An Inquiry into the Impact of Stress on New School Leaders within a Unique Mentorship Experience


  • Jodie Rommel Thompson Valley School District
  • Donna Cooner Colorado State University



New school leaders, Stress, Mentorship


This study aimed to identify the sources of stress new school leaders encounter that may influence their mental health. This study used semi-structured focus groups to elicit thick, rich descriptions of participants’ experiences. The extensive data sets were collected over two years from 16 focus group interviews conducted during Colorado State University School Leadership Institute retreats. Narrative analysis of participants’ responses provided findings on the stress they experienced, including fear of failure or insecurity, pressure to perform, isolation, work-life balance, time constraints, and compassion fatigue. The participants identified that this unique mentorship opportunity allowed for self-reflection, self-care, and reconnecting with their purpose; furthermore, participants shared that the School Leadership Institute offered support and connectedness in a safe, non-evaluative environment. They shared the importance of strong building-level team support, the cathartic nature of the focus group interviews, and the positive progression from year to year in their roles.

Author Biographies

Jodie Rommel, Thompson Valley School District

Jodie Rommel has worked in the field of education for over twenty-five years. She is currently an Exceptional Student Services Coordinator in Thompson School District in Loveland, Colorado. Prior to working in this role, Ms. Rommel served as the Director of Special Education for a large Pre-K through 12th grade international school in South America, working in Northern California for ten years as an Elementary School Principal and as a Student Support Services Coordinator for an American Indian School, and teaching general education and special education in the pre-school, elementary school and middle school levels.  She also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa.  Her professional passions lie in teaching teachers, productive professional learning communities, co-teaching, research-based reading interventions, culturally responsive curriculum, Growth Mindset, and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports.

Donna Cooner, Colorado State University

Dr. Donna Cooner currently serves as a professor of education at Colorado State University.  She teaches and advises in the principal preparation Master of Education program and supervises doctoral students in educational leadership.  Prior to her full time return to School of Education faculty in 2015, Dr. Cooner was the director of the teacher preparation program at Colorado State University for nine years.  During her administrative career in educator preparation, Dr. Cooner served as a national Commissioner for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and as an invited panelist for the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC).  Her research agenda is focused on teacher and principal preparation for PK-12 schools.




How to Cite

Rommel, J., & Cooner, D. (2020). An Inquiry into the Impact of Stress on New School Leaders within a Unique Mentorship Experience. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 16(17).