17111 G. Drive North
Marshall, Michigan 49068
Mary Gehrig, superintendent for early childhood services at Calhoun Intermediate School District, hesitates to take accolades for her accomplishments; she gladly hands them to her associates. They are the ones, she says, who put visions, plans, ideas, and initiatives into motion to help young people.
Michigan Nightlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Calhoun Intermediate School District Assistant Superintendent for Early Childhood Services Mary Gehrig:
A good leader has to have a vision of what success looks like. Not necessarily personal success, but success in the work that is before them. A quality leader develops a team that understands the vision and goes after it … and a good leader honors the work of that team, credits success to those who have accomplished it and does not take the glory. Good leaders roll up their sleeves and works alongside their team to accomplish the work that needs to be done.
What is your dream for kids?
My dream is that all children will have a quality classroom experience that sets them up for future success. I dream that they
My dream is that all children will have a quality classroom experience that sets them up for future success.
are born into a community that supports children and families beginning at birth.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
My thought here is that we, being the folks in the community who work to improve the lives of our children and families, need to be the best collaborators that we can be to make sure that we are not duplicating services across providers.
I mean everyone: the folks who provide health services and family support, the ones in mental health, and in education. Everyone at that table. We have started discussions on this, and they are going in the right direction. We’ll keep working together for the success of our children and families.
How do you know you’re making progress?
Well, there several spot checks used to analyze success, and the first is very important: you must have an evaluation system in place. As you implement a program, you need to know from the start how you will measure its success and what data you will collect to give you that information.
Another way is to find this out is to ask people how things are going. Just ask them. I ask people in our programs -- the families, our educators, our funders, the people I work with. This paints a very important picture. Personally, I know that if children are academically successful, if their families are feeling supported, and if educators are providing quality instruction that is a picture of success. We are moving that way.
What are you most proud of?
I have been blessed to be an educator in Calhoun County, and I have been afforded many great opportunities to work with people who are passionate about improving the lives of children and families. I’m proud that two of my former supervisors
...I know that if children are academically successful, if their families are feeling supported, and if educators are providing quality instruction that is a picture of success.
recognized, when I worked in the district as an educator, that I have leadership qualities. They both supported me as I moved into administration. In Calhoun County, so many educators, service providers, and funders want the very best for the county’s children. We all work very well together, and I am proud to be a part of that.
Reflecting on your career, what would you say was your greatest professional
I had a great mentor what who helped me see what leadership should look like. It was in the middle of my career; I was the elementary school principal. We worked together for six or seven years. I saw him lead a district. I watched how he engaged people in their work. He modeled collaboration for me and modeled relationships. This man was a good listener and, by watching him work, I learned how important listening is for leaders. I learned a lot about what a good leader should do from him. He was a great leader and a very smart man and a person of integrity. I took a lot of value from that.