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Q&A: TD Bank Presents, How Strawberry Mansion Principal Linda Cliatt-Wayman Stays Driven, Inspired

Photo by: Matt Hollerbush

In celebration of Philadelphia magazine’s 11th Annual Trailblazer Award and with the aid of TD Bank, we’re recognizing the most accomplished, extraordinary women in Philadelphia. Here, we pick the brains of the city’s best. And this week, veteran teacher (she spent 20 years in the classroom!), current Strawberry Mansion High School principal, and 2014 Trailblazer award winner Linda Cliatt-Wayman shares her 15-minute trick to unwind, why she wakes up at 4:30am and her biggest career risk — and subsequent reward.

After successfully holding several positions in the Philadelphia education system (including assistant superintendent, principal at Rhodes High School and currently, principal at Strawberry Mansion High School), what advice do you have about making strategic changes within your career?

My first thought was simply to take the job that feels right, a job that you can live with and a job that you enjoy. That’s what happened with this one. Whenever you take a job that serves others, you will always gain personal rewards.

What has been the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?

Leaving the classroom was the biggest risk that I took because I really enjoy classroom teaching. For so many years, I said “no.” I said “no” plenty of times. When someone finally convinced me to take a new teacher coach position outside of the classroom. It was biggest decision I had made because I really enjoyed the classroom, but once I got out of the classroom, I learned that I enjoyed that, too.

What’s your one must-have app?

I actually showed this to my daughter and coworkers because I still have a flip phone! But if I did have a smart phone, I would use the fitness-tracking calorie-counting apps.

Being responsible for 450 students and 95 employees, what are your best tips and tricks for prioritizing and staying organized?

The only one that I have is to get up early, create plenty of lists and put them in order of importance. It’s what I do every day. I get up at 4:30 in the morning, start prioritizing my lists and begin to think of things I need to do within the school like observe my teachers and then, I go to the gym at 5am.

Who has been the most influential woman in your life?

My mother. She is no longer alive, but her name is Mona Cliatt and she was the best person I ever met in my life. She was always positive and always served people. She was a great person. My mother always believed that if you had one dollar, you could give somebody fifty cents. She believed you’re always supposed to do something for other people. We were poor as the next person, but if my mom had a little bit of something, she gave the neighbor a little bit of what she had.

What budgeting and money management tips would are important for your students to know upon graduation?

I’d like students to know the impact of what students loans will have on their lives. It’s critical for me that students understand that whatever money they take out for post-high-school education, they’re going to have to really understand what that means because it will impact their lives forever. We talk to them about this when they’re deciding where to go to college so they understand how much money they really will be borrowing.

Favorite way to unwind?

After I get up at 4:30am and exercise, I sit in the sauna for fifteen minutes and I pray [about my teachers, about my school] — every single morning. That’s it; that’s the only time I get to unwind. [In the sauna,] I’m always alone, it’s quiet and it feels great after exercising. When I leave, I really feel like I can take on the day.

What’s been the most pivotal moment in your career?

Coming to Strawberry Mansion. It has opened so many new doors for me. Specifically, I spoke at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women. In fact, I wouldn’t have known that I’m an okay speaker! It wouldn’t have gone this way [without Dateline].

How do you keep fiscally fit?

I have a daughter in college and I have a daughter that goes to private school and all I can tell you is that I continue to keep working. For every opportunity that comes my way to make extra income, I give it my best shot. And if you need to make extra money, consider using your gifts and talents. It allows you to work with your gifts and makes you happier at work.

To learn how to jumpstart your savings and reach your financial goals, visit TD Bank, here.