Leader Spotlight- Natalie Irvan
My friend, Natalie, is a teacher, a teacher leader, a momma of little ones, and a wife. I deeply enjoyed engaging with her concerning her leadership perspective. Check out our interview below.
PBJ: Natalie, please tell the people who you are.
Natalie: Hi, I’m Natalie. I’m a Christ follower, wife to Jon, and a momma to two beautiful girls, Harper (4 years) and Adeline (18 months). I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Georgia Southern University and went on to receive my Masters in Reading Education (K-12). Go Eagles!
I am currently teaching third grade at a school in South Georgia. During my 8 years of teaching, I’ve taught 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade in 3 different schools. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and am very passionate about teaching and watching students grow academically and as leaders. In addition to teaching third grade, I currently serve as a teacher leader at my school, helping to promote and grow our Social Emotional Learning system.
Since COVID-19, I’ve been a stay at home mom with my girls, which consists of chasing my toddler, cleaning up messes, and enduring many meltdowns during the day (and that’s just me...not to mention my girls’ tantrums). In the midst of the chaos, there are hugs, laughs, and lots of memory making with the girls that I know I will treasure forever.
In my free time, I enjoy reading, attempting to garden, spending time with my family, and being with friends.
PBJ: How would you describe your leadership style?
Natalie: During a keynote speech at a conference I attended several years ago, I heard leadership described as, “an opportunity to use your gifts and talents to pay it forward in the context of the school day because great leaders serve.” It resonated with me because that is truly what I aspire to do for my students and the teachers around me when I step into the school building each day. I am not great at all things, but my faith in Christ tells me that He has given me certain gifts to use to serve others and for His glory. Being part of a team is very important to me. In our school, one of our key paradigms is 100% of the people doing 100% of the work. This means that EVERY person has a purpose and is gifted in a way that is valuable to the organization. As a leader it is imperative that I am fully integrated in this work, and empower others to find their place of contribution. I also value structures and systems. As a teacher leader, I try to always be prepared to lead our team in a way that consistently aligns with our mission, vision, and purpose. This applies in the classroom as well. Every student in my class has a leadership role. I want them to know that they are part of a unit, a family and they are NEEDED. Together, we develop skills that will lead them to be positive contributors in society. Yes, academics are important, but a mind that is full of knowledge, yet lacks empathy, integrity, and a sense of responsibility will never create and maintain meaningful relationships and careers.
PBJ: What is the greatest leadership lesson you have ever learned?
Natalie: I’ve been fortunate enough to be mentored by phenomenal leaders since high school. I could name every leader from high school to present day who has impacted my life and shaped my leadership style. When I think of these leaders, all from different backgrounds and stages in life, the word that comes to mind is- INVEST. I remember specifically how they chose to invest in me. They gave their ear, advice, correction, and provided tangible tools to take on tasks they knew I would likely face in the future. The time they spent in preparation was evident. The moments we sat discussing my goals, my future, and my mistakes, showed me that they cared about me personally. Although I’m sure they self- reflected privately, they also did so publicly. They included me in honest, raw conversation on what they as leaders did well and what they needed to improve upon. We set goals together and held each other accountable. Leadership is about investment. Investment with your time, in building relationships, continuous self improvement, and reflection. I’ve learned when you invest your time in relationships with those you lead, it creates a culture of credibility and trust, a balance between character and competence.
PBJ: What does leadership look like in your roles as Momma to littles and Wife to Jon?
Natalie: “My kid will never act like that…”, “Well, I’ll never do that as a parent…” Those judgements and most likely more were uttered by Jon and myself before having kids. Children are a blessing from God...but I also think God uses our children to humble us. As a planner, as soon as I found out I was pregnant, I read the books, the blogs, talked to many trusted friends who had children to try to learn as much as I could. Once our children were born, we realized that while these resources provide great principles, practices, and information…there isn’t a one size fits all guide. There is NO playbook for the unknowns of parenting. Our oldest child has a rare form of Epilepsy and no one could have prepared us for the journey we are currently walking with her disease. I truly have to rely on the Lord to lead me because most days I do not have the strength within myself to lead my family well. I think this is where the Lord ultimately wants us to be. As a leader, we aren’t expected or required to know all the answers and make the perfect moves at all times. We just have to make the best decisions we can in the moment, with the information we have and trust that there is a force bigger than us who holds it all together. There’s a burden lifted when you can let go of perfection and society's expectation of parents, and just choose to show up for your family. As a couple, Jon and I have always shared the leadership in our home. We are a team and ultimately our goal is to be intentional and present with our children and with each other. In leading my family, my ultimate goal is for my children to know Jesus, so the priorities we set align with that goal. We don’t always get it right, but the most important lesson we can show our kids is that there is grace, for all of us.
PBJ: Wow! What a beautiful picture of surrender. Leadership does not always mean having the right answers. Sometimes, more often than not, it is just the surrendering of our frail will in order to focus on His will. Serving with love. Yes, my Friend!
How can people connect with you?
Natalie: I would love to connect with you!
Instagram: @natalieirvan (to view my life as a mom of littles and my endeavors as a wanna-be plant lady)
PBJ: Natalie, thank you for sharing with us. I know so many leaders needed to hear you today.