20-Mile March Takes Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Team to Vermont and Beyond

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Our Professional Development Center team members — usually individually or in groups of two — visit dozens of educational sites across the nation each year. While this “you go this way and I’ll go that way” approach enables us to serve more schools and cover more ground, we find that we can potentially lose touch with those practices that make our center so successful.

Among the tools we bring along on these coast to coast educational retreats, seminars and workshops is a concept called “20-Mile Marching,” which helps our team members achieve great things in their work — despite the chaotic schedule and workload that confronts all of us on an annual basis.

Eagle Rock's Professional Development Center staffers: (Back row - from L to R) — Sarah Bertucci, Christi Kelston, Dan Condon, and Michael Soguero. (Front row - from L to R) — Sebastian Franco and Anastacia Galloway Reed.
Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center staffers: (Back row – from L to R) — Sarah Bertucci, Christi Kelston, Dan Condon, and Michael Soguero. (Front row – from L to R) — Sebastian Franco and Anastacia Galloway Reed.

The noted business consultant, author, and lecturer on the subject of company sustainability and growth, Jim Collins, first offered up the notion of “20-Mile Marching” in his 2011 book, Great By Choice, and we here at Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center are particularly drawn to its implications about working smart and resting well in order to operate on a near-even keel as opposed to a constant roller-coaster ride.

And along the lines of “working smart,” we make a point once each year to arrive — as a group — at one client engagement that has asked for our expertise in facilitating the big picture work associated with reengaging youth in their own education. By traveling at least once per year as a complete team, we enjoy the bonus of observing each other’s unique styles of facilitation, building team dynamics and strengthening our own approach to professional development.

Collins’ book suggests that pushing ourselves to our limits is a way to achieve success, but that we’re not machines. “Stuff” can happen at any time. The 20-Mile March concept suggests achieving consistency in performance even in a chaotic world. Take for example two people — Jane and Joe — hiking across the country. Jane walks 20 miles every day, rain or shine. No less. No more. Some days it’s easier to march 20 miles. Some days it’s not.

Joe on the other hand, walks 40 miles the first day because he’s full of energy. The next day, he’s exhausted and doesn’t walk at all. Without consistency, he finds he has stumbled only halfway across the country as Jane nears the finish line. That’s because Jane’s plan for making the journey was based on methodical and disciplined consistency, which resulted in her not exerting all her resources and energies during the good times. She showed high performance in difficult conditions and restraint in good conditions.

To reinforce such “high performance,” our professional development associate Sarah Bertucci coordinated our team’s efforts to work together as a cohesive unit by scheduling six pairs of eyes directly on The Rowland Foundation’s Shared Leadership Retreat on September 28 in Burlington, Vermont.

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Besides Sarah, others in our group facilitating this Personal Learning Collaborative workshop were Michael Soguero, Director of Professional Development; Anastacia Galloway Reed, Professional Development Associate; Dan Condon, Associate Director of Professional Development; Christi Kelston, Director of Public Allies—Eagle Rock; and, Sebastian Franco, Eagle Rock’s 2017/2018 Public Allies Fellow in Professional Development.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Rowland Foundation, each year up to 10 Vermont secondary school educators are selected as Rowland Fellows from among all qualified applicants. The foundation provides grants of up to $100,000 to each of their schools for the Rowland Fellow to implement a vision to transform an aspect of the school which will positively impact its culture and climate.

For this part of our 20-mile March, our team of six professional development center professionals came together to support Sarah’s role in facilitating the Rowland Foundation’s Shared Leadership Retreat for Rowland Fellows at a location in Burlington, Vt.

When it comes to success in education, our professional development team believes it must deliver a high-quality experience to educators by having a “product” that is consistent, but enables each of our individual voices, skills and strengths to tailor that consistency. Such a common delivery helps us recognize how well we are adhering to what we’re deeply passionate about, what we can be the best in the world at, and what best drives your or resource engine (all of which combined is referred to by Collins as The Hedgehog Concept).


Another benefit of our center’s group approach is the ability to absorb skills, style, content and approach from each other and integrate those into our own personal repertoire. For example, all of our team members have the skill set to help a client achieve desired educational outcomes. But as individuals, we’re often alone on dozens of educational visits across the country. As a result, we rarely have the opportunity work together on these skills or to experience each other’s unique specialties.

By having all of us focus on one client engagement — even if it’s only one time a year — we end up leaving the event with a better knowledge of how we all work on our primary mission. That notion of working smart and resting well enables us to continue providing our experience and expertise to educators in order to retain, reinvigorate and reengage youth in the own education all across the country.

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