Dr. Saundra Russell-Smith
Elementary School Principal
Joliet Public Schools
Briefly describe your daily job duties.
I recently graduated with my doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and am currently an elementary school principal in Joliet, Illinois. I talk to students, teachers, parent, and community members all day in an effort to improve student achievement and engagement at Carl Sandburg School.
Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
I am quite good at being a covert stutterer. If I do stutter during an interview, I allow people to assume that it’s because I’m nervous even though I’m not.
Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
All of us are struggling with something deeply personal. Mine just happens to make its appearance when I open my mouth. After attending my first National Stuttering Association annual conference, I made a commitment to no longer be a covert stutterer. I’ve been open with my stuttering ever since.
What is your proudest moment at your current company?
I earned my doctorate degree at the end of my first year as a principal, which is typically the toughest year. My staff and students surprised me with a huge celebration, secretly inviting my whole family and my professors! My students made presentations and my staff presented me with a picture of the entire staff and student body! It was amazing!
What are your long-term career aspirations?
I want to continue to work as an educational leader, preferably as an education professor working with new teachers, specializing in trauma informed classrooms.
What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
Be yourself. I used to think that my stutter was a curse, something to hide from everyone, including myself. I have since realized that my stutter is my greatest gift. It’s one of the things that makes me uniquely qualified to do what I do and that is to inspire children, educators, and families to do the impossible, whatever it may be for them. Some days, I feel I’ve done the impossible for myself.