laurie kimbrel

Educational Leader & Advocate for Student Centered Schools
Follow Me

Learning Strategies Emphasizing Goal-Focused Engagement

Shared By Laurie Kimbrel   /     May 22, 2017  /     Uncategorized  /     Comments Off on Learning Strategies Emphasizing Goal-Focused Engagement

The founding head of the Brookhaven Innovation Academy, Laurie Kimbrel has more than two decades of experience in educational administration. In this role, she places a particular emphasis on change leadership that drives effective educational decision making. Laurie Kimbrel has instructed K-12 students in 21st century skills essential for college and career preparation.

Working toward goals beyond high school ideally begins at an early age, as students grasp the reasons for lessons that may seem to have little practical use. Young learners who keep an eye on the big picture as they progress are motivated learners as well. They gradually build and reinforce skills that colleges and universities seek out when screening applicants.

With the idea that “engaged students are successful,” even abstract learning should be oriented toward practical, well-defined goals whenever possible. Internships and other participatory forms of learning also play a vital role in bridging the divide between textbooks and life in the “real world.” At the same time, innovative pedagogical approaches such as the flipped classroom can boost student engagement during the critical hours they spend in class under instructor supervision.

Continue Reading Quick Read

The Promise of Design Thinking for Teachers & Leaders: Thoughts from a Veteran Educator

Shared By Laurie Kimbrel   /     Mar 13, 2016  /     Blog, Laurie Kimbrel, laurie kimbrel atlanta, Laurie Kimbrel Superintendent  /     Comments Off on The Promise of Design Thinking for Teachers & Leaders: Thoughts from a Veteran Educator

by Laurie Kimbrel, Ed.D.

In the 26 years that I have worked in education, I’ve seen a lot of fads come and go. Most of these ideas seem promising but don’t stand up to scrutiny from teachers or the test of time. However, Design Thinking as a framework for school improvement has the power to be more than just the idea of the day.

We are all Here for the Same Reasons
We choose to become teachers because we care deeply about children and ensuring that they learn and grow. When a child has an “aha moment”, especially if he or she has previously had some difficulty, it gives us the energy to come back and do it all again on another day. As some of us move from being teachers into leadership positions, it is usually because of our desire to create the conditions necessary to bring our work to a larger scale so that those moments of growth occur with greater ease, frequency and for more children. Given that the vast majority of educational leaders come from the field of teaching and that basically, teachers and leaders have the same goal of student growth, we should wonder why there is often a disconnect between teachers and their administrators when it comes to problem solving and change.

As educators, we have the best of intentions as we attempt to solve problems and make improvements in our schools. I’ve never met a school leader who deliberately tried to make things more difficult for teachers or students. And yet, our “solutions” often do just that because we move so quickly to action based on our own personal biases without seeking to understand the situation from the perspective of those who experience it every day.

Design Thinking Shows Great Care About the Experience of Users

The Design Thinking process offers great promise to educators at all levels to improve schools in a way that will bring teachers, leaders and students together rather than creating division. Unlike typical decision-making models, if we use a Design Thinking process, we develop empathy for users prior to the implementation of solutions. In addition, Design Thinking focuses on the creation of multiple prototypes of solutions with the understanding that we will require feedback and several iterations before we find the “right” solution. Design Thinking brings a refreshing move towards deep care about the experience of others rather than a rush to a finding a solution and crossing a problem off of a list.

Discovering Points of View Previously Unknown to You
As an observer of several AK12DC school teams using the Design Thinking process over the course of this school year, I am particularly struck by the changes in problem statements from first drafts developed at the Fall Summit to the current drafts that have continued to develop throughout the winter. As teams worked through empathy interviews and observations, they discovered points of view previously unknown to them. In almost every case, teams found that the problems had multiple facets and complexities that had not been previously known or considered. Even more interesting, and yet hardly surprising, several teams found that their actual problems and eventual prototypes for solutions were quite different than the initial direction given to them by their school leaders.

The lack of alignment between the initial definitions of the problem and how others experience it seems to be the root of the divide that is often created between groups in schools. Imagine how different it could be if we as leaders provided the time and training necessary for staff and students to use the Design Thinking process as a regular part of their routine!

Lessons Learned
I have had many lessons learned while watching both public and private school teams learn and implement the Design Thinking process this year. I understand that Design Thinking is not an “add on” or “one more thing to do” but rather something that can and should be integrated into school culture. It is inevitable that we deal with problems every day; however, the process that we use to solve them is up to us. The integration of Design Thinking into a school culture allows groups to truly understand and define problems from the point of view of multiple users and eventually to solve problems in ways that create unity rather than division.

My experience with AK12DC and Design Thinking has been invaluable to my growth as a leader and as a person. I now find myself attempting to gain empathy as I think about not only professional but also personal issues. I have found such value in the process that I can’t imagine working in a school setting without it and I look forward to the day that I create and work on a Design Team myself.

Continue Reading Quick Read

The Real Criteria for College Success

Shared By Laurie Kimbrel   /     Feb 27, 2016  /     Blog, Laurie Kimbrel, laurie kimbrel atlanta, Laurie Kimbrel Superintendent  /     Comments Off on The Real Criteria for College Success

by Laurie Kimbrel as an educator and parent

As educators, why do we spend so much of our time preparing our high school students for college? As parents, why do we send our students to college? Is it solely because it will prepare them for a great job some day? Is it so that they earn the most amazing grades possible so that they can get into the most competitive law or medical school? Or is there something else, something bigger and more significant?

When I picked up my own daughter after her first year at one of the most rigorous and academically demanding universities in the country, I wondered what metrics I wanted to use to measure her success. I wondered how to share with her that I care about her as a whole person, not just a scholar. Don’t get me wrong, I care about her grades, and I suppose that I’m lucky because they are excellent. But as I reflect on the reason that I sent her to the other side of the country and pay exorbitant tuition bills, it isn’t so she can spend every day in the library with a book or in a lab doing research. I want my daughter to understand that success in college and life is much bigger than classes, academics and straight A’s.

Here are the questions I really wanted to ask about her first year:

Have you learned that you are in charge of your own destiny?
It’s not high school anymore. You can choose to go to class – or not. No one is going to call home or even ask you about it. It’s all up to you and the consequences of this decision are also all yours. No one will get you out of bed and no one will have your breakfast waiting for you. Have you figured out how to make it where you need to be on your own? You can also choose to join a club, participate in community service or help others. These decisions are no longer for a college application. Have you learned to participate or to help others for the pure joy of doing so? For how it feeds your soul rather than for an external reward?

Have you experienced colossal failure and bounced back?

Failure is part of life. We all experience it and we all deal with it differently. As parents we spend time trying to protect our children from failure, but as adults we are faced with big and small failures regularly. I hope my daughter chooses boldly, goes out on a limb and experiences bold and difficult failure. In fact, I hope she experiences frustration and uncertainty. It is only through experience that we learn to hold our head high, move on, and to try again. In fact, I hope she learns to continue to make bold decisions, with awareness that failure may be the outcome but that it is only through these failures that world changing breakthroughs happen.

Have you made unexpected friends?

College is a time to meet new people with backgrounds so very different from our own. I want to ask my daughter, have you given someone different from you a chance to learn who you are? Have you reached out to someone you would have never known in high school? Have you learned that diversity adds depth to friendship? Have you made sure that someone who is alone knows that you are there for them? Do you have a wide variety of friends but are you working to develop a few life-long friends who will be with you though the ups and downs of your life, career and family?

Have you discovered your passion or ruled out what is not?

Just paging through the university course catalog gives me goose bumps. There is so much variety and so much depth and I wouldn’t even know how to start to choose classes. I wonder if my daughter has taken a class that ignites her passion in something that she never even considered. I wonder if she took a class that she thought she would love and found it dull and boring. I want to tell her that success is finding what you love and pursuing it. I want her to know that a career pursuing what someone else thinks is a good idea is a waste of a life.

Have you learned that your family members are your roots but that we want nothing more than for you to discover you have wings?

During her first year at college, my daughter experienced what its like to be 3,000 miles away from home while she was sick, alone during spring break and hungry because the cafeteria food was almost inedible. It would have been easier if she were home. I would have fed her, taken her to her own doctor and kept her company. In fact, I want her to know that she can always get those things at home but I’m so proud that now she knows how to work though it on her own as well. I want her to know that success is having a solid set of values and an understanding of who you are but that those things are only useful if you use they to grow, learn and become the person you are meant to be. I want her to learn to fly on her own, to be her own person, to make the lives of others better through her actions.

I’m sad for the parents, educators or anyone else who thinks college is only about the grades earned. I’m sad for the undue stress it causes our children and the sometimes-tragic consequences that ensue. College is about learning to be responsible, self-motivated, passionate, and caring. College should ignite a love of learning, a love of oneself, and a love of others. As a parent, I’m most proud of the healthy, happy, passionate person that I can see my daughter becoming. I’ll happily send her back across the country for three more years.

Continue Reading Quick Read
  • About Laurie Kimbrel

    The current project manager for the Atlanta K-12 Design Challenge, Laurie Kimbrel is an educator with many years’ experience. Before undertaking this position in 2015, Kimbrel served as Superintendent of the Tamalpais Union High School District in Larkspur, California, where she oversaw 4,200 students, 435 staff members, and managed a $63 million budget. Among other achievements under Laurie Kimbrel’s tenure, the district implemented a leadership model that formed Professional Learning Communities designed to augment teacher effectiveness through shared assessment data.

    Kimbrel holds a bachelor of science in music and business from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. She also received a master of science in special education from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, and completed her education with leadership-based doctoral studies at Loyola University in Chicago.

    Dedicated to her community, Laurie Kimbrel is a hospice volunteer and works with nonprofits aimed at ensuring every child has access to great teachers and schools. She is also passionate about education reform and champions efforts to bring about effective hiring practices in schools.

  • Education & Publications


    Loyola University Chicago - Doctorate, Curriculum & Instruction

    National Louis University, Certificate of Advanced Study, Educational Leadership

    Dominican University, Master of Science, Special Education

    Millikin University, Bachelor of Science, Music and Business

    It's a Man's World: How to Achieve Success as a Woman in High School District, AASA Women in Leadership Conference, 2013

    How to Run a Clean Construction Program, California School Board Convention, 2012

    A Transition Success Story: California School Boards Association Conference, 2009

    Program Growth and High Achievement: College Board National Conference, 2008

    Building Leadership Capacity through Effective Staffing Planning, Illinois Association of Personnel Administrators Conference, 2008

    Improving Student Achievement: Illinois NCLB Conference, 2007

    Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations: Lake County Personnel Administrators Conference, 2007

    The Impact of Proactive Classroom Management, Doctoral Dissertation, Loyola University, 2002

  • Community Service

    Laurie Kimbrel volunteers for a number of community organizations including Bristol Hospice as a patient volunteer, Destiny's Daughter's of Promise as a student mentor and Students First as an advocate for effective educational practices.
  • Contact Laurie Kimbrel