As a member of the press here at ASCD’s annual conference, I was lucky enough to sit and talk with Liliana Aquas and Matt McClure, the Outstanding Young Educators over lunch. It was an inspiring dialogue.

Liliana, who works at Leconte Elementary School in Berkeley, CA, did not start out wanting to be an educator. She was in school to be a scientist, but after visiting a school and teaching kids, she was asked by the principal to come back and teach 5th grade at the school.

In other words, Liliana is smart and highly educated. Just listening to her talk, you could hear her passion and enthusiasm for science and for watching her kids discover and uncover content. She was worried, at first, that she couldn’t be a successful teacher because she didn’t attend a teachers’ college, but the principal who hired her saw something in her and told her that she would be fine. And she was.

I, myself, did not attend a teachers’ college, and took education courses while working full time in the classroom. Over the course of my career I have met many educators who had similar paths. Which makes me reconsider the role of teachers’ colleges in the first place.

What was really refreshing for me was to hear her say that “Science is the ideal platform to teach everything.” This is something that I have been saying for years. I believe that schools can make Science the glue that ties all learning together.

Listening to Matt McClune, a Superintendent from Cross County Schools, AR was equally inspiring. He described the journey his district made toward what he calls “process based learning” from a more traditional model.

His district went from being an ‘at-risk’ district to slowly proving themselves toward more independence. He sat down with his teachers to talk about what kinds of skills they thought their students would need outside of the NCLB content. After the brainstorming, the group reflected on how they weren’t teaching these things in their classrooms.

The district set up an exploratory committee made up of all stakeholders visiting schools, looking at whole child & current practices in classrooms. They decided to move toward project/problem/process based learning to meet the needs of the whole child. Learning is spiraled around a problem and collaborative work.
Kids, he says, are responding extremely well to the shift. Older kids are having more trouble adjusting than younger kids because they are used to playing the game, but they have embraced the new model as well. Part of the shift also included educating the community on how jobs that exist now might not exist for their kids.
Matt described a classroom in his school with two teachers in a room and up to 60 kids in the classroom. He talked about how they knocked down walls and put in glass storefronts that faced the hallways. At first kids goggled, but now it’s part of life. He compared it to the way a corporate office is structured.
I was struck with how easy Matt made the journey seem, though I know that it wasn’t. It’s important to remember, as my friend Eric Sheninger was quoted as saying in his session this morning, that change doesn’t need to happen as slowly as people say it does.
Great job, ASCD for picking some really inspiring and deserving educators!

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: #ASCD12-The Press Room « careerteacher

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