Student profile: Daniel Alderson, a leader transformed

Transformational leadership and empowerment

By Grace Jackson

The search for knowledge and higher learning is an important aspect of every day life for educators.

But for Daniel Alderson, as a doctoral student in the School of Applied Leadership, his search became more than just acquiring knowledge.  Through his classes and conversations with his professors, Dan was challenged to look at the world through a different lens.

It was a paradigm shifting experience that deeply transformed his teaching practice. He says it is the skill set that he appreciates most.

Daniel is one of four associate principals at Lake Stevens High School, and their social studies department had been struggling with a district-wide directive to utilize student data to inform instruction. Multiple paths had been taken to enact the directive, but without any luck.

Through a practice called Transformational Leadership, where a person “engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation in both the leader and the follower” (Northouse, p. 162), Daniel decided to be proactive in leading a team of teachers towards improved instruction.

Collaborating for results

Using the knowledge that he specifically gained in his doctoral and master’s classes, he asked questions, created a chain of collaboration between himself, the department chairs, and the instructional coach; he planted seeds. And a new curriculum was chosen as a result.

Daniel says that teachers felt empowered and part of the implementation process, instead of being told what to do. By reaching out and through collaborative efforts, Daniel believes that they created a program based on their specific needs, instead of a program resulting from initiatives that may not have been relevant.

The administrative team also created a Social Studies Data Cycle, a process that defines their vision and goals. Each team within the department chose an action plan, outlined their goals, and created a timeline to achieve those goals.

Results were “wonderfully surprising,” says Daniel.

A non-traditional journey: keeping it real

Daniel admits that his educational journey deviated from the path that others had expected of him. He returned to college in his late twenties, and believes that “one of the greatest secrets of modern high school is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all track for students. It’s up to educators to look for evidence that can help a student find a place to be successful.”

Born in Spokane and raised in Colville, a small town 60 miles north of Spokane, Daniel graduated from Gonzaga University, and obtained a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from CityU. During Daniel’s journey through the doctoral program, he also was awarded a superintendent’s certification from the educational leadership department. Daniel has four daughters ranging in ages 12 through 19, and is an avid video gamer.

Daniel Alderson
Daniel Alderson: father, CityU doctoral student and associate principal

He offers this piece of advice, and not just for doctoral students:

“You can do it! Even when you feel stuck, it doesn’t mean you are broken. It means you are normal. Keep it real – never be blasé, and make sure you to use the things you are learning in your everyday life.”

Daniel would like to recognize the administrative team at Lake Stevens High School for their successful collaboration, and also Dr. Arron Grow and Dr. Pressley Rankin for their leadership insight in Daniel’s doctoral classes.

Visit our website for more information about the School of Applied Leadership.


Northouse, P. G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Published February 13, 2017



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