Diana Filo

(Penn State)

The Coach | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020

"Talk to yourself like your own best friend."

GET TO KNOW DIANA

By day, Diana Filo supports and coaches teachers to flourish in the world of education. By night, she leads a wellness movement for women through her online business. Check out Diana’s extended interview to learn all about how she got to where she is today.

EXTENDED INTERVIEW

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

I initially got into education when I was taking mental health at Penn State. In this class, I learned about the inequities in education between higher income and lower income schools. As I continued to work as a teacher, with teachers, as an admin and eventually as a founding principal, I continue to be as passionate about the potential of my students. That’s what keeps me going. I now work across all the schools in our region and there are kids that I knew in elementary school that are now freshman in high school. Knowing their families, seeing them grow and watching them turn into young adults is what continues to inspire me.

 

What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?

I struggle with chronic depression and anxiety. When I was first diagnosed, I felt as though it was a weakness. Now, I see that my mess as my message. I share my mental health journey weekly on my social media account and I have been so encouraged by the people who have told me that my story helped them get help. People have reached out to me to find a therapist. People have told me they were able to share their story because I shared mine. If anything, it helps me remember that not all illnesses are visible, and you never know someone else’s story. Enter every conversation with a grateful heart and an open mind.

 

Did someone help you get to where you are today, like a mentor?

First, I have to thank my parents. They prioritized education and sacrificed a lot to make sure I was able to go to a four-year college and beyond. I watched my mom get her four-year degree when I was in high school and college, which showed me she practiced what she preached. That is probably another reason I’m in education today. In addition, I have a ton of virtual mentors who don’t even know that they are my mentors. Thanks to social media, podcasts and the internet, I can learn from Brené Brown, Rachel Hollis, Oprah Winfrey and many others.

What do you love most about your job?

The kids. Period.

Early Bird or Night Owl

Cats or Dogs

Physical Book or Audiobook

Left Brain or Right Brain

Mountains or Beach

FAST FACTS

  • Boss Lady Icon
    Oprah Winfrey
     

  • Vacation Destination
    Sea Isle, New Jersey
     

  • Favorite Season
    Summer
     

  • Can't Live Without
    My Family
     

  • Favorite Color
    Penn State Blue

Describe yourself in three words.

Loyal, passionate and responsible.

 

Your life philosophy is…

Family first, family always.

 

What is the best piece of advice you received?

Talk to yourself like you would your own best friend. This helped me to tackle the negative thoughts that can run through my brain. I would never let my friends talk to themselves the way I can speak to myself. Learning to change that has been a life saver.

 

If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?

New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to go for no other reason than it looks beautiful.

 

What’s something you cannot live without?

My family.

 

Name a book you read that positively shaped you.

“Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead” by Brené Brown.

 

If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?

I actually side hustle in two ways that I find so satisfying: 1) I work for Stratejoy, an online community of women looking to improve through personal development and 2) I work as an online fitness coach. If I wasn’t in my industry, I would likely do one of those full time.  

 

How do you unwind or relax after a long day?

Depending on my mood, it’ll be a solid Netflix binge or getting on a SoulCycle bike.

 

The most rewarding aspect of your job is…

When a student grows in ways I couldn’t even imagine. Sure, I love watching them learn math or become passionate about reading. That being said, the most important ways they grow are as people. I love seeing students become more confident or more empathetic to others. I know they’ll leave the world a better place.

 

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Drink water, move your body, call your people.

 

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

Workout!

 

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)

My family is from New Jersey; I grew up extremely close to my cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. I learned that family comes first and always. Any time I spend with my family is precious and worth the investment. I cherish all our time together even if it’s as simple as joking around all together in a blow-up pool down the shore.

Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?

Michelle Obama. She is brilliant, authentic and her story is incredible. I loved the way she talked about her family in her book. I was inspired by all that she accomplished. Her quote about men is so inspiring and I can only imagine how many women she helped: “Let's be very clear: Strong men — men who are truly role models — don't need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.” We are all lucky to have her in our lives.