Patricia Russell: Leading in Chattanooga

Leadership Chattanooga is a 10-month leadership development program that allows local professionals opportunities to learn more about and engage with the community where they live and work. Leadership Chattanooga has been a launching pad for the careers and civic impact of some of Chattanooga’s most prominent professionals. We’re here to share their stories and catch up on what’s happened since they completed the program. 

This month, Patricia Russell, Director of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and K-12 School Counseling for Hamilton County Schools, shares insights about education and more.

Trend: When did you graduate from Leadership Chattanooga?

Russell: I’m a proud graduate of the class of 2015 – best class ever.

Trend: Tell us a about yourself. What do you do (for work and for fun)?

Russell: I'm the Director of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and K-12 School Counseling for Hamilton County Schools. In my current role, I provide training, leadership and support to K-12 counselors, as well as implement an effective framework for positive behavior support. I also work closely with the district executive leadership team to ensure social-emotional learning (SEL) and post-secondary goals are effectively executed.

For fun, I enjoy arts, live music, reading, running and traveling internationally. Oh, and let's not forget my annual beach trip(s) that helps me recharge! In addition to my paid job, I enjoy volunteering and serving my community. On an average day, outside of work, you can find me with friends, family or taking a mental break while listening to good music. I believe sometimes the simple things in life are free.

Trend: Name one way you have impacted the education community.

Russell: Curriculum and instruction are my foundational training. I am a certified teacher, counselor and administrator who firmly believes in educating the whole child. I have the pleasure of sharing my educational perceptive through my service on boards to gain necessary supports for families, students and teachers. I’ve also written an SEL curriculum, entitled The Leadership Experience, that’s being used in schools to help students to develop their leadership, work and social skills.

Trend: What drew you to the Leadership Chattanooga program when you applied?

Russell: In 2013, our school accepted an opportunity to collaborate with a Leadership Chattanooga project group. This group dedicated limitless hours toward the inaugural Student Leadership class. Due to the relationships built with our project group and the level of understanding I had of the program, I moved forward with the application process.

Trend: How has Leadership Chattanooga impacted your career?

Russell: Leadership Chattanooga has allowed me to build a network of friends and professionals who believe in getting work done with excellence, integrity and purpose. The insights I gained through the monthly sessions helped me understand the various improvement gaps, as well as successes of our city. I also increased my awareness and ability to hone my strengths and align them to volunteer services for greater success.

Trend: What practices (personally or professionally) help you achieve success?


  • Live with integrity and purpose.
  • Be authentic, consistent and confident.
  • Every day is a good day to learn something new.
  • Have faith that all things will work together for good.
  • Take smart risks.
  • Love and serve people.
  • Invest in God and family.
  • Add value to your work and play.

Trend: What advice would you give someone who is looking for ways to become more connected to the community?

Russell: There are multiple opportunities to connect in Chattanooga. Join a group of interest (Leadership Chattanooga). Social media (Facebook, Twitter etc. …) is a great resource for upcoming events and connecting with current groups. Local magazines published by the Times Free Press (Get Out: Chattanooga, Edge and Chatter) are also great resources. Lastly, just ask a friend or colleague, or go to the downtown area.

Learn more about Leadership Chattanooga here. 

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