PMP350: T.E.A.M: Together Everyone Achieves More with Bryan Miltenberg & Gary Karlson

Bryan Miltenberg is the proud principal of Aquebogue Elementary School in Riverhead, New York. He’s been a teacher, dean, and middle school assistant principal, and has presented and published on topics including school climate and culture, instructional technology, self-aware leadership, inclusivity, time management, and co-teaching partnerships. Against all logic, he remains a suffering lifelong Mets and Jets fan. Before he was an educator, Bryan was a musician who plays guitar, drums and sings.

Gary Karlson is an elementary administrator after nearly twenty years as a teacher. He usually follows that information with a “Dad joke” that he was a good teacher for at least a few of them.  He lives on eastern Long Island with his ultra supportive wife and two sons. As Assistant Principal at Aquebogue Elementary School, he and Bryan lead an amazing staff dedicated to serving grades K-4 with the motto of T.E.A.M: Together Everyone Achieves More. A fun fact about Gary is that he spent 15 years bartending and believes it has made him a better listener.

Listen-in to the entire conversation for great takeaways. Here are a few highlights:

What are some outcomes from your school for which you’re most proud of?

  • Some areas of pride include the Sib Shop group that helps siblings of students with special needs to find support, information and guidance.
  • Aquebogue serves approximately 50% of students as second language learners. They have been able to hire a bilingual greeter. Integration of language into signage, announcements and messaging with families is also important.

Can you tell us more about your motto T.E.A.M: Together Everyone Achieves More and how it has influenced the service to students at your school? The Principal and Assistant Principal relationship is a unique one. How have you two personally and professionally benefited from your shared leadership experience?

  • Gary and Bryan first met when interviewing for the same principal opening at the school where Gary was teaching at Aquebogue Elementary School. After Bryan was hired as principal, he later had an opening for Assistant Principal and reached back to Gary who took on the new role. Principals should ‘hire their opposites’ as Bryan explains. 
  • Gary adds that principals must also trust the leadership aspirations of their AP’s. Bryan often tells him that developing the leadership capacity in Gary is one of his number one priorities. 
  • Teamwork for them means empowering others, not controlling others.

What are your transitions in leadership stories and lessons from those experiences?

  • Bryan shares that principals need to be super-students of learning about their school community. Avoid ‘skin graph or organ transplant’ leadership. 
  • Gary notes that a move into leadership must be one that helps you be happy and fulfilled. It must be motivated by the benevolent and good intention of helping every stakeholder in your school community.

How can listeners connect with you and any parting words of advice?

You can find Bryan on Twitter via @BryanMiltenberg and Gary by email: or Twitter via @gkarlsonjr

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker