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National Blog

Women Who Stand: Shannon Campion


Next on her Women Who Stand interview series, Tyler talked to Shannon Campion. Shannon founded the Portland, Oregon chapter of Stand for Children in 2002 (where Tyler worked as an organizer and director starting in 2008). Shannon has been the Executive Director of Stand for Children in Washington State for six years.

You’ve been the Executive Director of Washington State for six years, and in that time Stand Washington has won campaigns on everything from teacher mentoring to lifting the ban on charter schools to expanding educator evaluations. Tell me a little bit about the campaign you found the most challenging.

They’re all hard! But I’d say the charter school campaign. As a parent in the Seattle community, it was hard on a personal level. People linked support with charter school to not supporting traditional public schools and system. We had to overcome that disinformation and talk about how charters can be a transformative option for a lot of students.

I love living in Seattle for the mountains, the Sound, and all the reason we love progressive politics: marriage equality, strong social safety net, a clean and healthy environment. But some people here think that progressivism is at odds with education reform. A speaker from Louisiana came up to Seattle to talk about improving public schools and afterwards a lot of people said “That makes sense in Louisiana or in Tennessee, but we don’t have those problems here.” Well actually, we do. But Seattle is really divided, and a lot of the poor performing schools are clustered in certain regions, and I feel there can be some complacency and self-satisfaction in the regions that don’t see the lower performing schools.

What are you intentional about in terms of your leadership, and why?

I try to be intentional about giving praise, monitoring workload, and providing clarity around projects and roles. Also, communication. I try not to run off and make decisions without engaging my team on the plan. And I tailor my communications. It took me a while, but I learned that people have different preferences for how to get information and different thresholds for how much information they can take.

And lastly: happy hour! I am trying to lighten up a bit, have some fun. I’ve learned the value of taking people out for beers on a Friday at 4:00. Celebrate the small victories.

What advice do you have for women who want to become leaders in the education field?

Put on your armor and your big girl pants. I used to take everything so personally, but I’ve learned to separate myself from people talking bad about Stand for Children. I just don’t engage. I believe in the work. That keeps me going.

And get to know other people in education. I’m part of a group here called EduGals. It’s good to connect with other women who are doing this work.

What advice have you gotten on leadership?

People have different work styles. I used to expect everyone else’s way of working to look like my way of working. Now, I try to understand how each of my direct reports works and I try to make sure they have the environment and support they need to succeed.