Bill Sommers

WilliamASommersWho is Bill?

William A. Sommers, Ph.D. of Austin, Texas, is currently the middle school principal in Minnetonka, Minnesota. He has been a principal in Minneapolis Public Schools, executive director of teaching and learning, and has come out of retirement five times.

He has been a consultant for Cognitive Coaching, Adaptive Schools, Brain Research, Poverty, Conflict Management, and Classroom Management Strategies. He has been a senior fellow for the Urban Leadership Academy at the University of Minnesota. Bill also has served as an adjunct faculty member at Texas State University, Hamline University, University of St. Thomas, St. Mary’s University, Union Institute, and Capella University.

Bill was on the board of trustees for five years and was president of the National Staff Development Council (now called Learning Forward). He has been a presenter in pre-conferences and conference sessions for 13 consecutive years and continues to work as a senior consultant for Learning Forward. He currently is serving on the Learning Forward Foundation’s board of directors.

Bill has been a program director for an adolescent chemical dependency treatment center and has served on the board of a halfway house for 20 years.

Bill’s credentials

  • Ph.D., University of Minnesota
    • Major: Educational Policy and Administration
    • Minor: Industrial Relations
    • Dissertation: “Administrative Intervention in Teaching Strategies that Increase Student Achievement”
  • CCDP Metropolitan State University
    • Major: Certified Chemical Dependency Practitioner
  • Ed.S., St. Cloud State University
    • Major: General School Administration
  • M.A., College of St. Thomas
    • Major: Secondary School Administration
  • B.A., University of Northern Iowa
    • Major: Physics
    • Minor: Mathematics

Work history

  • Teacher, Grades 9–12
  • Principal, Urban and Suburban Schools
  • University Associate Professor
  • Director of School Administrator License Program
  • Co-Director of Urban Leadership Academy
  • Program Manager for Federal Education Laboratory


  • Living on a Tightrope: A Survival Handbook for Principals
  • Becoming a Successful Principal: How to Ride the Wave of Change Without Drowning
  • Reflective Practice to Improve Schools
  • A Trainer’s Companion
  • Energizing Staff Development Using Video Clips
  • Leading Professional Learning Communities
  • Guiding Professional Learning Communities
  • Principal’s Field Manual
  • Co-authored chapters in several other books.

Bill’s aha! moment

I met Ruby in 1995 at an educational conference. At a mixer we found commonality in Reuven Feuerstein’s work. I asked her to present at South High School where I was principal. When she said, “Stop excusing and stop scolding students,” I knew I could learn from her and facilitate learning in an urban school.

Bill’s passions?

I was ready to leave the school business in 1983. I heard Art Costa say he was not interested in how students behaved when they knew the answer to something. He was totally interested in how kids behave when they don’t know the answer to something. That is why I am still in education. How do teachers and administrators behave when they don’t know the answer to something? Aha! again.

Bill’s best training

I have seen the impact on staff and students when we start focusing on what we can do instead of what we can’t do. Training multiple staff members in poverty, thinking skills, and brain research has opened up possibilities, and the kids respond. Scores go up, the culture is more positive and focused on learning, and there is a reduction in blame and shame.

What does Bill do for fun?

He reads. I never read until I was 38 years old. Now I try to keep up with good learning and bad learning. I play with my grandson, feed the birds and squirrels in my backyard, and spend three weeks a year in Kauai, Hawaii, to rest and relax.

What are people saying about Bill?

“He is real. He has been there and dealt with the problems I am dealing with. It is nice to learn from a practitioner who is doing the things he talked about.”

“I like it that Bill shares what hasn’t worked as well as what has. We all know not everything is perfect.”

“I appreciate learning multiple ways to work with problems. The piece on conflict for our administrators was timely and valuable.”

“Very positive. Our staff came away with real strategies that will help students learn.”

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