Dean is a native of Maquoketa, Iowa, a small farming community in east central Iowa. He attended the University of Iowa as an undergraduate, receiving a B.S. in physics with honors in 1985. Dean took an additional year to become certified as a public school teacher and in 1986 accepted a teaching position at West High School in the Iowa City Community School District. He taught physics and AP Physics at West from 1986 – 1992. Dean enjoyed much success as a teacher receiving the Sallie Mae outstanding teacher award in 1987, and the Outstanding Physics Teacher of the Year award from the Iowa Academy of Science in 1990. Additionally during his time as a teacher, Dean was elected President of the Iowa Science Teachers Association and was elected to serve on the Iowa Academy of Science. Dean was also a long-standing member of the University of Iowa Physics and Astronomy advisory board. Dean still considers the greatest honor bestowed on him as a teacher was when the senior class of 1988 and 1992 respectively elected him to be the keynote speaker at their graduation. Throughout his teaching career, Dean continued his graduate work at the University of Iowa receiving a M.S. in Education in 1990. In the fall of 1992 Dean was appointed associate principal of Northwest Junior High School in the Iowa City School District, a position he held for four years. In 1997 Dean was appointed principal of Patrick Marsh Middle School in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, a position he held for two years. During that time, Dean helped open a new middle school. It was also during that time in May of 1999 that Dean received his PhD in Planning, Policy and Leadership Studies from the University of Iowa. Dean moved back to Iowa in 1999 to become the principal of the grade 7-12 Regina Catholic School, a position he held for one year. In 2000 Dean was appointed the principal of Urbandale High School in Urbandale Iowa. Urbandale High School is a 9-12 comprehensive high school of approximately 1300 students. In 2002 Dean was appointed superintendent of the Marshall School District, Marshall Wisconsin. And finally, in 2005 Dean was appointed superintendent of the Verona Area School District and is currently still in that position. The Verona Area School District is a suburban pK – 12 school district of approximately 5400 students located adjacent to Madison, Wisconsin the state capital of Wisconsin and the home of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The Verona Area School District is a diverse district with approximately 35% students of color and about the same percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch. There are over 35 languages spoken in the District and nearly 20% of the student body is English Language Learners. Our school district has grown by 1000 students in the last ten years and our budget is approximately $63,000,000. We recently passed a $8.3 million referendum to purchase land for additional schools receiving a 66% ‘yes’ vote.
GETTING TO KNOW DEAN
Looking back at your career, what is one thing that a parent, student or peer has said makes you unique as a teacher?
My approachability, candor and ease I have when communicating with others.
When and why did you decide to move into a leadership role?
After my first year of teaching, I realized I wanted to be a principal and be of service to more children and adults.
What about leading education gives you the greatest fulfillment?
Making a reality of a promising trajectory for every student is what drives me to continue.
PERSONALIZED LEARNING JOURNEY
What is it about the personalized learning pedagogy you believe will have the greatest impact on education as we know it today?
It is going from a system of batch, mass, expected and averages to a system of individuals.
Can you tell us a story of a time that you persevered through a then-challenging situation which now serves as a great life lesson?
We have some people who are not in tune with personalized learning because it can be viewed as a threat. We need to keep saying our message that this will help all students even when it gets tough.
SECRETS TO SUCCESS
What are the three most commonly observed traits of teachers you have seen and have successfully transitioned from that legacy model to the personalized learning model?
They are not afraid to fail and they are humble about what did go well. They also have a thirst of how to do to things effectively.
Imagine you are standing in front of a room full of peers – just like you when you started your personalized learning journey. They too have fears, worries and doubts as they struggle to find their footing. What one strategy would you suggest leaders in personalized learning environments apply every day that would result in powerful outcomes?
Lean on other believers.
Would you please share with our audience your “i am ME.” statements?
i am driven to serve others. i am a believer in liberty and justice for all. i am called to do this work.