No invisible students: A leader in education teaches us the importance of acknowledging and celebrating kids every day.
Bio for Nicholas Wahl
Dr. Nicholas D. Wahl, Ed.D. is Director of Client Relations for ECRA Group and Founder/Chief Strategist of 1440 Consultants Inc. He is a K-12 education leader who spent over two decades at the helm of prominent school districts in the Midwestern United States. During his time as a Superintendent (16 years), Dr. Wahl served public school systems with over 2,000 employees, 15,000+ students and annual budgets eclipsing $100mm.
Dr. Wahl’s leadership practice is grounded in building teams and coaching future leaders with the goal of ensuring there are no invisible students. He’s taken this philosophy and mission to his work with ECRA Group, a premier research and analytics consulting firm that helps educational leaders improve student outcomes by adopting more evidence-based practices. Nicholas is a father of 4 adults and provides care for his parents, ages 91 and 90.
Nicholas Wahl is a leader in education with a depth of experience in his arsenal. Listen in on how he believes education should be designed to ensure that there are no invisible children.
- “Like all of us, kids really want to have a connected, meaningful relationship with at least one person, preferably two, in the school building.”
- “When you make the right decision, you can lay your head on the pillow at night and sleep well because you know you did.”
Nicholas was the youngest of 6 children growing up in a small town, Ferdinand, in Southern Indiana. His role model was his father, who was a high school principal for 25 years. Nicholas was ostracized by his peer group in middle school, which changed how he thought of peers, and that understanding carried forward into his work in education.
Nicholas’ high school counsellor told him that he was not as intelligent as his siblings who had gone to the same school and that he should stick to his summer construction job instead of going to college. That motivated him to finish grad school and get his doctorate. “I’m sure that was one of many driving forces for me to not let that marginalize who I am”, he recalls.
Nicholas grew up in Ferdinand, Indiana, a town of 2500 people, predominantly German Catholic. He learned a strong work ethic and is proud of his roots. ”You can take the boy out of Southern Indiana but you can’t take Southern Indiana out of the boy”, he quips.
He wanted to model and follow his siblings in their footsteps, playing sports and going to the same high school. He also learns from his children now, and his father continues to be the person he looks up to.
Attending Indiana University opened his eyes to the bigger world, teaching him to appreciate and not judge differences. Working blue-collar summer jobs made him appreciate all those who work to build society.
In his career as a superintendent, he worked with his peers to create evidence-based practice and metrics, focussing on the growth and wellness of students. He was encouraged to express his creative vision in his work by his colleagues.
Temperament and Personality Influences
Nicholas laments that his temperament was so competitive that it was unhealthy. While it helped him excel, it made him lose focus on the essential things in life. He is learning to be a better listener in his position of influence at work. “I always looked at my role, even as a teacher, that I was a coach”, he notes.
Every Wednesday, Nicholas and his classmates would go to the nun’s house for an hour, and he only learned there are people who are not Catholics when he asked some students who chose not to go. Going to college helped him break free from the ritualistic, group-think community. Since retiring, he has learned to appreciate colleagues of other cultures and embrace their backgrounds.
Advice to an Employer
Nicholas provides school leaders with a safe space and a listening ear. He works with groups on team building and coaching to emerge out of the pandemic getting to know their peers better, interacting well, and making sure everyone is heard. He is influenced by Susan Cain’s theory on how schools should be more accommodating toward introverts.
More Great Insights!
Nicholas would love to have a conversation with any school leaders who want to appraise their classroom program to check how well it provides positive connections and equitable distribution of instruction. ECRA has analytical tools which can provide clarity on how students are performing by ethnicity and gender, and Nicholas can help provide a strategic plan for the next steps.
Nicholas Wahl grew up in a big family in a small town, and competed with his siblings throughout his childhood, only to grow up to become the most inclusive educator.