Today we're talking with Kathy Walker, who was previously on the show in late 2019. She had won an award—the 2019 North Carolina assistant principal of the year award, and wanted to know if she might use this award to get more assistant principals to find her show and build her audience. As you might recall, a lot has happened since late 2019, particularly the COVID pandemic. As an assistant principal, obviously Kathy's line of work was dramatically affected, with the shift to virtual learning and supporting teachers and students through all the changes and challenges.
Cool fact: Kathy was one of the regulars on the Income Stream, a 365-day straight live stream I did on YouTube. Kathy came in almost every day and was a big part of the community that built up around the show — I got to know her and her work really well.
Today, we'll get a little insight on what life was like for her as an educator during COVID. And we'll also find out what happened to Kathy's brand and her podcast. I'm excited for you to hear this “Where are they now?” conversation. Let's dive into what's happening for Kathy!
AP 1184: Where Are They Now: Kathy Walker of Year of Leading Dangerously
What's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here. And welcome to AskPat 2.0. You're about to listen to a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur who's trying to grow just like you. And today we're actually talking with Kathy Walker, somebody who had been on the show once before, way back, almost 100 episodes ago, in Episode 1090. This was in early 2000s, late 2019. I can't remember exactly when, but this was a while back. And since then, many things have happened. Kathy came on Episode 1090. She had a podcast, Year of APing Dangerously, “AP” short for “assistant principal.” She was assistant principal. She won an award, in fact, the 2019 North Carolina Assistant Principal of the Year Award, which is totally awesome. And she came on to ask, well, how might she use this to her advantage to help more people, and to get more assistant principals to come and find her show, build more of an audience, and all those kinds of things.
And what was really cool was that between that podcast, and this podcast that you're about to listen to, we had a major world event happen. We had COVID happen. And Kathy being a assistant principal, obviously her line of work in education and with schools was dramatically affected. I mean, all of us were affected, but her work especially was affected with virtual learning, and her work with rounding up the teachers and making sure they're well and teaching well. There was a lot of things going on. So we get a little insight on what life was like from her perspective as an educator during COVID.
But what did that do to her brand, her podcast, her line of work? And she and I actually got to know each other very well on the Income Stream. This is a 365-day straight live stream that I did, not 24 hours a day, but once, an hour a day, one hour per day for a year. Kathy was one of our regulars, literally almost every day coming in, being a part of the community. I got to know her and her work very well, and I got to know her brother very well, and some other amazing things happened. But today we're going to get caught up, and some amazing things have happened. And we dive into what the world is like for Kathy and people in her space now that we're sort of getting out of COVID and what life was like during.
So anyway, I hope you enjoy this because we do have a nice brand change and brand reveal, which is really special. So more on that more toward the end, but a lot of fun stuff here, and Kathy, thank you for your time. And here she is again, Kathy Walker. Stay tuned to the end, so you can hear her new show name and check her out even more after. Here we go.
Kathy, welcome back to AskPat. How are you doing?
I am great. Great considering all the circumstances we've been under the last year.
Yeah. That's what's making these “Where are they now?” episodes pretty interesting because unlike any time in history there's been this pandemic thing that has affected the entire world; everybody's business was affected in one way or another. So why don't we start there? What's, ever since 1090, which is when you were on. I know we were planning to grow your audience. You've gotten this amazingly incredible recognition and award that we wanted to use to kind of get your voice and your name out there. How has COVID affected your plans, and what have you been up to lately?
Well, you would think with COVID, more time inside, more time to record podcasts or reach out to people. But I know I kind of hit a snag like so many other people, and kind of looking at my life and looking at what I was doing and being an educator. And the reason I was on was winning that award as Assistant Principal of the Year for 2019 and grateful that I had the opportunity to attend a lot of conferences and really meet a lot of people.
And as far as where am I now, I'm actually moved from the assistant principal office to the principal’s seat. So that is a seat with a lot of responsibility. And wow, to be a first year principal, to deal with this new type of learning in a pandemic is quite a challenge. I know, as far as the podcast, I haven't been as focused on it, as you can imagine. There's been tons of things to focus on and how to reach out to my kids, and whether they're hybrid, some coming two days a week, some virtual learning, some virtual learning five days a week, some totally ghosting us. It's just been a lot of challenges, and I've had to kind of live with the word “grace.” That's the word I gave to my teachers so that they would show grace to students. And that's the word I asked them to give me some grace. And I think I had to even turn to them during the course of the school year and say, "Hey, give yourselves some grace because it's been very stressful." And I know the work of the healthcare workers and first responders have been amazing, but educators, I think have been doing some first responder work that doesn't always get recognized. And I think hopefully parents and people have had a chance to see, "Oh, wait, this learning thing is a challenge." And really, hopefully they will value the work we do.
For me, the focus has been on this new position as opposed to being able to really grow and monetize my podcast. And I know some people measure success in subs or dollar amounts and dollar signs. But again, for me, it was a way to connect to my audience, to that community, to seek out the people I needed information from and to learn from them. And to me, that's helped me grow as an educator, as a school leader. And I'm still growing, and I have not abandoned it, but I know, again, I haven't given it all my focus. Although I have found that one of the things that has helped me is being a part of that Income Stream and the daily things that you take us through, and the advice that you've given is just, I think it kind of expanded my understanding of what it means to kind of be an entrepreneur and grow. So I do have this vision of all these things I do want to do because I love sharing knowledge.
So as I struggled through this first year, I have turned to YouTube and have been trying to vlog about it and hopefully will help the next person who's sitting in that assistant principal seat or as a teacher thinking about, "Ooh, do I want to be a building leader?" Well, now I'm on this journey to kind of, to help people.
Thank you for that. For those of you listening, you can't see the camera right now, but Kathy has an amazing camera setup, which is far different than what I remember before. And it makes sense now because you are diving into YouTube. And on the Income Stream, which is my daily YouTube show, we talk a lot about all different kinds of things. And I know that when I talk about YouTube, you're taking notes, you're keeping in mind what we're doing to try to get that voice out there, and I love that.
Still in exploration mode with growth of the brand and connection, but I love that you changed the perspective of, success with a podcast or a blog or a YouTube channel isn't like numbers or dollars. It's giving you what you need right now for the connections and the relationships and just the education that you can get from those who you invite on those shows and the education that you could give others through those platforms too. And I think that alone has made it worth the time. And when you do that and you focus on people, as you know, and I've always said this, great things will happen, new opportunities will arise, and who knows where it might lead. And I think that's really great, but it completely makes sense for your focus to be with the new position. Congratulations, by the way. You got to think that they wouldn't just put anybody up there. They're going to put somebody who they believe could manage a certain situation like this because this is unprecedented, and it really speaks to how people feel about you as a leader and what I know about you as well. And I hope you recognize that, because I know it's probably a day-to-day kind of thing right now, and it has been for a while.
How do you become a leader when you are put in a position that you've never been in before? Not only are you principal for the first time, but now you are in this pandemic that nobody's ever gone through. How do you approach the day? How do you approach that position to be the leader that you need to be?
I think part of being a leader and being able to touch on empathy and understanding, because I know a lot of the times my office, the door is open, so I may be dealing with a parent who is frustrated that they want their kid to come every single day and keeping social distance, now's the time I can't do it. So I try to meet them where they are and listen. We have two ears, one mouth, so that means you got to do twice as much listening. And I think being kind of empathetic is what's helping me to be a better leader. And in fact, in interviews for the principal position, I kind of had to sell myself. And one of my selling points was, "Hey, you know what? This year, you're going to have 36 new principals basically, because none of us have ever experienced education in this way."
And I actually can remember something that you said on the Stream about, you know, imagine what is possible. So instead of getting mired in what we can't do—and you know what is amazing too, the kids, they actually want to be there five days a week. The teachers want them there. The kids want to be there. To lead in this situation and this time I feel like I do have to listen to everybody. I do have to make everyone feel heard and help when I can. And you know when I can reach out and when we can offer help. During this pandemic, there's been like these amazing opportunities, whether it's cranking up the van and delivering meals to some of my families and whatever it is that we can do to help.
You commented on my camera setup. So if it's a Sunday night and I'm on Facebook and it's live and it's just answering parent questions and complaints, and those are little things that we can do to let people be heard. And I like to think that that's a part of my leadership that I want to hold onto and grow. As far as to lead, it's not about, "Oh, you're going to do things my way, and this is how it should be done." But it's just about being empathetic and being able to listen and help when you can and guide. And to me, if I'm any kind of leader, hopefully I am growing leaders. Again, my mission isn't just to be, "Oh, I'm Principal Walker, hey, yeah," with the fancy title, but to also make sure I'm raising up the next group of leaders, whether it's in the kids that I serve, or even the teachers and the staff that I serve.
Empathy is the key word there for sure, all the time. I think that's definitely what speaks to being a great leader. Part of the tough part is, I mean, you are opening up your door, like you said, like any good leader would, and we're in just such a world of negativity right now. I'm sure that you get a barrage of, "Why not this?" or, "This is happening to me," and that empathy can absolutely favor the situation, but it can also weigh you down because you actually feel what they're feeling, and it could be absolutely draining, I would imagine. And how do you get the energy to keep going when that is a part of the equation?
That is… And you know what? It can be so hard, and I am not going to lie. There are days I have closed the door to my office. There have been some situations I've had to deal with, and some of my kids in situations that I had to deal with that I was brought to tears. So there are days you have to close the door and give a good cry for the situation because you can't fix everything even though you want to. There might be systems in place that make that impossible. So sometimes it's hard, but you know what? Also I have in my office is a yoga mat. So I will not be above taking five minutes to do a little bit of meditation. I will not. And again, I think for any school leader, any schoolteacher, even in these times, knowing when to take some self-care, to take some me time. People sometimes feel guilty about that. I know even when I was in the math classroom and I had papers I was grading at night, but that self-care, sometimes you got to set those papers aside.
I know as the principal, my phone goes off, it's an email, it's a text, it's somebody needing something, and you know what? 11:00 at night, I'm up. And there's been times 3:00 in the morning, the alarm system goes off, I'm running up to the school, but there've been times where I have to turn the phone off and say, "Okay, it's 11:00. It's time to go to bed. No phone." You do take those down times.
In this whole situation with the pandemic, being close to people has been difficult, had the first vaccination, I'm waiting on my second. But again, as far as getting out, that hasn't been something I've been able to do. I've actually been able to bond with my brother. We do a Saturday show where we just come online and have fun, and it's a way to connect and bond. So I think again, to put out that energy, you do have to refuel yourself because if I'm drained, I can't serve or help anyone. You do have to take some time for some self-care.
I think that might be one of the things that the pandemic probably has taught us, and hopefully people have learned this lesson, that you do need to take care of yourself. I'm kicking myself because I had all these notes and I have not hit any of them, but that's okay. But I always—I even think of the time spent when I can jump in on the Income Stream, and especially during the times where we were kind of inside and in the house and working from home, that that building of community was actually some of the things in Superfans that I read and were concepts, but here it was taking place where I'm in this community of these people like Stephanie, like Jess Simpson, like Grandma Goodie. And we kind of know each other, and I see them on other streams if I'm tuning in for HeyArcher, or even with my brother and I, folks will stop by and I'm like, "Wait, this is a community being built."
So I think it is important when you're in those stressful times that you have community, you have these touch points in these places that you can reach out to, and people that you can connect with, not maybe face-to-face right now, but that you make those connections. And those are the things you need to keep you going, especially as a leader.
Yeah. Or even as a human being, just the need to connect and feel like you're a part of something. But especially as a leader. And thank you for shouting out some of our friends in the Income Stream. Many of you are moderators and have done so much, and it's been really neat to see everybody's faces and avatars. And even through text, you get a sense of people's personalities in there. It's just so much fun. And I'm so grateful to have been able to still have the energy to do that. And you and everybody else there is that energy for me. So thank you so much.
You said you had a bunch of notes. I'd like to have you maybe speak to some of that. While you get those notes, your phrasing of certain things in some of your answers already, in the way that you sort of approach being principal, a lot of the principles, if you will within that, it's not your business per se, but it is your business. You are the CEO of the school, and a lot of the things you're talking about are characteristics of what makes a great leader in a business. And you're getting business experience by doing this that could probably apply eventually to whatever else you choose to do down the road or what it is that you're in the middle of building right now. And I think that's really cool.
It's not as if you're taking time away. I mean, it feels like that from the other things that you had focused on, it's just you're almost honing in your skills so that when you do have time to get back into it, it'll be that much better, I think.
I think it will. I was very excited because I know some of the advice you gave me is to contact the person who nominated me and that person has turned into a bit of a mentor to me, but is afraid of their voice and doesn't want to be recorded. But there have been other people who have reached out so I do have quite a few interviews that I've recorded, so that I can give them to the podcast and hopefully can answer questions for up-and-coming leaders, because I felt like whatever I've done during the course of my career, and my career has been varied… I started out as an accountant. I spent time as a wedding DJ, and even did stand-up comedy. I have kind of been all over the map, but I know no matter what I did, I was always interested in knowing, "Okay, how the sausage is made," and always trying to figure out, "Okay, what do I need to do? Oh, I want to do stand-up comedy? I got to do this open mic, that open mic." And I'm never satisfied with just learning it for myself.
So I go out and I create a list and I hand out a list of everybody's open mics and what time and what you have to do and how you get into it. And I'm thinking, "Wow, I've just created a lead magnet and I didn't even know it." ‘Course, that was back in the late '90s. A lot of the concepts, I think, in being a business owner, being an entrepreneur, are things that you do have to carry on as a leader, whether you are leading in the business world, and again, I've worked at corporate world as well, or in the school world. And again, the systems might be a little different and I don't have as much control as I'm sure you have if you are running your own business. But I think some of the core values still need to be there, and you still need to be the person you are. You need to be true to yourself, and to your beliefs. And doing that, I think, that's the only way to lead because when you're not that person and when you're trying to be somebody else or something else, it rings as insincere. And again, it's harder to get buy-in. It's harder to bring more people on.
That's for sure. That is so true. Thank you, Kathy. This has been amazing. What else do you want to talk about?
Well, see, I'm so focused now on the 365, too.
Yeah, we have, for those of you listening, we are two, three, days away from one full year, 365 days straight of The Income Stream. And this is a show that I started on YouTube just because of the pandemic. I wanted to show up and help people. It was so amazing to connect with people and be able to answer their questions that I did it for a whole week straight, and the whole week turned into a month, turned into six months, turned into now nearly a full year. And it's just been so much fun. It's been the thing that's definitely lifted my spirits every day, the thing that has brought some consistency to me, and I know it's brought some consistency to others as well. And to at least have a place of positivity amongst all the craziness to come to and to come with like-minded people, like you were talking about, community, very important.
And although I lead that conversation, although I'm the person on the camera, it's not even really just me. It's all of us together. And I think it just speaks to, like I had heard you say earlier about Superfans, and facilitating a space for community allows people to feel more connected to you and your brand. But also, yeah, they might come or have come or have found you for that initial piece of content, but then they're going to stay because they found other people like them too. And I think that's really special. Are you thinking of ways that you might be able to do something similar down the road for yourself as well with relation to who it is that you want to connect with and a community that you might want to build?
And actually, when you say that, one of my notes was about Superfans, because I honestly feel, and especially, again, thinking about that phrase, “What does the pandemic make possible?” and what education, at least public school education as I'm experiencing it now, I think is missing, is the connection that the internet has made possible. And even when you look at YouTubers and internet creators, like a Tom Buck, who is an educator who is using these tools, and I'm just hoping to share some of the ideas and concepts of Superfans to help build superfans within my parents and my community to get that support in of school. And even sharing some of these ideas with my teachers so that they can kind of engage kids instead of writing up kids because they're watching YouTube videos. Hmm, why don't you check out some of those YouTube videos and maybe you'll see some ideas and some ways you can engage your kids?
So I really see as a next step for me, finding ways to kind of bridge that gap between YouTube and education and what is working as far as engaging people, building superfans, and what can engage our parents, our communities, in our schools, in our kids. Because I know we have an emphasis on college and career ready, but I think a lot of it goes to the college ready and not so much to career ready, because there are kids who might want a career in the armed services or might want a career as business owners themselves.
The first student I met was a student whose mom I know because she's a teacher and I had actually worked at this school before I was principal and so I knew this child as a little, little girl, and her name was Maggie, so it connected with me because that's my mom's name. But when I first met her as principal, you know what she talked about? She talked about how she spent her summer working on ideas for her own business. I was blown away. So she's got this whole business plan and idea of making her own lip gloss. It's Princess Lips. And she even had a little logo. I took her logo. I animated it for her. I wanted to give her some encouragement. And I'm like, "Man, how many other kids do we have in this school who have these great business ideas and things that they want to do, but because they don't fit in a box that can be bubbled in on a test sheet, we don't give voice and value to it?"
I think for me, for a next step, is finding ways to bridge those two camps to bring education as we see it closer to this next generation who does think a little differently and have seen things a little differently. So let's capitalize on it. Let's support them in that. And let's build tomorrow's leaders.
You're speaking my language. I mean, you know me with some of the plans and goals I have for education down the road, and there's a lot of red tape, there's a lot of politics, but I think it's leaders like yourself who are going to be really the initiators for a lot of this kind of movement. Whatever I can do to support you, please let me know, because I love that initiative. And I love Maggie's business idea. And there's how many other Maggies, like you said, are out there? And even if they don't become entrepreneurs, per se, to me it's what you learn as you try to learn entrepreneurship and become an entrepreneur that can take you anywhere you want to go in life, whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur, or what have you. That speaks wholly to me.
So, Kathy, this has been so much fun to catch up with you. It's always good to see you. And I see you every day or have seen you every day in the Income Stream. Thank you for moderating. Thank you for holding down the chat. Hopefully it's not too difficult. I mean, we don't typically attract a ton of spammers and things like that, although every once in a while, one of them slips through.
Well, if I don't get a chance to talk to you on Monday, I just want to say, thank you so much for giving us this year, of something consistent. Like you said, in a world that was crazy, it was a consistent space. And not just that, just the value you add. The information you share is remarkable. Even if I were not a student of yours, I still have gotten so much value from watching your videos, participating in the streams, the guests you bring in, the community you've built.
Thank you. Would you be down to come on the stream on Monday for 10, 15 minutes and just hang with everybody?
I would love to. I am at school Monday so I can't guarantee you that I'll be free. If there is time, I would love to be there.
All right, we'll figure it out. We'll get it going. Anyway.
You give me a time, I can set a meeting, and close the office door. You'll get to go to the principal's office.
I get to go to the principal's office! Kathy, this has been incredible. Where can people go to follow your journey and see all the other fun things that you're going to do from this point forward? Do you have a spot you want to bring them?
Wow. And actually, I'm working on… because I've changed actually the name of the podcast. It was Year of APing Dangerously, because I was an assistant principal. And now that I'm a principal, I'm not going to be “P-ing” dangerously because that just brings a whole mess of mess. My YouTube channel is now Year of Leading Dangerously. The website will follow.
Thank you so much for that. We'll look out for you, but thank you so much, Kathy. We appreciate you.
All right. I hope you enjoyed that coaching call and catch-up with Kathy Walker. This is again a “Where are they now?” episode, one of my favorite kinds of episodes, because we get to hear exactly what has happened since they have been on the show before. And, again, Kathy Walker originally in episode 1090 and today in episode 1184. So almost 100 later, and now with a brand change: Year of Leading Dangerously. Year of Leading Dangerously. And I love that because that encompasses assistant principals, principals, teachers, even maybe even some of the student body at the school. There's so many more opportunity to grow a larger audience in this way, and she's honing in on her skills. Her video skills are getting much better. Her YouTube channel, check her out as well. Again, Kathy Walker, Year of Leading Dangerously.
Whoo, awesome. Well, thank you so much for listening in. I appreciate you. Make sure you subscribe so you can get the next episodes, and appreciate the reviews that have been coming in. That's been very special to read, just continually blow me away. So thank you so, so, much, and make sure you head on over to AskPat.com if you want to fill out the application to potentially get coached on the show, just like everybody else here on the podcast. And again, thank you. I wish you the best today, and keep those spirits high. I appreciate you. Take care, and I'll see you next week. Cheers. Peace out.
Thanks for listening to AskPat at AskPat.com. I'm your host, Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sara Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski. And our executive producer is Matt Gartland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. AskPat is a production of SPI Media. I'll catch you in the next session.