Friday, July 28, 2023

Steven Triplett has moved into retirement after serving as a leader in education for decades.

Since January 2017, Triplett has worked as a clinical instructor of educational leadership.

Before joining the College of Education, Triplett worked as a Program Director for STEM and K-12 Initiatives at ACT for five years. Prior to joining ACT, Triplett spent 15 years in the Fairfield Community School District, serving as middle school principal for 10 years, and superintendent for five years.

“I was inspired by the teachers I had. I wanted to both teach and coach, and that's how I got started in the profession,” he says.

As a middle school principal, Triplett says he was able to facilitate students exploring opportunities and help them determine what they would like to pursue.

“I felt we could have the most impact and influence over kids at that age as they were molding into high school students,” Triplett says “So I love that age, and you know, they’re a little bit goofy, which fit my personality really well.”

However, Triplett says his latest role at the College of Education has been his favorite.

“It was probably the best job I ever had because working with future principals and being able to share with them my experiences, but also because advise them as they found new things and learned about the challenges of the job,” he says. “So, it was kind of like a teacher and mentor all together in one.”

As a clinical instructor, he has worked with administrators from a variety of backgrounds who bring different strengths to the profession.

“Everybody brings different tools to their toolbox and you help develop their individual toolbox and then expand their skills along the way,” he says.

The key to being a successful administrator, Triplett says, is putting the students’ priorities at the center of leadership.

“As an administrator, you’ve got to understand you’re both dealing with adults, and kids, and parents, and community members,” he says. “So, you’re juggling a lot, but what I’ve always told them is if you keep the focus on the kids and enhancing their programs, I don’t think you’ll go wrong very often.”

In recent years, schools have been under increased scrutiny from parents and Triplett says the educational leadership program teaches administrators how to think before acting and assess decision-making critically.

Triplett says he is especially proud of the rigor of the College of Education’s clinical program for future administrators. Many programs have a more limited focus than the one at the University of Iowa.

“Our program, they have to get out in special ed, elementary, early childhood and secondary and spend time with different administrators … Meeting the needs of special needs kids or gifted kids or all kids takes an administrator who is really balanced and can see the big picture, and that’s kind of the focus of the Iowa program.”

As Triplett moves into retirement, he is proud that the College of Education’s Educational Leadership program has put a lot of good people into the field. He says it was also a special moment to watch the first graduates of the Educational Policy and Leadership Studies Doctor of Education Program walk across the stage this spring.

“When I came in, our program wasn’t very big, and we've hired some outstanding people who are going to carry on that great tradition.”

Professor of educational leadership Liz Hollingworth said Triplett has had an incredible impact and used his connections with school leaders across the state to recruit new students to the college.

“Overall, Steve's outstanding dedication and expertise have been instrumental in reshaping the Educational Leadership program, fostering innovation, and nurturing a generation of aspiring educational leaders poised to make a profound impact in their respective roles,” says Liz Hollingworth, former interim Department Executive Officer of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies. “As Steve embarks on his well-deserved retirement, his legacy will continue to inspire and shape the future of education at Iowa and beyond.”

After 48 years in education, it’s common for Triplett to run into past students, or for students to reach out and share the impact he had on them. He says so much of the educational profession relies on relationships.

“Relationships are everything, and we hammer our students on that all the time.”

In retirement, Triplett says he plans to keep busy, and may take up a part time job if one comes up that interests him. He also will have more time to spend with his three kids who live in the Iowa City area, and his five grandchildren.  

See more from the 2022-23 Annual Report.