Robert Thornell

Author, School Improvement Coach, and Professional Learning Facilitator

Dr. Robert Thornell has made it his career passion to help make educational leaders better. He believes strongly that a quality campus administrator is the key to a successful school and continually seeks ways to use his skills, experience, and knowledge to help shape the future of school leaders. His dissertation from Baylor University centered on the mentorship of campus administrators, and he has continued that pursuit throughout his career.

“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”

—John Maxwell

It is his passion for helping school leaders to improve their performance and results that has allowed Robert to intentionally develop skills in five distinct areas of school performance. Educators under his guidance have excelled in:

  • Effective Leadership: Both instructional and servant leadership, clear communication and feedback, and strategic planning and implementing learning teams to allow campus leaders to collaborate; working with aspiring administrators.
  • Ambitious Instruction: Implementing highly effective professional learning communities, instructional rounds, lesson design, and responsive planning through data analysis.
  • Collaborative Teachers: Implementing effective professional learning communities both vertical by content and cross-curricular; training teacher leaders; fostering critical friendship processes to allow for ongoing support.
  • Supportive Environment: Including initiatives to address students’ strengths and challenge the perceptions surrounding the achievement gap; increasing participation and performance in advanced academics for all students.
  • Involved Families: Implementing strategic planning with all community stakeholders and developing localized, community-based accountability systems.

Dr. Thornell currently works as director of leadership development in Lewisville ISD (Texas) in addition to his work with NWEA as a school improvement coach. Other interests include his collaboration with the nonprofit SchoolRubric, serving as the director of organizational and school leadership to help educators around the world. He is also currently working as an adjunct professor at the University of North Texas in their educational leadership doctoral program. His passion revolves around mentoring and developing school leaders to enhance education for all.

Robert previously served as deputy superintendent in Northwest ISD, near Fort Worth, Texas. He oversaw the curriculum and instruction, technology, facilities and planning, athletics, and fine arts departments. Prior to that role, Dr. Thornell was assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, with a focus on instructional goals and professional learning communities and an emphasis on principal leadership.

Dr. Thornell has also served as the executive director of curriculum and staff development, where his responsibilities included oversight of curriculum development, implementation, and professional learning. While in that position, he was instrumental in the development of a district-wide, community-based accountability system that incorporated multiple measures of student growth.

Dr. Thornell’s campus experience includes serving as the principal of Chisholm Trail Middle School. Under his leadership, the school was named a National School to Watch by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). He has also served as principal of Timberline Elementary school, which is a pre-K–5 bilingual campus. He began his career in education as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher.

His book, Inside the Principal’s Office, published in 2020, reached #1 on Amazon’s New Releases list and #8 on its Best Sellers list for Education Administration. He also publishes a blog entitled Intentionally Bold, which is geared toward educational leaders.

Dr. Thornell is actively involved in professional learning organizations and is a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Learning Forward, Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), and Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA). He has served on the board of directors of Texas ASCD. He is a certified trainer for the National Institute of School Leadership (NISL), a program designed for transformational school leaders, and a graduate of the Texas ASCD Curriculum Leadership Academy. A true educator at heart, he has presented at the state and national level on topics ranging from professional development to education transformation.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies from Texas Tech University and his master’s degree in education administration from the University of North Texas. He earned his doctorate in education administration from Baylor University, where his research focused on the mentorship of first-year campus administrators.

School Improvement

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