Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

Valerie J. Janesick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Black, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Judith Ponticell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Young, Ed.D.


assistant principal, role transition, feminist, phenomenology, leadership preparation


The transition from the comfort of a familiar role, that of teacher, to the discomfort of a new role, that of school administrator, is a transformative process. Transforming oneself requires leaving what is known and venturing into the unknown. Researchers have illuminated women's struggle to attain school leadership positions, but the transformation of females making this change in professional roles is seldom addressed in leadership literature. Although context cannot be ignored, there are some challenges common to many women undergoing this transformation.

Situated in the elementary education setting, this study investigated the perspectives of female, early-career administrators who recently experienced the transition from teacher to administrator. The purpose of the study was to describe and explain selected female leaders' perspectives on the transition from teacher to school administrator. My exploratory questions that guided the study were:

1.What elements constitute the perspective of the participants?

2.What variables influence women's perspectives as they make the transition from teacher to administrator?

3.What barriers and challenges do women encounter as they move from teacher to administrator?

4.What variables contribute to resiliency and agency for female administrators?

The theoretical framework of this study was feminist phenomenology. Employing qualitative research methodology, this researcher conducted semi-structured interviews with five purposefully selected participants.

The interviews yielded several shared perspectives on the transition from teacher to administrator, including a focus on: work/life balance; unfreezing from the teaching role; refreezing into the administrative role; resiliency; mentorship; considerations of gender's effects on the transition. Essential elements of meaning that emerged from the early career administrator's data were: unpleasant surprises; a sink or swim induction; surviving and thriving in the new role. Implications for leadership preparation and induction were described. Although these five women developed adaptive behaviors and persevered in the role despite challenges, formal mentors and more purposefully designed induction programs would have benefitted them. They also would have benefitted from more integration of theory and practice during their preparation programs. The study contributed to development of a fuller phenomenological understanding of the perspectives of female, early career school leaders as they make the transition from teacher to administrator.