The sparkle in Deborah Leidner’s eyes was clear and her passion for preparing school leaders was evident as she spoke about her 33-year journey working with students and teachers throughout Los Angeles, a journey that eventually brought her back to where it all started: CSUN.
“I look for the spark in a person,” Leidner said. “I want people who are passionate about school administration and believe they can make a difference.”
Leidner is an associate professor and graduate adviser in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department in the College of Education at CSUN.
She started working at the college about two years ago, and she said she came back to CSUN because she has a passion for preparing school leaders.
“I want to be a apart of a program, and I believe I am, that brings in the best people and produces administrators who can do the job, which is to educate our children and support our staff,” said the Granada Hills resident.
Leidner said she is very fortunate to work with one of the finest groups of people at CSUN.
“I’m working with colleagues that I not only respect, but enjoy working with,” she said.
The students she works with are currently teachers working on their master’s degree in administration, and on administration service credentials.
“The students are great,” she said. “They are a group of people who really believe in and want what’s going to come out of this,” regarding their career in administration.
Leidner said her students work hard and she enjoys working with them.
Richard Castallo, ELPS Department chair, said Leidner is a wonderful teacher.
“Her insight and enthusiasm and passion for (education) comes across very readily in the things she does,” Castallo said.
Leidner describes herself as a true “Valley Girl,” having lived in the San Fernando Valley her entire life.
Her first passion was journalism. She was first inspired to become a journalist in 1960 when she was 13 years old sitting in front of the television watching then Senator John F. Kennedy speak at the Democratic National Convention. At that historical moment in her life she said she immediately knew she wanted to be a part of change in society.
After graduating from Canoga Park High School she came to CSUN – then called San Fernando Valley State College – and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1970. Leidner worked her way through college with two jobs. During her college years, she also worked as a staff writer for the Daily Sundial and Scene Magazine, both in the Journalism Department.
“Going here in the 60s, we were very active,” Leidner said. “I was a part of a movement that shut this university down for a few years.”
“Being an activist in the 60’s made me want to be a part of changing things, and teaching is the way to do that,” she said.
After college she went on to teach social studies and journalism at Hale Junior High School in Woodland Hills for five years.
“I became a teacher because I wanted to give,” Leidner said.
Throughout her 33-year career in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Leidner served in several different positions, including teacher, assistant principal, principal and superintendent, overseeing a district of 70 schools and 72,000 students.
After retiring as a district superintendent for the LAUSD, Leidner came back to CSUN 34 years after she received her diploma.
“I bring, just as everyone in this department, a real-life experience in education: the combination of practice and theory,” Leidner said.
“Having been an educator for 33 years in a public school gives me experience that I think will benefit our students (at CSUN),” she said.
The most important part of her job, she said, is “serving our students and helping them reach their goals.”
Leidner said ELPS Department chair Castallo set a tone for the department, and his expectations for the faculty are that they serve the students.
“We are here to serve our client, and our client is our students,” Leidner said.
Castallo said that ever since Leidner came to CSUN she has made a significant impact in the College of Education.
“She is one of the hardest working people I’ve known,” he said. “She is the first person to unlock the doors in the morning and the last person to lock up at night.”
Jane Anderson, administrator support coordinator II for the ELPS Department, said Leidner does not view her work as “a job”.
She said Leidner views her work as being “part of a wonderful team whose mission is to raise the level of leadership in the greater Los Angeles community of school districts, which then will have a positive effect on the lives of all of us and in the world as a whole.”
Leidner said her goal and the goal of her department is to help prepare students with the critical thinking skills they will need to grow up in a future society that is unimaginable.
“How do we make sure these students are prepared for a world we can’t even comprehend?” Leidner said. “Things that we can’t even imagine will occur in everyday life.”
“That is why I’m passionate for what I do.”
Valencia Bankston can be reached at email@example.com.