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Memphis-Shelby County principal named APSU College of Education Leadership Fellow

By: Megan Simpson November 17, 2023

Dr. Robert Gordon Jr. CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Dr. Robert Gordon Jr., a principal in the Memphis-Shelby County School System, was recently named the second Eriksson College of Education Leadership Fellow at Austin Peay State University. 

The fellowship began as a way to intentionally connect practicing school administrators with current and aspiring educational leaders. With a growing pipeline of students earning their Master of Arts in Education (M.A.Ed.) with a concentration in educational leadership studies, designating a Leadership Fellow allows the graduate-level faculty to glean insights into school administrator best practices from someone working in the field.

More than 200 students are enrolled in the educational leadership studies program, which is supported by grant funding from the Tennessee Department of Education’s Aspiring Assistant Principal Network (AAPN). This graduate program offers the ability to learn more about the evaluation process, curriculum mapping, data-driven instruction, school finance and more. 

“I am thrilled to be a part of year four of the AAPN program,” Gordon said. “I have been with the program as a leadership coach since its inception. I believe I can have an even greater impact as a Leadership Fellow this year. I am excited to partner with the College of Education on behalf of our students and our constituents. Assisting in the training of our next generation of school leaders here in Tennessee is one of my greatest joys.”

Gordon received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and obtained his Ed.S. and doctorate in K-12 educational leadership from the University of Mississippi. 

Gordon enjoys teaching others what he has learned in 24 years of experience. He has worked at all levels, from classroom teacher to principal, and is currently a high school principal at the Southwest Career & Technology Center in Memphis. In addition, Gordon has been recognized for his outstanding work as a middle school principal. He emphasizes the importance of maintaining a student-first mindset for new and aspiring school leaders. 

“They are our main focus,” he said. “We must build relationships with teachers, parents and students.”

As a Leadership Fellow, Gordon will research the virtual coaching model used by Austin Peay’s Educational Leadership Studies program and its effectiveness on adult learners.

“I would like to look at districts across Tennessee and examine how effectively this program serves students who are able to attend classes entirely virtually, and do not have to travel to attend school and further their education,” he said. 

Dr. Laura Barnett, graduate coordinator for the educational leadership studies concentration and the inaugural Eriksson College of Education Leadership Fellow, works closely with Gordon. Barnett noted his exemplary mentorship and coaching ability, and said she looks forward to his contribution as a Leadership Fellow. 

“We recognize someone who has made some investment in Austin Peay and who we want to make some investment in,” she said. “I worked on two projects as a Leadership Fellow, and we've asked Robert to do some research on virtual coaching and what best practices are because he does that for us and he's excellent at it.”

Gordon works with graduate students in one-on-one and group sessions during the accelerated, one-year degree program. As the program’s lead coach, he helps the other leadership coaches better understand the responsibilities and program requirements as well. 

“Every month he does a coaching session in smaller groups, and they discuss problems of practice and case studies,” Barnett said. “He helps them to see from an administrator's point of view.”

Students enrolled in the Educational Leadership Studies program receive support from mentor principals and build their knowledge through job-embedded assignments. The program is working, with a 100% pass rate for the School Leaders Praxis exam and many graduates going directly into administrative positions after graduation. 

“Every single person who’s taken the Praxis has passed it on the first try,” Barnett added. 

To learn more about the competitively priced M.A.Ed. in educational leadership studies and how the modernized and convenient course structure can lead you to become a successful school administrator, contact Barnett at barnettl@apsu.edu