Cross posted at

Dear Staff,

I have been thinking of you today. Thinking about your various roles within Powerful Learning Practice. Thinking about how I can help you (us) be more passionate about what you (we) do and how I can provide vision, hope, trust and inspiration as the leader of our company. This is “our” company you know. This work “we” do– using community and networks as a way of enabling educators to share, inquire, build and innovate change. The kind of change that will help transform their schools and districts into places that are not only relevant, but good for their learners. This work isn’t about any one of us –rather it is about the collective us. A “none of us is as smart as all of us” mentality.

Power of Purpose

I believe the real power of Powerful Learning Practice lies in our purpose, don’t you? We know where we are going and we have hope for that vision. Our vision is to enable and equip those we work with to become agents of change- back in their local context. We are capacity builders. We are collaborative life coaches, we are connected learners and network builders. We have purpose. Collectively we are helping people see themselves as transformational change agents who are redefining schools — redefining teaching and learning — and leveraging Web 2.0 tools and powerful connections to do so.


Connected Learning!

Part of my role is to reinforce that vision of our purpose in you so deeply that you in turn reinforce that vision in each other and in your Powerful Learning Communities. It is my wish that you will extend your personal visions to our collective vision. Imagine how amazing we could be if we each brought our own giftings and talents to the PLP table. A personal vision for yourselves– as learners first and leaders second. For it is out of your personal vision for what you do at work– what you do in your role at PLP- that our team/family vision will become a reality. And then fueled by the creativity and power that working in a collaborative culture can bring- we help each PLPeep develop a purposeful personal vision to take back to their schools.

I think it is important that we talk about our visions and the work here at Powerful Learning Practice; what we are trying to do; our hopes for how what we are doing will leave the world a better place; why we feel it is important; and why we want to be a part of it. I believe that by talking about the work and what it means to each of us personally, it will come alive in our hearts and minds. It will be more than just a vision on paper. It will become a living, and visceral event in our lives and in our company.

One Word

If you were to use one word to define who you are and what you do at PLP, I wonder what would it be? I hope you will share your one word motivator below. Mine is curator. I see my role as making the company and our amazing staff more visible in the education world. I see my role as a curator who connects people and ideas together in a sharable and visible ways. What is your word?


I have been told by some that I am an optimist. It is true and guess what? It is a competitive advantage. Did you know that? Optimists believe. They believe despite all costs. They believe in spite of naysayers. They believe because what they believe in is so powerful and so right that to do anything else would be malpractice. I want you to believe. I want you to believe in each other, in our purpose, in our PLPeeps, in children and in what we do as being part of the answer to improving our schools, as being part of the legacy we will leave behind. Belief is the entry gate to success. If you are not optimistic then you will doubt, and doubt is the kiss of death in any company. Part of the definition of leadership is the ability to transfer belief. Optimism matters.

Road Blocks

Optimistic people understand how you deal with road blocks that get in the way of your personal vision, such as negativity and jealousy. You confront it. You deal with it. Right then and straight on. Distraction can be a roadblock. Especially for someone who leads others in online spaces. You have to replace the distractions with a laser like focus. Ask yourself– what three things are critical to my success today? What three things do I want to accomplish? Then do not allow anything to prevent you from accomplishing those three things. Your lack of success in your work with PLP is NOT lack of talent. All of you are extremely talented. It is a lack of focus.


Sometimes in life the greatest obstacle we can come up against is our memories or our experience. It is dangerous to focus on the way things were–last year, last week, yesterday. You have to remember- past success will not create future success. Think like beginners who are just getting online. The ones who are uber enthusiastic. The ones a little too excited. Why? Because rookies are creating their good ole’ days right now. They are hungry. They are not distracted or dismayed. As PLP family- keep your head down, stay positive, work hard, and believe– that is what– a) gets noticed and b) brings about positive change.

Wild, not Tame

The foxes in my neighborhood do not, like my little dog, wait to be fed. They do not wait to be told what to do. The foxes are hungry and they run to and fro (making my tame pets crazy) looking for food. Success comes from realizing that you can’t always wait to be told what to do. Initiative mixed with personal vision tied to the company mantra is what will make you successful.

Grow Where you are Planted

Ask yourself three questions: Am I learning? Am I growing? What actions should I be taking now? You want to grow where you are planted, here at PLP, until those things stop happening. If you are not growing, not learning, then it is time to move on. Are you trying to be the best you can be in your role here at Powerful Learning Practice? Are you other minded? Are you coming to work each day determined to be the best you can be for others? Community leadership is a servant leadership position. Your role is to make others better.

Self Promotion and Money

At PLP your desire to make a difference needs to be greater than your desire to make money. Purpose, not numbers, drives our work. That’s why we give our all whether we have 2 people or 50 people in a virtual room. Don’t get me wrong, as I have told you many times- we believe a workman is worthy of his hire. We want to pay you and those who serve in guest roles with us, well. But self promotion is misplaced in community. Self promotion might have a life in networked spaces, but in communities the focus is on we. We focus on developing a collective identity, the good of the whole, and on building collective efficacy.

Want to know what gets you noticed in our company? Focus on excellence. Be there when needed. Show up. Stand out. Work from the premise- How can I be better today than yesterday? Be a self directed, transparent learner. Be passionate. Use your passion to help those in your communities to be the best they can be. This isn’t about you, this isn’t about me, this isn’t about the job– this is about the passion you bring to work. The joy. Happiness is a product of passion and purpose. Have both and you will succeed.


Each of you have gifts and are passionate about certain things. Well PLP is a place to maximize your strengths. We want you to do– to lead us all at doing– what you do well. Use your talents at work. Use your strengths and talents for something bigger than yourself. Play the guitar? Draw or paint? Are you a poet? Wow us and those in your community.

Let’s not ever forget why we are doing this work. We have a purpose.

Together let’s–

focus on the purpose;

be optimistic;

overcome the roadblocks;


be other minded!

To You the Reader

So– you reading my letter to the PLP staff? Well then- bring it– what’s your 1 word? How would you describe who you are? What one word describes your personal mission?

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During a 25-year education career, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach has been a classroom teacher, technology coach, charter school principal, district administrator, university instructor and digital learning consultant. Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice, where she works with schools and districts from around the world to re-envision their learning cultures and communities through the Connected Learner Experience and other e-learning opportunities. She is the author (with Lani Ritter Hall) of The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age (Solution Tree, 2012) and serves on the ISTE Board of Directors.
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