Shaheer Faltas on 5th grade field trip to Catalina
Mr. Faltas launched his career as a teacher in south-central Los Angeles, where he taught English Language Arts and Social Studies. Mr. Faltas subsequently taught extensively at the secondary and university levels in Monterey County. As a standout teacher, Mr. Faltas gradually moved into a variety of school leadership roles to broaden his impact on children; eventually becoming a full-time School Administrator in 2002. Mr. Faltas possesses a California Teaching Credential with an emphasis on differentiated instruction and English language fluency. He also holds a Master’s Degree and California Administrative License from CSU, San Jose and the Orange County Department of Education. Mr. Faltas has also completed his Waldorf Teaching Certificate and Master’s Degree from Rudolph Steiner College. Before coming to Journey, Mr. Faltas led traditional schools, co-founded a private college preparatory high school, and launched a Waldorf public charter school in Hawaii—where he also researched best leadership practices for Franklin-Covey.
Q & A with Shaheer
What do you like to do outside of school?
It’s a toss-up between defeating my wife in chess, playing catch with my daughter, and taking my dog for early morning walks along the beach.
What do you love most about Journey?
The students because they are so creative, bright, and compassionate! I’m the luckiest guy in the world.
What is the most important thing you do?
Putting the best team of educators imaginable in front of the students and doing everything possible to support, equip, and inspire them to teach the students in powerful ways.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The average school leader makes about 5 decisions per minute. Things move real fast and come from many directions. So, you have to be clear on what matters most and remain focused on these goals so you don’t get distracted.
It really helped that we identified 7 researched-based priorities, or Big Rocks, as soon as we arrived at Journey three years ago. Like a compass, these Big Rocks have pointed us toward successful outcomes. They are:
1. Establish a safe and inspiring learning environment
2. Set challenging learning goals, assess progress, and provide student support
3. Adhere to Journey’s mission, core values, and key beliefs
4. Grow and leverage school resources
5. Hire, retain, and support superb educators
6. Establish effective partnerships and communication
7. Ensure effective governance
What is the favorite part of your job?
My favorite moments definitely come when I’m in the classrooms watching the students learn or when I’m out on the yard seeing them interact. It is inspiring to witness how Waldorf education transforms them from the inside out. The paperwork, emails, and phone calls can wait; what can’t wait is student personal and academic success. That’s why I resolve each day to avoid the office for big chunks of time so I can actually focus on learning and teaching. Ultimately, that’s what makes the biggest difference for students as well as my own personal satisfaction.
What keeps you up at night these days as a school leader?
Journey’s mission is to bring public Waldorf education to children who otherwise would not have access to it. What we do is profoundly important. Yet, our greatest challenge right now is maintaining all the progress we’ve achieved in recent years in such dismal economic times. The current budgetary situation is flat-out brutal. To be honest, I now regularly wake up in the early morning asking, “Whom must I lay off in the coming days? How will this affect the students’ education? Which specialty classes must be cut? How much more work can the Main Class Teachers handle? How large must class sizes climb? How many furlough days will we implement? How will this affect learning and staff retention? And, how can I best lead the community through this crisis so that the burden is fairly shared and our ties ultimately strengthened as we pass through the challenge together?
What gives you hope for Journey’s future in spite of these challenges?
The educational landscape all around us is rapidly changing. Traditional education is finally shifting back in our direction. Folks finally get that creativity, imagination, project-based learning, the arts, innovation, enduring relationships, tradition, community, and all the other distinguishing features which set Journey apart are what children, families, and communities need. I’m proud that the Journey community had the strength and resolve to stand by its principles for so long. And, I now see that the tides have turned. Our time has arrived.