Burks wants to shift the future of education

June 29, 2020
Jennifer Burks said teaching was a rewarding experience because she had the opportunity to make a positive lifelong impact on students in her classroom. However, she also wanted to help shift the future of education, which motivated her to get into school administration.  “Moving into administration allowed me to have a broader impact on all students in my school/district rather than just my classroom,” she said. Burks, the associate superintendent of Technology and Innovation at Poway USD, has been selected as ACSA’s Technology Administrator of the Year. “I have a passion for utilizing technology as a transformative tool, and a willingness to disrupt outmoded thinking in order to develop new opportunities for learning that ensure all students are prepared for success as global citizens,” she said.  What’s your favorite book on leadership?  “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This book presents the idea that great leaders inspire others by putting the “Why” before the “How” and the “What” to adapt mindsets and inspire others. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?  Three pieces of advice that have resonated with me throughout my career are: listen more than you talk in order to cultivate relationships; always surround yourself with the brightest and smartest people and trust them to do what you hired them to do; and finally — keep learning, stay current, be innovative, and network. Effective school leaders make time to connect with others that help them accelerate their growth and pass on their knowledge as well. What’s your best strategy for work/life balance?  Being a mom, an associate superintendent, and a wife can be overwhelming, so I try to maintain perspective. Instead of striving for perfection, I strive for excellence. To balance work and life, I learned to prioritize my time, set realistic expectations for myself, and focus on what I love. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are?  One of the biggest challenges I’ve overcome was stepping out of my comfort zone and making the tough decision to leave the district after many years. I was happy, comfortable, and had an excellent reputation, but in my heart, I knew it was time for a change. So with a little courage, and a growth mindset, I took a leap of faith. It did not disappoint as this move ended up being one of the best career decisions I have made!  What is your proudest accomplishment?  I am most proud of having a positive impact on schools, teachers, and students; transforming education for today’s learner; and of having a leadership role in the new era of teaching and learning. Personally, I am most proud of being a mom, a wife, and a role model to my own two children, raising them to be passionate, hardworking, resilient, and God-loving women.  Who is someone who inspires you?  My daughter Chloe inspires me every day; life has not been easy for her as she has had to work for things that we do every day with ease. Chloe has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder; yet she always has a smile on her face, makes the most out of life, and has the heart of a giant. She has taught me that life is about celebrating the little things and not taking things for granted.  What’s your pre-game ritual to get ready for a big meeting or presentation?  Preparation is key; I like to have trusted colleagues review my presentation and provide feedback prior to any big presentation. I don’t like to feel like I’m “winging it” so I practice, review, revise, incorporate feedback, and then practice again. What was the best ACSA event you’ve attended?  The Leadership 3.0 Symposium. I appreciated the collaboration between ACSA and other organizations including CUE, CITE and TICAL, as well as the concept of an event that is for administrators, by administrators. How has ACSA supported you in your career/current position?   I have been part of ACSA since becoming an administrator because it offers great opportunities in the areas of networking, professional development and leadership. It also keeps me connected with trends and innovative practices throughout the nation. What has the impact of the COVID-19 worldwide health crisis taught you/how has it inspired you as an educator?  Education will be changed forever; technology is now being utilized worldwide in education. I am excited to see how we navigate through this transition. One key lesson I’ve learned during this crisis is that even with careful planning, there is always the possibility of those plans needing to change in an instant. Being adaptable and learning to pivot are more important than sticking to a preconceived plan. While this pandemic is undoubtedly a tragedy, it also provides opportunities to improve our educational environment in ways that were inconceivable prior to the school closures.  
2020 Technology Administrator of the Year Jennifer Burks.
Technology Administrator of the Year Jennifer Burks said technology is a transformative tool that can be used to ensure all students are prepared for success as global citizens.
Name: Jennifer Burks Award: Technology Administrator of the Year Title: Associate Superintendent of Technology and Innovation, Poway USD ACSA highlights: member since 2015
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