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Answering the Call to Serve: One Leader Shares What Keeps Him Motivated

Jessica Meldrum  |  October 21, 2020
This is our tenth installment in the “What is a DSQ?” blog series.

During his 24 years working at National Heritage Academies (NHA), David King, director of school quality (DSQ), has made an impact on the lives of many students and teachers in his tenure with the organization. King’s experience began in the classroom and from there has developed over time into where he is currently, serving in leadership.

Building on a background that may be considered nontraditional for an educator, King studied and received his undergraduate degree in psychology from Hope College. This early on experience and insight, he shared, was what led him to begin working with students in the classroom. King also holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from West Michigan University and a history degree from Asbury College where he received his elementary education certification.
 

 
As he began exploring career options in the psychology field, King quickly realized that his work would be best served working with people in a positive way versus working to find a solution to an existing issue. “I wanted to work with people before they got sick to see if maybe I could be part of keeping them healthy,” he explained. “It seemed like being a teacher was a good way to do that.”

King’s background in psychology taught him vital skills to utilize in the classroom, including exploring kids’ development, understanding the cognitive development of children, practicing techniques to diffuse tension and anger, and understanding the complexities of working with children who have had traumatic experiences.
“I think my degree in psychology, and understanding the developmental stages of kids, has been helpful,” King shared. “We are way more complicated people than one might think.”

Taking these lessons and incorporating them into his current work, King shared that his driving principle is to always be open and honest with his principals and school leaders. “I’ve found that it’s best to always be honest and candid. I felt that was how I got a lot of leverage with my teachers when I was a principal. Just by telling them the truth. If you can get people to trust you, then they'll work really hard for you.”

He also emphasizes working to understand his teams’ love languages, a tool that is used worldwide to improve professional and personal relationships by understanding that people with different personalities express love or appreciation in various ways. “My philosophy has always been kind of simple: happy people do better at their job,” he said. “I always work hard to make sure my people's needs are met psychologically.”

Early on in his career, before moving into a leadership position, King shared that “he felt called to become an elementary school teacher.” This mindset has carried with him throughout his career as he transitioned from working in the classroom to serving as a principal for many years to where he is today.

“I loved being a teacher, that was the biggest joy I've ever had in my life,” said King. “The greatest feeling of all is when you're teaching a lesson and you see that a student understands a concept. That's an incredible feeling.”

Now, in his current role outside of the classroom, King shared that one of his passions centers on building the successes of the leaders and teachers in his network. “I think when you can start building on that feeling, as a teacher, you start feeling good about yourself. You start feeling like you're here making a difference, and then you really start to see the teacher shine.”

King also is drawn to working with schools in an urban environment. Being around children and witnessing the transformation they go through when they feel safe, secure, and loved continues to motivate him daily. Over the years, King has had the opportunity to move into schools in a suburban setting but decided to dig his heels in at schools he’s at. “I've chosen to be in the urban world because I feel like that's more of a calling for me. We need as many men as we can in the world of urban education.”

“My heart is with helping kids and working with teachers who are willing to go the extra mile to work with urban kids,” he shared. “That's a whole different skill set.”

In working with students, King aims to share that the path to success doesn’t always look the same. “There are many ways to be successful,” said King. “My role as an educator is to give kids the best opportunity for success.” He went on to explain that he always shares with his students the importance of loving what you do in life. “Find what you love and do that well.”

King’s portfolio of schools includes  Milwaukee Scholars Charter School, Paramount Charter Academy, Ridge Park Charter Academy, River City Scholars Charter Academy, Timberland Charter Academy, and Windemere Park Charter Academy.

Stay tuned on Nov. 18 for the next installment of our DSQ blog series when we introduce you to Shawn Leonard, an NHA leader and Detroit-area school alumnus who leads from experience and is passionate about providing all families with a high-quality education option.