Aiming for systemic change in education

Carl Hermanns knows that, in any section of the population, talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. This fact is one of the most important drivers behind his work as a clinical associate professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. Indeed, it’s the seed that sprouted his passion as an educator and program coordinator for ASU’s Master of Education in Educational Leadership, a program offered online and on-ground.

“Every day, my goal is to ensure that our students, future principals and teacher leaders, understand that there are inequities in the education system that can block students from reaching their full potential,” Hermanns said.

“We need to understand and address those inequities so that every child, in every classroom, every day is being provided excellent and equitable educational opportunities to find success. It’s easy to be passionate about that because you see so many children who just aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.”

Hermanns witnessed these inequities himself when he returned to education almost 20 years ago as a second grade teacher in a high-poverty school in San Diego. His experience is made even richer by the circuitous pathway that led him there.

Hermanns began his journey toward educational leadership with his bachelor’s in education from Temple University. He then went on to earn his master’s in symphonic conducting from Carnegie Mellon University and spent the next 15 years as a professional conductor.

When he was on staff with the San Diego Symphony, Hermanns began connecting with schools by starting an after-school community music center for high-poverty elementary schools that had lost their music programs. It was this experience that spurred him to earn his teaching certificate, which is what took him to that second grade classroom where he saw so much potential and not enough opportunity.

“I threw myself back into education to see how I could best contribute to systemic change in our public schools,” Hermanns said.

After serving as a teacher and a principal in San Diego, he went on to earn his doctorate in education from Harvard, worked for three years as an assistant superintendent in Oregon and then five years ago accepted his teaching position at ASU. The courses he teaches online include instructional leadership and school change, school law and critical issues in education. His passion is palpable in all.

“The research is clear that transformative leadership makes the difference,” Hermanns said. “For so many children in our schools today, there is an opportunity gap, there is an expectation gap. But we have an opportunity right now to work on that. We have an opportunity to provide our aspiring school leaders with the knowledge and skills to transform their schools in ways that support all kids in being successful.”

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