Effective Leaders Make Others Better

In both his words and his ministry, Tom Plitzuweit captures a foundational premise of leadership: “A big part of being a leader is to help those around me get better.” In all the leadership calls he has filled, he has devoted himself to making those around him better.

That’s why the MLC master’s program was the perfect fit for Tom. “I knew that the professors understood all the different facets of leading a WELS school. The courses were directly applicable to the ministry at St. Paul’s [Plymouth, Nebraska], so I greatly enjoyed sharing what I learned with our faculty, our board of education, and our parents. We would then work together to make our good school a great school! That helped us grow as an educational community committed to excellence and working together around a shared mission and vision.”

Working together . . . shared mission . . . getting better: You can hear the theme.

God saw fit to place Tom in leadership from the very beginning of his ministry. His assignment upon his graduation from MLC in 1997 was to St. Paul-Plymouth, Nebraska, as a principal. In his 18 years there, he served in many leadership capacities, all of them avenues for helping the teachers and schools around him “get better”: Nebraska District school counselor, superintendent of WELS schools in Nebraska, a member of the Nebraska LHS board of directors, and Nebraska District school coordinator.

In order to make these educational ministries more effective, he knew he needed first to make himself a more effective leader. He took a couple courses at the state university, but soon realized MLC’s graduate program would better fit his needs.

“When MLC offered online courses that would fit better into my schedule and have direct impact on my ministry, I decided to go that route. I knew that the professors and fellow graduate learners in my classes understood the gospel ministry. It was a great fit for me!”

Tom’s goals were to learn more about school law, current educational issues, effective supervision of instruction, and developing a positive school culture—not only to serve his own school, but also “serve as a resource for the other school leaders in our area.”

MLC’s program met those goals.

“The program definitely met my expectations,” he says. “The quality of instruction and the wide variety of course offerings were excellent! It was developed to help teachers and principals like me take giant steps to making a difference to our schools and ultimately the lives of those we are called to serve. I was blessed to enhance my leadership skills and apply teaching and leadership concepts at St. Paul’s and through the Nebraska District. For that I will always be thankful for the graduate program at MLC!”

In 2015, God brought Tom to the Commission for Lutheran Schools where, as associate director, he helps schools all over the synod get better. “I am privileged to regularly work with principals and teachers in the field regarding the gospel ministry in their specific setting. Often the phone calls, e-mails, and visits I get are from principals and teachers needing resources or personal assistance that could help strengthen their ministry.”

He also serves as executive director for WELS School Accreditation (WELSSA). In that capacity, he talks with school leaders about the accreditation process—the one he facilitated at St. Paul’s in Plymouth. “Taking the leadership courses through MLC helped our school successfully develop a comprehensive plan for overall school improvement. Being able to work with a team of quality educators who prioritized making each other better and ultimately making our school better is something special. After putting much of what was learned into practice, our school successfully went through an intensive self-study and was accredited as an exemplary school.”

He continues: “My goal through accreditation on the synod level is to help our beloved WELS schools provide quality assurance to all their stakeholders (students, parents, congregations, communities, etc.). It is a blessing to see more and more of our schools taking a good, hard look at their ministry and seeking ways to improve.”

As an MS-Ed graduate and a synod leader, Tom encourages all teachers and principals to keep learning and growing—and a great way to do that is through MLC’s graduate program. “Sharing knowledge with fellow teachers and principals who understand WELS ministry is a blessing that sets MLC’s graduate program apart from all the others.”

“My MLC experience,” he concludes, “has truly been a blessing—both while I was a school principal and district leader, and certainly in my current call at CLS. I am thankful for all the ways MLC has helped me focus on effective ministry practice, encouraging me as I serve my Lord and my fellow brothers and sisters in the ministry.”

Meet Tom Plitzuweit

Family: He and his wife, Beth (nee Schroer), have four daughters: Madelyn (14), Grace (12), Kayla (10), and Elise (6).

Church: They belong to St. Matthew-Oconomowoc WI. “Like St. Paul-Plymouth NE, our new congregation places high value on Christian education, and we are extremely thankful for the many dedicated teachers we now entrust our own children to!”

Hobbies: Watching Nebraska sports with his wife and children, following the Packers, and being outside—hunting, fishing, hiking.

Closing Thought: “As we serve, our personal philosophies will show themselves, and these philosophies can have powerful influence on those to whom and with whom we serve. As a called leader in my congregation, my words, actions, and philosophy carried weight with the membership. Through the coursework at MLC, I was reminded of the importance of letting God’s light shine through me in all I say and do in leading our school.”

Written by Laurie Gauger

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