Joy Kelly: Balancing Care and High Expectations as a School Leader

by | Mar 21, 2022 | 0 comments

6 min read

About Joy Kelly

Joy Kelly has been an educator for more than 25 years. She has served as a high school teacher, 7-12 parochial school principal, and a public high school associate principal, where she was named the Iowa 2015 Associate Principal of the Year. 

After serving as a high school principal, Joy currently serves as the Head of School at Regina Catholic Education Center. Having been a principal in both public and parochial schools, Joy brings extensive knowledge and understanding of student achievement, community building, student and family engagement, and teacher leadership. 

Joy believes that the vitality and success of any school rests in the culture of the school community. It is her belief that positive student achievement occurs as a result of the caring and supportive relationships developed among the adults in the school and with the students and their families. 

Along with Jimmy Casas, Joy co-authored the book Handle with Care: Managing Difficult Situations in Schools with Dignity and Respect. Joy is the proud mother of five children and believes that her journey with them makes her a better school leader to the students and staff with whom she works every day.

What You’ll Find in this Podcast Episode with Joy Kelly

T.J. starts off with a direct question about maintaining high expectations, while creating a culture that helps people thrive, and Joy immediately debunks the myth that accountability is about what you did wrong. 

While describing the power of accountability, Joy reminds us of three human realities: 

  1. Everyone has a story that impacts how they think, how they feel, and how they respond. We have to remember that everyone has suffered trauma, pain, and hardship. 
  2. Outward expressions don’t always align with internal feelings. For example, outward anger is often internal sadness.
  3. The adults don’t always get it right and should be willing to acknowledge so. At the core of relationships is trust

Joe asks Joy to dive deeper into how we can connect better with the people we serve. Listen to how Joy creates a culture where we get to really know your staff:  

  1. Let them know who you really are as a person and not just as a leader.
  2. Staff need to feel valued and heard.
  3. Feedback should be a two-way street

You’ll want to hear the conversation about feedback, discipline, punishment, and how to handle accountability with care. 

Leaders should adopt the sentiment that “we don’t have a monopoly on making all the right decisions.” 

You have to hear Joy’s story about the student who came to the office without his lanyard and ID. Powerful and humbling. 

Learn how Joy gleans a ton from her experiences as a parent, learning from her children. She also describes her powerful relationship with Jimmy Casas and the impact it has on her leadership. You will definitely want to check out the books she mentions: 

Lead with Faith by Sara Johnson

The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon 

Be Excellent on Purpose Sanee Bell

Atlas of the Heart by Brene Brown

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

We’ve heard many of our guests talk about meditation. Joy described her experience with slow and deep breathing. She says that “calm people are breathers.” Additionally, you don’t want to miss the four questions she goes to bed with every night that you could be using today!

You have to hear what Joy says about cooking with herbs and swimming in the deep end–things she still wants to learn how to do. 

Don’t miss the story of the student who called to make amends and what Joy really took from the conversation.

Joy enjoys The Adult SEL Podcast and A Bit of Optimism with Simon Sinek. 

Have you ever had to memorize the Articles of the Constitution? Joy used to be more focused on the content as a teacher and now she realizes that the connection with students has a far greater impact on students than anything in the curriculum. 

More Free School Leadership Resources for Principals 

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TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.


Joe & T.J. 

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