PMP306: Courageous Leadership with Sapna Hopkins

This week, Will interviews Principal Sapna Hopkins. Listen to the entire show for her inspiring personal story and journey in education. Plus, learn ways she is engaging her new school community that can motivate any school leader with ideas for connecting your story with your core values and school mission.

Sapna Hopkins is the principal of Tilden Middle School in Rockville, Maryland. She is originally from India.  After graduating with a Master’s Degree in Physics, she began teaching at a secondary school in India.  About 22 years ago, she emigrated to the United States of America and stayed home to raise her two sons. She resumed teaching with Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) in Maryland as a high school math teacher.  After 3 years, Sapna joined the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) system as a high school teacher where she served for twelve years in various roles, from a math teacher to math resource teacher to assistant school administrator (ASA).  Since then, she has been an assistant principal for four years and a principal intern before becoming a principal at Tilden Middle School in MCPS. She belongs to a family of three generations of teachers; her mother was a fine arts and language teacher in India and here son is a math teacher at a middle school in MCPS.

Q & A with Sapna Hopkins

1. How has your background and journey influenced your education philosophy and practice?

You cannot equip students with all the technical knowledge they will need, but you can give them the problem solving skills necessary to accomplish anything.

2. What lessons have you learned from your journey in education that may be helpful for those new to education leadership?

Adaptability: It is my responsibility to take initiative, not forgetting about my identity and roots, but knowing my current environment and where I can add value. Everything else is outside of your control.

3. What hurdles or challenges have you overcome in your education journey that provide you perspective for the road ahead in school leadership?

I have had to learn to shift my mindset – recognizing I must earn the respect of students through building relationships. I have also stayed committed to growing in digital leadership and seeking challenges that will help me grow.

4. How has Principal Matters influenced or supported you personally and in your service as a school leader?

No one else has your story. When I learned to leverage the power of my story through my work with Principal Matters coaching, I began to be able to build the bridge with others where they could entrust me with more responsibility.

5. What are you most excited about as you start a new school year? What are some practices you are employing to engage your teachers, students and community?

With a diverse school community and a district committed to reaching every student, I feel it is important that I build trust, take school outside the building and ensure well-being, excellence and first-class customer service to my school community. This means I will lead from my core values, be data-driven in accountability and results, and build on digital leadership through celebrating student learning in newsletters, social media and our school website.

Now It’s Your Turn

You can find out more about Tilden Middle School on our website, or reach out to me by email: or via Twitter @PrincipalTilden.

Interested in connecting with Will for executive coaching? Email him at

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker