Dr. George Zimmer, Visiting Professor of Educational Leadership, College of Education, Concordia University Chicago, IL

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. George Zimmer, Visiting Professor of Educational Leadership

What programs do you teach at Concordia University Chicago? What drew you to this field of study? What keeps you excited about it?

My primary responsibilities fall under the Ed.S. Illinois Superintendent Endorsement doctoral program for students interested in earning their Superintendent of Schools endorsement. Additionally, I teach courses and write course syllabi for students in leadership doctoral programs.

As a retired superintendent of schools from both Illinois and Wisconsin, I felt that I could contribute that would help others. The one thing that most excites me about Concordia University Chicago is our students. Since first being introduced to them, I have been impressed with their dedication, work ethic, and tireless pursuit of learning and growing as professionals. They are my inspiration.

How will your program better prepare/equip educators for the current climate they are facing?

Anyone who has observed the highly political nature of school board meetings in America over the last six months will note the vital need for effective communications, conflict resolution skill sets, well-organized plans, and leading with a solid moral compass. In addition to the post COVID-19 pandemic teaching issues, our country faces substantial challenges in the areas of diversity, equity, economic pressures, and political divisions.

This means that we need to lead, coach, and teach the next generation of school and district leaders to build trust with stakeholders, develop supportive work and learning environments, and nurture cultures in which leaders invest in their teachers and support staff.  These are the themes and lessons we teach and the behaviors and mindsets we model in the doctoral programs in the College of Education.

What attracted you to teach at Concordia University Chicago? What sets them apart?

The first things that attracted me to Concordia University Chicago were the professors. I knew several from my previous work experience and knew them to be successful, well-educated, and highly respected leaders in their communities. The one theme that sets the professors at Concordia University Chicago apart from some others is that we never give up on our students. We are all committed to supporting all of our students until they successfully graduate.

What is your professional background (including degrees) as an educator?

I have an ED.D. from Loyola University of Chicago with an Educational Leadership and Policy Studies emphasis, a Master’s of Science in Administrative Leadership from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and B.A. in Education from the University of Wisconsin Parkside.

I began my teaching career as a mathematics and English teacher. I then served my community as a dean of students, assistant principal, elementary principal, junior high school principal, and middle school principal. I became a superintendent of schools in Illinois and Wisconsin. When retiring as a superintendent in Illinois and then Wisconsin, I went on to work for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, and finally as a full-time Associate Professor at Concordia University Chicago.

Tell us a little about yourself. Why were you interested in education?

Perhaps as a result of my continuous exposure to teachers, I’ve always felt that I could make a positive difference in the lives of young people and that I was able to mobilize adults around causes that would benefit young people.

What would you tell prospective students considering your program about yourself? What’s something that students and colleagues should know about you?

Many of my family members devoted their professional careers to working in K-12 or higher education. My mother was a teacher, and my wife is a superintendent of schools in Illinois. Education has always been an essential and powerful value in our family.

I want all of my students to know that my only job is to make sure they succeed. In that regard, I want students to know that I spent more than 33 years in school and school district administration and gladly share my experience and insights to build their leadership capacity as they move into more and more challenging leadership positions.

What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing their Education Leadership degree? How can people stand out in this field?

  • Don’t think twice
  • Don’t procrastinate
  • Don’t worry about the commitment
  • Jump in and do it

You’ll never regret having your doctorate; I was once told that when a person has their doctorate, others tend to award them 20 extra IQ points. Without a doctorate, others tend to subtract 20 IQ points. Be true to yourself and give whatever it takes to help others!