who feel appreciated, work harder too.
    I also really like the idea of a “collaborative thought partner”- what a great phrase to define how we should relate to our administrators. Constantly revisiting our “why” is crucial to helping us stay focused and open-minded as well.
    Several of the administrators I have worked with have tried your approach to regular drop-ins, which I was always really appreciative of; unfortunately, it seemed that as the year went on, the visits got less as their plates got full of other, more pressing issues. How do you ensure this is always a priority for your administration team?
    My school division has spent a great deal of time using the work of John Hattie and the effect of feedback. I wonder if there is similar research on how teacher’s respond to feedback and the effect it has on their performance.

  3. Dear Amy,
    Thank you for your article and sharing your evaluation strategies you use with teachers. As a classroom teacher myself I really appreciate your focus on building relationships with your staff. Understanding the teachers why and sharing your own why feels like an open positive place to start. I also really appreciate that you have many opportunities for feedback with teachers. For myself becoming comfortable with an administrator coming into my class often and seeing multiple different lessons celebrating successes and truthly growing through a failed lesson feels safer then a one shot evaluation. When you do your formal once a year evaluation is it a conversation and reflection of weekly observations or is it still a formal observation and then conversation taking into account what’s happened throughout the year? Thank you for your feedback and sharing this proactive, relationship building evaluation technique.
    Michelle Warmink

  4. Hi Amy,

    You have offered a great perspective on the importance of valuing the people whom you work alongside each day. I appreciate your commitment to joint-decision making and continual improvement through appreciative feedback.

    To your first point, “People, People, People”, I am reminded of the Maori proverb:

    He aha te mea nui o te ao
    What is the most important thing in the world?
    He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
    It is the people, it is the people, it is the people

    I came across this quote in the “The New Good Habits Book: 2018” which was written by an assistant principal in New Zealand, with the goal of improving educator wellness. As a school-leader who also values the important contributions each staff member makes to our school community, promoting educator wellness is an endeavour I have recently put more emphasis on. I have found introducing and working with staff using “The New Good Habits Book” each week to be a simple, but effective start in this journey.

    As someone who has worked on using a coaching-approach to provide feedback over the last few years, I am intrigued by your use of appreciative feedback to continually develop teacher expertise. The simple act of noticing and naming effective practices that promote student learning is undoubtedly a powerful way to improve outcomes and develop a strong professional relationship with teachers.


    “The Good New Habits Book”

  5. Hi Amy,

    I enjoyed reading your post. Viewing evaluation from a principal’s perspective, as I am used to being on the receiving end of it, was interesting. My biggest takeaway from what you talked about is the importance of relationships when collaborating and the impact that they have on feedback reception.

    I can imagine with the amount of effort that you put into the “people, people, people”, that it can be quite a bit easier to foster an open environment where staff are more willing to be receptive to evaluations and feedback.

    I had a principal that did a similar strategy to the “appreciative” feedback, where he made an effort to come into our classrooms, once a month, and tell us what he noticed and how he thought it was benefiting students. I often think that teaching can be a bit of a lonely occupation. It can be tough to recognize what positive and powerful things you are doing to help students grow when you are in a room solo, but those emails not only made me feel good about my teaching, they also made me more comfortable having someone watching my teaching, and more willing to talk about practices in the classroom.

    I was wondering what you would do if you had teachers who were reluctant to have different types of evaluations happening? For instance, one of my relatives is a principal and I know she has said she has to be very careful of what she says to certain teachers if they are not on an “evaluation year”. Because even talking about what she has seen in the classroom (even positive things) can be turned around because she is not allowed to “evaluate” them that year.
    As someone who is looking to move into a consultation or administration role in the next five years, I want to make sure that I build relationships where others feel valued, so thank you for your thoughts and your resource.

    Bailey Wilson

  6. Arielle Rodriguez

    Great advise mentioned here! Providing constant and meaningful feedback to teachers is a practice that should be done more often in schools. People want to know when they are doing a job well and most enjoy being appreciated for it. As a leader, recognizing the contributions of your staff is beneficial for those they are serving, the students. As educators we are constantly assess the students for their comprehension of the material. It makes perfect sense that we should also be evaluating and improving the instruction that we provide to the students.

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