Show notes & links available here.

In this episode, I’m speaking with Niki Spears, the co-founder of the Energy Bus for Schools Leadership Journey. She started this organization to bring the positive messages of Jon Gordon’s book, The Energy Bus, to schools everywhere. Niki has spent over 15 years working in education. Once an elementary school principal, she now works full time as a teacher educator and change leader.

Big Ideas

  • Educators have the power to transform the culture of their schools and create an environment kids love with amazing, positive energy.
  • Research clearly shows that culture and leadership greatly influence a school’s learning environment and students’ academic success.
  • Bringing the principles from The Energy Bus to life in schools has helped transform the culture in classrooms around the country.
  • A key principle taught is that you’re the driver of your bus. Your attitude will help you to control the outcome.
  • Giving students the opportunity to understand the power of choice is important. Start early by offering them options so they get to practice making decisions.
  • People can learn to choose their responses in difficult situations.
  • Ask kids to think about what brings them joy or write down what they are grateful for so that they learn ways to overcome negative thinking.
  • Parents and educators can read The Energy Bus for Kids with their children. It’s a story about the importance of positivity and transforming your mindset.
  • It is helpful for parents to share with their children how they stay positive at home and at work and model positivity.
  • Positive school climates are linked to increased high school graduation rates, turnarounds in low-performing schools, reduced school violence, and increased communication among students, families, and faculty.
  • The Energy Bus program is now in over 150 schools across the country–and growing!

Audrey & Niki at The Energy Bus training, 2017.

the energy bus


Niki: “The positivity is truly contagious. What you focus on, you get more of, so when you focus on the positive, more of that flows into your life.”

Niki: “You’re responsible for your own happiness and no one else is going to make you happy.”

Niki: “Our teachers have to understand that they are the leaders of their lives. A lot of times, teachers feel as if they are the victims. That’s how society makes us feel sometimes. I want teachers to understand and remember that this was their choice to become an educator.”

Audrey: “What’s amazing about your whole program–and the whole book–is that it trickles down. You’re teaching the teachers this concept and once they’ve taken it in, they’re passing it along to the kids.”

Audrey: “I love that this training is not just some kind of esoteric concept for teachers, but it’s so immediately applicable at the school.”

Niki: “If we want to see magic take place in the classroom, we need to address the elephant in the room, which is adult behavior.”

Niki: “I know our jobs are challenging, but if we have a positive attitude going in, then that positivity will definitely trickle down to our students who need us to be present for them.”

Audrey: “Teachers need this training because you can’t just depend on a school administrator to solve an issue that’s about a culture.”

Niki: “We can’t control the events, but we can control our response to the things that happen to us.”

Niki: “If they take that time to pause and think about their choices, they are becoming empowered and they’re sitting in the driver’s seat now, as well.”

Niki: “It’s not all about one person being in control, but it’s about empowering people to understand that they are in charge of their thoughts, actions, and results.”

Niki: “At one of our schools in Texas, when we walked in they were playing music, the kids were greeting each other in the hallways, they’re dancing, and you could tell the staff loved being there. It was a fun place to be that day. Every school should have this kind of energy.”

Our Trainers

Niki: “You do have a choice about how you look at a situation and about whether or not you’re going to adopt a belief.”

Niki: “When we conduct training, people come up with their own strategies. They collaborate. We teach them the principles and they decide how to teach that principle to their students. It’s amazing what happens when you empower people to do that.”

Niki: “If you’re not in the driver’s seat, nothing is going to happen. I talk a lot about taking 100% responsibility. There’s so much power in taking responsibility. When we blame and complain, the only thing we are doing is keeping up the drama. Your bus is stuck in the mud.”

Niki: “Love your passengers. In schools, we talk a lot about bullying and what happens when we have anti-bullying campaigns is more incidents of bullying because you just reinforced bullying. So if we reinforce kindness and love in our schools, we see more of that.”

Audrey: “When you tell kids what not to do, all they hear sometimes is what’s at the end of the sentence. So instead of, ‘No diving’ we say, ‘Jump in feet first.'”

Audrey: “I think so often adults don’t really treat kids with the respect they deserve. They’re people, they’re humans with feelings and thoughts. And if they’re not behaving appropriately, we need to get curious about why that is happening. It might be because they’re not feeling loved and respected where they are.”

Niki: “Each person comes into a building with their own personal culture. And so it’s up to us to talk about what we share, what we have in common. It’s important to talk about our mission, our vision, and to share that with students so that they can align their behaviors with where we want to go.”

Audrey: “It’s the power you have if you’re the teacher, if you’re the adult in the classroom, in the cabin group. If you’re the adult, you have a tremendous ability to create this amazing positive culture for your students, your campers.”

Niki: “Every teacher needs a lot of tools in their toolkit. They have to see themselves as ‘edutainers’ because you have to engage kids to keep their attention.”

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Join the Journey!



The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, Jon Gordon

Hop on The Energy Bus!

Ep. 58: Authentic Teaching with Jackie Beyer 

The Power of Positive Words

10 Fun Ways Teachers Can Help Kids Connect with Other Kids

Happiness Habits

More pics from Niki’s visit to camp in 2017: