National PTA’s new president, Leslie Boggs, has a welcoming smile, a firm handshake and often quietly listens before she speaks. But when she does speak, her words are decisive—backed by a deep knowledge of the association’s potential and infused with a bright and infectious belief in PTA’s mission.
As a mother of three and a grandmother of four, Leslie is a dedicated and passionate advocate for children and their right to receive a high-quality public education no matter their demographics, ethnicity or household income.
Leslie makes you feel like you can achieve whatever you set your mind to, as well she should. With over 20 years of leadership experience at all levels of PTA—including serving as president in New Mexico and Texas—not to mention certifications in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, as well as DISC Theory (a behavior assessment tool meant to improve relationships in the workplace), Leslie is an expert in leadership development. We sat down with her to discuss what it means to be part of PTA today.
What does PTA mean to you?
PTA is a family. We are a group of dedicated volunteers who work every day for the children and families of our nation.
We believe in our nation’s future—our children. We believe that our public schools are the key to that future—and that they need to be fully funded. And, we believe that if we engage and empower our families and volunteer leaders to give our children the best education, access to mental health services and protection from gun violence, we will bring about change and ensure our nation’s success.
What are the characteristics of an effective PTA leader?
1. A great attitude. Your attitude about life, work and leadership is your choice. I can teach you skills, but I cannot teach you how to have a great attitude. Attitude, a positive attitude, is essential to any leader’s success.
2. Communication skills. It isn’t always about speaking. Leading is more about listening and choosing your words carefully. Your words will either lift up those around you or tear them apart. Great leaders always know timing is everything.
3. Humility. You can always tell a true leader from someone who is only in a position because of the title. A true leader doesn’t care who gets the credit. For a true leader, it’s more about the success of the team and the association they lead.
4. A customer-service mindset. Remember that PTA is all about relationships. We are in the people business! Focusing your efforts on customer service and support will go far in creating your PTA’s success.
What do you wish more people knew about PTA?
PTA is the best way for every school campus, administrator, teacher and student to achieve success. As I have traveled across this nation, I have consistently seen one strong message at every successful school campus— they have an active PTA, with great parent and family engagement, and strong support and engagement with their principal and teachers.
Because of all these factors, students at these schools were highly successful, the campuses achieved the goals set by the school district and the parents were thrilled, engaged and highly supportive of their teachers and staff. PTA is all about teamwork, with parents and administrators working together for the best outcomes for student success.
Key discoveries you’ve made in your years as a volunteer leader?
The most important discovery is that every member’s voice counts when we are advocating for our students and families, whether it is with your principal, school board, legislators or member of Congress. Your voice makes a huge difference! Emailing, picking up the phone, making those in-person asks truly sets our association apart from other parent groups.
One other discovery is the power of working on your leadership skills. Nothing will make you become more successful more quickly than working on becoming a great leader. Knowing rules and regulations is great, but only when you know how to effectively engage those around you can you help them understand why those rules and regulations are necessary for their success.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
To remember it’s not about me. It’s about the children and families we serve. Take a look around the next time you are at your school’s campus. The smiles you will receive are worth far more than any paycheck you will ever cash. Those children are our children. They are our future—Our nation’s future. Our association was founded for them. We are PTA.
Corinne Canning is the associate manager of editorial and marketing for National PTA.