Indiana State University Newsroom

Professor travels world speaking to educators

July 7, 2010

Respect. Dignity. Those two words are words to live by, according to Todd Whitaker, professor of educational leadership, administration and foundations at Indiana State University.

"I expect everyone to treat everyone with respect and dignity," Whitaker said. "If you always treat people with respect and dignity, it goes a long way toward building relationships. They are universal things that apply in every situation."

Whitaker travels around the country and the world speaking to about 250,000 teachers, school administrators and other educators each year. His topics range from "Dealing with Difficult Teachers" to "Dealing with Difficult Parents" to "The Power of Positive Communication."

When speaking, Whitaker emphasizes "the importance of being effective every single day because the students deserve it."

"I help them understand the importance of what they do and doing it all the time," he said.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Missouri, Whitaker decided to attend law school. He soon learned that was not his passion.

"In law school, it was legal versus illegal," he said. "But I thought it should be right versus wrong."

After watching a friend's father teach and coach high school students and witnessing his impact on the students' lives, Whitaker decided he wanted to be a teacher. He taught for two years before moving into school administration for nine years. In that time, he worked with the educators at his school to create a better way to evaluate students and their progress. Teachers and administrators from other schools learned of what he was doing and asked him to speak at their schools.

"I got into education completely to make a difference," Whitaker said. "One of the reasons I speak is to try to make a difference to a broader group."

While Whitaker does not like traveling all the time, he enjoys speaking to a variety of audiences.

"Speaking is teaching, and I've always enjoyed teaching," he said. "As a principal, I taught my teachers. As a teacher, I taught my students."

Now, as a professor, he teaches prospective and current school administrators. As a public speaker, he teaches larger audiences of educators.

"There's a huge difference between teaching and telling, and I try to make sure I'm always teaching," Whitaker said.

When Whitaker came to ISU as a professor in 1995, he began to write down his ideas and publish them. He has now written 23 books for educators, including three books and two study guides he co-wrote with his wife, Beth, a professor of elementary, early and special education at Indiana State. Many of his books have been translated into other languages.

In July, Whitaker's first book for a general audience, "The Ball," a story about how to regain focus when life isn't going as planned, will be released. He has finished writing another book for a general audience, "Shifting the Monkey," a story about shifting the workload to include everyone, including the hard workers and the slackers, to be released at a later date.

"I'm not a particularly good writer," he said. "I write like I talk, and I don't know if that is a blessing or a curse."

It's the ideas in the books that set them apart, he thinks.

"I thought everyone knew how to do the things I was doing, but they didn't," he said.


Todd Whitaker

Contact: Todd Whitaker, professor of educational leadership and administration foundations, Indiana State University, 812-237-2904 or

Writer: Lana Schrock, media relations assistant, Indiana State University, 812-237-3773 or