Building relationships, one practice at a time

By Antonia Issa Lahera and Kendall Zoller
February 2022
As leadership coaches, our work in schools has taken us to many places over many years. We have worked with some of the most marginalized groups of students and some of the most privileged. As we have pursued a path of equity for all students, teachers, families, and communities, we have developed a framework to develop, nurture, and grow collaborative relationships. We call it HeartSpace (Lahera & Zoller, 2021). There is ample evidence that the quality of relationships has a major impact on how much learning will occur in any school setting. But, in our experience, most schools do not spend enough time on cultivating relationships in a way that is deep, meaningful, or sustained. Our approach addresses that gap by focusing on a deepening of

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Foundational principles of HeartSpace practices

  1. Service: Give to others, especially those in need.
  2. Relational living: Be mindful of ourselves and others to build healthy, sustainable connections, communities, workplaces, and cultures.
  3. Responsibility: Take ownership of our actions and those of our communities and cultures.
  4. Hope: Expect and work toward positive outcomes.
  5. Persistence: Learn from setbacks; reflect and reiterate.
  6. Gratefulness: Feel and show kindness and thankfulness.
  7. Curiosity: Approach the world with wonder and discover its delights.
  8. Vulnerability: Share authentically and connect meaningfully.
  9. Humility: Be open to learning from anyone.
  10. Creativity: Express yourself!
  11. Joy: Have fun!


Banks, J. (2006).Race, culture, and education. Routledge.

Banks, J. (2015). Cultural diversity and education (6th ed.). Routledge.

Block, P. (2018). Community: The structure of belonging. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Bolman, L.G. & Deal, T. (2017). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. Jossey-Bass.

Duncan-Andrade, J. & Morell, E. (2008). The art of critical pedagogy: Possibilities for moving from theory to practice in urban schools. Peter Lang Publishing.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniversary ed). Bloomsbury.

Heifetz, R.A., Linsky, M., & Grashow, A. (2009). The practice of adaptive leadership: Tools and tactics for changing your organization and the world. Harvard Business School Publishing.

Lahera, A.I. & Zoller, K. (2021). HeartSpace: Practices and rituals to awaken, emerge, evolve, and flourish at work and in life. Word & Deed Publishing.

Image for aesthetic effect only - Antonia-issa-lahera-2-scaled

Antonia Issa Lahera ( is an emeritus professor and independent consultant.

Image for aesthetic effect only - Kendall-zoller-150x187-1

Kendall Zoller ( provides professional development in presentation and facilitation skills, leadership, and communicative intelligence.

The Learning Professional

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