Principal Linda Cliatt-Wayman

Linda Cliatt-Wayman is a passionate education advocate with an unwavering belief in the potential of all children. Her leadership as a high school principal in North Philadelphia has been featured by TED, ABC World News Tonight, and Nightline.

Cliatt-Wayman grew up in poverty in North Philadelphia, where she experienced firsthand the injustice perpetrated against poor students in their education. She has dedicated her career and her life to ending that injustice and helping students succeed in school and beyond.

Cliatt-Wayman earned her BA from Kutztown University, her MA from St. Joseph’s University, and honorary doctorates from Alvernia and St. Joseph’s University. She spent 20 years as a special education teacher before becoming principal of FitzSimons High School in 2003. Cliatt-Wayman led a turnaround of FitzSimons from a school known for low academic achievement and high levels of violence to a safe space focused on learning.

In 2005 she took over The Young Women’s Leadership School at Rhodes High School. Before she arrived, only 3% of students were proficient in math and 9% were proficient in reading. By holding students and staff to high expectations, providing intense professional development, building a strong leadership team, and always believing in and loving her students, Cliatt-Wayman led the growth of Rhodes so that the majority of students were proficient in math and reading and 94% of seniors were accepted into college.

Cliatt-Wayman spent two years as Assistant Superintendent of High Schools for the School District of Philadelphia, directly overseeing all of the district’s 52 high schools. But when the district decided to merge her two former schools, FitzSimons and Rhodes, with another North Philadelphia High School, Strawberry Mansion, Cliatt-Wayman knew she had to step in to lead the merged school as principal. At Strawberry Mansion, not far from the North Philadelphia neighborhood where she grew up, Cliatt-Wayman and her team once again worked to prove what is possible for low-income children.

Cliatt-Wayman’s powerful leadership and the success of her students have caused people to take notice. Out of over 8,000 nominees from around the world, she was named a Top 50 Finalist for the 2016 Global Teacher Prize and her many other awards and honors include the Partners for Civic Pride Maneto Award, the Philadelphia Magazine Trailblazer Award, the Mothers in Charge Award, the United States Deparatment of Justice Award, and the Delta Sigma Theta Torch Award.

Diane Sawyer and her team spent an entire school year documenting Cliatt-Wayman’s efforts, which were featured on both ABC World News Tonight and Nightline. Her May 2015 TED Talk has been viewed over a million times and been subtitled in 21 different languages. In August 2017, Cliatt-Wayman released a book, Lead Fearlessly, Love Hard: Finding Your Purpose and Putting it To Work, which chronicles her experiences and captures the leadership lessons she’s learned along the way.

After 32 years in public schools, Cliatt-Wayman “retired” in March 2017 to use her voice and skills to advocate for justice in education for children in poverty full-time. She is the founder and Principal/CEO of CurrentlyTrending, a nonprofit that helps students escape poverty by providing them with direct coaching, resources, and support to graduate high school and lead a life of purpose. She regularly keynotes events ranging from education to business leadership. Her speaking engagements include the TED Radio Hour on NPR, the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, the Raytheon Leadership Conference, the Dallas Bar Association, Vistage, Solver, Inc., the Governor John Engler Center for Charter Schools, the New Teacher Center, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), and the Society of Professional Women, to name a few.