3 Reasons I Love Being a Sterling Examiner

Authored by: Leanna Bolyard is the Sr. Coordinator for Strategic Planning & School Improvement / Manager, Research at Pinellas County Schools

Becoming a Sterling Examiner has provided me with personal fulfillment and professional growth. The Examiner process aligns perfectly with my passions; I believe whole-heartedly in personal and professional excellence and improvement, through self-assessment and continuous improvement processes.

3 reasons I love being a Sterling Examiner:

1. Challenging learning experience: Regardless of my prior experience and knowledge of the examination process, every site visit is different, and I will learn something new from each team experience. It could be something new about myself, working with others, evaluating processes, interviewing, how I can improve my organization, or any combination of these.

I thought my education and career in program evaluation, and institutional assessment and improvement planning prepared me fully for being an examiner. Although I had the fundamentals, the site visit was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced or imagined. After Independent Evaluation, I was assigned to lead the category I least wanted. However, I accepted my Team Leader’s challenge, and figured I’d grow from it. Because I accepted this challenge, I learned more than I would have if I had stayed in my comfort zone. This was the opportunity to learn in-depth application of the criteria, specifically integration.

2. Friendships with people who are passionate about the same type of work as I am. I did not know many people who understood my job or whose careers were similar to mine. Enter the Florida Sterling Council Board of Examiners—a large group of people who get my enthusiasm for continuous improvement. The bonds I made with my site visit team are strong and unique. As volunteer Sterling Examiners, we obviously value the same things, want to share knowledge to help others, and have many other personal similarities and interests. They are not my coworkers; they are not acquaintances; they are friends. Friends whose perspectives I respect, who I look forward to learning from, who I keep in touch with, and who I couldn’t wait to see again at the conference.

Photo Credit: Yeseira Diaz

3. Benefits my organization: As a member of the strategic planning and school improvement team, my continued knowledge and experience with Sterling, and the criteria will benefit my organization by allowing me a concrete set of standards, references for best practices and ideas, and network of people I can connect with to improve our organization at all levels.

The warnings they give you during Examiner Training are real. The timeline is demanding. The hours are long. THE LEARNING IS LIMITLESS! I learned a lot about myself, shared knowledge with others, helped an outstanding organization continue to improve, made great friendships, and have ideas and a network of exemplars with best practices to offer to my organization.


Leanna Bolyard is the Sr. Coordinator for Strategic Planning & School Improvement / Manager, Research at Pinellas County Schools. She has 10 years of experience in educational administration and a passion for creating a culture of data-driven decision making and continuous quality improvement, and she is a Sterling Examiner.