Date of Award

Winter 1-15-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Marion Nesbit

Second Advisor

Dr. Susan Rauchwerk

Third Advisor

Dr. Courtney Cole


Abstract This study focused on the narratives of three national leaders in the field of Education for Sustainability (EfS) for the purpose of illuminating pathways to leadership in PreK-12 EfS for educators and school leaders. Stanger’s (2011) eco-sociological model of human development and learning was used as a framework for examining contextual influencers of participants’ formative experiences associated with family of origin, land/places where they grew up, and education as well as pivotal experiences that informed their Prek-12 EfS leadership development. Five themes related to sustainability also served as core concepts throughout this study: positionality, spirituality, social justice, equity, and sustainability. Based on the belief that PreK- 12 educators and school leaders would be inspired by key EfS leaders’ experiences, narrative analysis (NA) was selected as the method of inquiry given the power of story to inform, motivate, and encourage others, in this case educators, to reflect on the possibilities of their leadership in EfS. The findings revealed that the participants’ stories reinforced EfS leadership literature (e.g., Capra, 1997; Cirillo & Hoyler, 2015) on the importance of context, collaboration, and community. Additionally, each of the participants valued making a personal commitment to sustainability, developing a schoolwide community to foster sustainability, and envisioning a future orientation that features personal tenacity and long-term planning to support strategic EfS implementation (Duffin, 2006). Other findings indicated the importance of eco-sociological contextual influences associated with formative experiences, people beyond family (professional colleagues, EfS thought leaders, and students of all ages), and pivotal experiences and events in their leadership development. All participants shared connections to farms associated with food production at different times of their lives. They also emphasized strong commitment to social justice and concerns regarding equity in EfS access and implementation. Two main implications of this study suggest that EfS leadership is accessible by unique and diverse pathways and that leadership prospects’ engagement in experiential learning in the human and natural world of the local community and wider contexts beyond is invaluable in building knowledge and creating relationships of commitment to sustainability.


This dissertation contains errors in the participants' stories in Chapter Four as a result of edits to the manuscript made without the knowledge or consent of the researcher. Contact Alice Altfillisch Earle ( in writing to request approval before citing any material in Chapter Four.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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