Like Arne Duncan, Weingarten could be a perennial on a list like this. The former head of New York City’s United Federation of Teachers and current president of the national American Federation of Teachers, she weighs in on all sorts of educational issues and leads the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union. Those are powerful roles, but it’s easy to forget that Weingarten is also a force within organized labor more generally given her role on the executive council of the AFL-CIO and how important teachers are to that political coalition. While organized labor’s fortunes have declined in the private sector, teachers and other public-sector workers Weingarten represents have emerged as a major force within the coalition. So in 2012 she’ll be balancing the union desire to see President Obama reelected with concern amongst her members about many of the administration’s education priorities and policies. And all the while she’s scrambling to rebrand the perception of teachers’ unions as part of the solution to our educational crisis rather than part of the problem. You might say that’s a full teaching load.
Disclosures: One of my colleagues at Bellwether conducted an executive search for the Data Quality Campaign last year and advises Rocketship — where another colleague sits on the board of directors — on talent issues. Also, I thought Rounders was a great film.