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Principal Keith Nemlich: The Thoughtful Leader

Principal Keith Nemlich: The Thoughtful Leader

Principal Keith Nemlich

Principal Keith Nemlich

The Thoughtful Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Keith Nemlich was once the lead technology administrator for a school near his hometown. Now as a principal, Mr. Nemlich views technology as a way to open doors that may otherwise be closed to kids from a rural environment.

Along the same line of uplifting those often left behind, Principal Nemlich often supports the community of Central Elementary School in Bellows Falls, VT by taking on responsibilities that may be beyond the purview of a typical school administrator. His caring involvement in the well-being of his students centers him as a resource that can be trusted by teachers and learners alike.

This is the penultimate spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the next one over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter.

Principal Keith Nemlich describes his job in a way that may contradict the closest and most common perceptions of it: “My job is to reduce stress—for my teachers, and for the support staff, and for the students,” he says. “If there’s any more stress brought in, that impacts learning, teacher performance, and everything else.”

Unlike a handful of the Star School Leaders featured before him, (and droves of principals across the nation), Mr. Nemlich does not have a class to teach. Still, one of many methods he uses to relieve stress around his community is to maintain a consistent presence in every classroom. “Quite honestly one of my concerns about becoming a school administrator was that I would just sit not in an office and lose that contact with students. But the size of the school gives me the chance as principal to connect with kids on a regular basis.”

Each morning, Principal Nemlich drives an hour out to Central Elementary School, a K-4 school where 65% of the population receives free/reduced lunch. In Keith’s words, many students have come to view the school as a haven: “When they get here in the morning, they are genuinely happy to be in school. And we just thrive off of that energy and give ourselves a wide berth for having fun.”

What makes Principal Nemlich a remarkable leader is his willingness to share the same ground as his staff, orienting himself to face the same obstacles and triumphs. “I bet if you ask the kids, you’ll find that there’s probably five or six other people that they will name —‘Oh yeah, that’s the principal’—simply because it’s a very much of shared leadership environment.” This closeness also allows staff members to take the lead in fields that nurture their own passions, making sure every teacher has the space to give the best of themselves to the community.

Building Community Around Turmoil

For Keith, the work of empowering others to become leaders does not stop at the staff level. He is most proud of the fact that his school secured funding to become the first official “Leader In Me” school in Vermont. Based on the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey, the program imparts the same values on K-4 students as it offers to corporate leaders. 

“That’s huge because a lot of these kids, as early as kindergarten, have to become their own biggest advocates,” Keith says. “We’ve got a lot of kids in families of tremendous turmoil, and they’re the ones that are going to have to keep their ships afloat. It’s really about giving them a framework and tools to help them with that process.”

As much as he appreciates consistency within the program, Keith emulates it by encouraging students and teachers to rise to a sense of responsibility to each other, to their families, and to their community.

“Mr. Keith Nemlich is a principal who truly prioritizes children’s needs. He is a caring, compassionate, thoughtful, inspiring leader who models patience, persistence and playfulness.”

Judy Verespy, 1st grade teacher at Central Elementary School, VT

As a Common Core school, Central Elementary is held to performance standards that are somewhat removed from the community they have built. Added to that is another layer to which many schools can probably relate: “Our kids don’t come in at the starting line. In many cases, they come in about 20 steps behind the starting line. For a lot of kids, it’s almost like constant catch up.”

In other environments, this strain might detract from the satisfaction of teaching and learning. But again, the strength and size of the community ensures that students are there for each other. “Nobody really feels behind everybody else. It’s just business as usual. That makes for a very comfortable environment. These kids really know each other, and care about each other.”

The innately familiar bonds that kids form with each other must be modeled somewhere. It’s likely that they learned to view each other as complete and complex beings as a result of Principal Neimlich’s leadership. On a daily basis, he’s making decisions and interventions that affect students far beyond the classroom. 

“Every day you come in and it can be just about anything. Yesterday, our septic lines backed up and we had to get the plumbers and clean out the lines. Or it might be helping parents understand how to interpret testing results from a school psychologist. Just about everything and anything to helping a kid tie their shoes. You know that it’s really the the full gamut every day. And I really love that. And just watching the kids grow.” 

“I’m very fortunate to work where I work. It’s a community is very different from my hometown, and it’s a very different school than where I had just come from as the tech administrator. But it’s the kind of place where you come in every day and feel like you make a difference.”

Principal Keith Nemlich, Central Elementary School, VT

Opening Doors with Technology 

Principal Nemlich’s career began with a strong interest in the intersection of technology and education. He began as a middle school math teacher, and then gravitated toward a role as technology administrator. “Every couple of years my super superintendent would call me into the office and say, ‘When are you really going to get serious about this stuff?’ Which was their way of trying to get me to think about becoming an administrator.”

Eventually, the technology administrator role was removed from the school budget, in an effort to consolidate services throughout the district. This prompted Keith to look for a role as principal, but he never left behind his passion for technology:

“The thing that’s so promising about technology is that it holds the potential to be sort of the great equalizer in education and public education. Technology holds the promise of allowing a kid in rural Vermont to receive the same experience in regards to technology as a kid growing up in a more affluent area.”

–Principal Keith Nemlich, Central Elementary School, VT

To Keith, it’s not just the jobs of tomorrow that students should be concerned about. He’s seen firsthand how a lack of experience with technology can put professionals behind in their search: “My wife is a human resources professional. And she can say very clearly, contact with computer equipment on any level is like the biggest determiner for her. There’s so much extra training that they would have to do in order to feel comfortable.”

Within education, Principal Nemlich has applied this knowledge to implementing technology at any school he works with: “It’s not about devices and you know, I can’t put any more time in our day. So we have to be very mindful of the tradeoffs between resources.”

Even better than tradeoffs are the chances one gets to develop or gain more than one skill. In communicating change to parents, Keith often finds himself praising technology for its ability to promote what he calls double learning: “If your child is working on an essay for school and they’re writing on a device, they’re working on their writing skills but they’re also working on their computer skills and those are both real, marketable skills. And they really do need to be taught. Because while kids may have a lot of exposure to other technology, they aren’t going home to play around with spreadsheets.”

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end.
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

10 Summer Reading Recommendations for Educators

Team members from Kiddom share the books that caught their eye this summer. These reading recommendations will satisfy every educator’s busy and curious mind.

Professional Development for Teachers: Bring Kiddom to your school

The first place a teacher will look for support is down the hall. Benefit your team by introducing a collaborative tool that brings your goals within reach.

We Asked 100 Admins: How Do You Stay Up-to-date on Educational Technology?

We asked school administrators about their concerns, and how they discover and adopt tools to address them. Read their answers here.

Early Warning Response Systems: Follow Us to Greenville, SC to Learn More

Next week, we have the wonderful opportunity to visit a district in Greenville, South Carolina to watch their early warning response system in action. Join us in our journey!

Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

Teachers and learners, you sent us hundreds of submissions nominating your principal for the Star School Leader Award. So many, in fact, that we couldn’t choose just one. See the twelve recipients here.

More From the Star School Leader Series

Principal Traci O. Filiss: The Technology Pioneer

Principal Traci O. Filiss: The Technology Pioneer

Principal Traci O. Filiss

Principal Traci O. Filiss

The Technology Pioneer, Star School Leader Recipient

Principal Traci O. Filiss has experience working in traditional and virtual schools, but nothing compares to the blended learning model she created for her own charter school in Taos, New Mexico. This is the tenth spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the others over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter.

 

Long ago, Traci Filiss wanted to use her degree in biology to work in the State Forestry Division of New Mexico. Her mentor in the program told her that she’d be great in education, and “she was correct. It’s been an incredible career and highly rewarding. And I’m glad I did it.”

Before becoming an administrator, Filiss spent 15 years in the classroom, teaching every subject and grade-band at one point or another. She then returned to school for a master’s in curriculum design & digital learning. “That’s when I realized that education was quickly going to shift toward this new modality of learning, and I was highly motivated to get into that world.”

With this vested interest in digital learning, the superintendent asked Traci to open a totally virtual school that served students from across the state. “I did that for three years and realized that I really missed the kids. Because I never got to see them, I missed out on the face-to-face piece.”

So, she set out to change her life, and the lives of others, for the better.

 

Founding Taos Academy

After realizing that a completely virtual school didn’t suit her passion for teaching, Principal Filiss began working on a model for a school that would. At the same time, the district got a new superintendent.

The new superintendent did not approve of the vision for Taos Academy, so Traci took it to the state and got a charter approved. “That was ten years ago,” she tells us. And that was when I became an administrator by default.” 

“I was not happy with my superintendent for not letting me do what I wanted to do, so I did it anyway.”

Traci Filiss, founder and head of Taos Academy

The mission of Taos Academy “surrounds academic achievement, leadership, and global awareness.” Imagining the typical Taos Academy graduate was at the top of mind while Traci and friend collaborated to write the charter. “We felt that it was most important to be that self-motivated learner who understands how to give back.”

So, how does one create and nurture this kind of learner? Principal Filiss believes content education is only part of the solution. “To be honest, you know, content is content. Beyond that, it’s about how you use content to make a better place for yourself and others. And that takes internal motivation—how do you use what you have to make the world a better place?”

Traci’s proudest feat as principal is watching the school she built become the environment that supports a self-motivated, community-involved learner.  “The kids that we are graduating are stellar. They have incredible goals. They know how to give back. It’s incredibly rewarding to know that something that you know you you put on paper that is fairly new and innovative can actually produce such an incredible well such incredible human beings, actually. They’re really amazing.”

How is technology used to fulfill your school’s mission?

While technology “expands and quadruples itself every five minutes,” Principal Filiss uses its adaptability to benefit her school. The methods at Taos Academy have changed over the years, but only to rear the same result: “if you teach students how to learn, and how to grow a passion for learning, they will learn. Period.” 

At Taos Academy, technology is used to give time back to teachers, so they deliver on-time support to the students that need it. By delivering content online, technology also increases autonomy for the students that don’t. “To sum it up, it’s about building lifelong, self-motivated learner. That’s actually written in our charter, and this school actually does that for real.”

Under the Taos Academy model, teachers also benefit from increased autonomy and ownership—a feat that Principal Filiss insists on as a school leader:

The strength of teaching has to do with teachers being able to create, and having the flexibility to do the things they feel passionate about. And boy, there’s nothing like a teacher when a teacher is passionate. Then, the students will pick up on it, and you can see their passion, too. So why not support teachers in the areas that they are passionate about? It helps everybody.

–Traci Filiss, founder and head of Taos Academy

Having learned from her time at a completely virtual school, and adapted , Principal Filiss now leverages technology as a tool for building relationships—not replacing them. “The Internet and computers have allowed us to become world learners instead of just local ones. And that’s what we need in our society: tools that not only help us to create, but also share out to the world and enlighten a broader audience.”

On Change Management (Straight from Her Dissertation)

With 25 years of experience in at least 3 different types of schools, Traci is no stranger to the toll of changing structures and initiative fatigue. For her Master’s Degree in Instructional Technology, Curriculum, and Design, she is writing a dissertation on change management as it relates to the challenges that administrators face, with a lack of support. “In business, [supporting leaders in change management] might get more focus, because it affects revenue. But in schools, we don’t necessarily have that.

In order for us to change education in this country and be more competitive in the world, we have to get our administrators on board with how to change, how to set and present expectations.

–Traci Filiss, founder and head of Taos Academy

According to Traci’s research and advice, the best structures for change management have a deep understanding of the communities they manage. “Our school is very community-oriented, and I think the structures and feeling we have here can be replicated. It’s all about building relationships. You have to look at the community, and mold [change] around the relationships that happen.”

 

Click here to download our change management guide, brought to you by Star School Leaders across the nation!

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end.
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

10 Summer Reading Recommendations for Educators

Team members from Kiddom share the books that caught their eye this summer. These reading recommendations will satisfy every educator’s busy and curious mind.

Professional Development for Teachers: Bring Kiddom to your school

The first place a teacher will look for support is down the hall. Benefit your team by introducing a collaborative tool that brings your goals within reach.

We Asked 100 Admins: How Do You Stay Up-to-date on Educational Technology?

We asked school administrators about their concerns, and how they discover and adopt tools to address them. Read their answers here.

Early Warning Response Systems: Follow Us to Greenville, SC to Learn More

Next week, we have the wonderful opportunity to visit a district in Greenville, South Carolina to watch their early warning response system in action. Join us in our journey!

Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

Teachers and learners, you sent us hundreds of submissions nominating your principal for the Star School Leader Award. So many, in fact, that we couldn’t choose just one. See the twelve recipients here.

More From the Star School Leader Series

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson: The Analytical Leader

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson: The Analytical Leader

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson

The Analytical Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson began her career as a teacher for students with learning disabilities. By working with the same students year after year, she began to see teaching as a relationship: “You’ll never be able to get through to anyone if you don’t have that [first].” Her leadership style follows the same vein. 

This is the ninth spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the others over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter.

After 17 years in education, the best advice that Tamara Jones-Jackson can give comes easily to her: “Teach to touch their hearts, and they’ll give you their minds.” Being on the receiving end of this approach to teaching may have been what attracted her to the profession in the first place. 

Principal Jones-Jackson once had a one-track mind for business when she was a student; it was her major in college until one of her professors inspired her to go into education. Before she was an administrator, Tamara spent 10 years in the classroom as a special education teacher, building relationships with students year after year.

She continues to apply this experience to her role as a principal by supporting students. “One of my administrators always used to say that I’d make a wonderful principal,” Jones-Jackson recalls. “I told her that I enjoyed working with students as a teacher, or even with the families as a counselor, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to be an administrator.”

“Now I think I have the best of both worlds. As a principal, you’re managing the business aspect of the school, and you’re still connected with the children.”

Now entering her second year as the head of Ralph J. Bunche Elementary School, Principal Jones-Jackson most enjoys the ability to help in every aspect of a school setting: “When you are a teacher you’re confined to a particular area. But as an administrator you can participate in the world outside of the school as well as the world within.”

High Risk, Guaranteed Reward

The 2019-2020 school year will be Tamara’s eighth year in administration, and her second year at Ralph J. Bunche. Over the years, Principal Jones-Jackson has made a name for herself by working with schools that have been named a priority risk. At her last school in Taylor, MI, she was given 4 years to raise test scores and take the school off of that list. She was able to do it in two.

Principal Jones-Jackson’s entire career in education has been spent with at-risk students: first in special education supporting students with learning disabilities, and now at Ralph J. Bunche serving a 100% at-risk population. All students receive free and reduced lunch, and many are bussed in from inner-city Detroit.

“My leadership style is to build teacher capacity for a quick turnaround, and make sure the students are getting what they need.”

Principal Tamara Jones-Jackson, Ralph J. Bunche Elementary

Bunche Elementary is comprised of pre-K through 3rd grade students, with plans to serve 4th graders in the near future. While the issue of classroom space remains a barrier, Principal Jones-Jackson pours attention and resources into the area where they’ll have the most impact: “Right now, my focus is on building teacher capacity within the school so that the teachers will have the skillset and the encouragement they need to support our children.”

 “In 3 short months, Principal Jones-Jackson has created a functioning PTO where we never had one before. She has allowed teachers to take leadership roles for the betterment of the school, changed procedures to make things run smoother, and provided guidance and instruction on how to use our data more effectively so that we can better serve our students.” 

 

— Sandra Fuoco, teacher at Ralph J. Bunche Elementary

The Right Resources, The Right Timing

By supporting teachers with the right resources at the right time, Principal Jackson-Jones hopes to improve test scores and other factors that drive decision-making at the district level. She is most proud of the fact that school employees work together as a team: “It typically takes 2-5 years to create that sort of culture, but we’ve been able to bridge the gaps between staff, to where they’re actually working together to do Common prep time—they’re working as a team and not in silos.”

 “What astonishes me the most [about Principal Jones-Jackson] is how she always gets things done! In a struggling district without extra income, we now have a communication system in the building, ceiling tiles and bleachers are fixed (which haven’t been in years), and teachers are getting much needed resources. AND she does this all with a smile and positive attitude.  In my 2 decades of teaching, she is truly the most inspirational, motivational, and believable leader I have ever had the pleasure of working with.”

 

— Sandra Fuoco, teacher at Ralph J. Bunche Elementary

Principal Jones-Jackson acknowledges the draw to constant technology, as well as the threat it poses. “It seems like babies are coming out with cell phones in their hands. It’s just the new way.” She recalls a recent article she read about how some schools are trying to deactivate their kids from the constant technological access. We recently read a similar article, in which schools were using low-tech technology to do so. In these situations, she adds, some students are even having technology withdrawals.

But despite the risks of bringing technology into the classroom, there are rewards. Principal Jones-Jackson admits that she finds herself being drawn to technology for the ability to “just be able to go and pick something up to read a news article without having to go to the library and read about it.” To Principal Jackson, it seems that technology is inseparable to the future in education. “Technology is everything. And I don’t see us moving forward without it in any capacity—whether that’s personal or professional.”

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end.
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

10 Summer Reading Recommendations for Educators

Team members from Kiddom share the books that caught their eye this summer. These reading recommendations will satisfy every educator’s busy and curious mind.

Professional Development for Teachers: Bring Kiddom to your school

The first place a teacher will look for support is down the hall. Benefit your team by introducing a collaborative tool that brings your goals within reach.

We Asked 100 Admins: How Do You Stay Up-to-date on Educational Technology?

We asked school administrators about their concerns, and how they discover and adopt tools to address them. Read their answers here.

Early Warning Response Systems: Follow Us to Greenville, SC to Learn More

Next week, we have the wonderful opportunity to visit a district in Greenville, South Carolina to watch their early warning response system in action. Join us in our journey!

Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

Teachers and learners, you sent us hundreds of submissions nominating your principal for the Star School Leader Award. So many, in fact, that we couldn’t choose just one. See the twelve recipients here.

More From the Star School Leader Series

Principal Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez: The Collaborative Leader

Principal Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez: The Collaborative Leader

Principal Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez

Principal Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez

The Collaborative Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Now the executive director of CUE.org, former Principal (& Superintendent) Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez has dedicated her career to advocating for students, empowering teachers, and using technology to break barriers and enhance education. This is the eighth spotlight in a series of twelve, in which we feature the winning recipients of Kiddom’s annual Star School Leader Award. Look for the others over the coming months by signing up for our newsletter, or check out our School Leadership page, which we will update with each new spotlight.

When asked about what inspired her career in education, Principal Pamela Gildersleeve-Hernandez cites a meme: “If you go back and look at what games you were playing when you were 6-10 years old, that’s your true calling as an adult.”

In retrospect, there was no doubt that Principal Pam would be an educator some day. She recalls having a chalkboard and benches in her garage, and inviting all of the neighbors’ kids to come to school. “God bless the kids in the neighborhood for indulging a Type-A, oldest-sibling personality and playing school with me,” she jokes.

Still, teaching was not on Principal Pam’s agenda until years later. “I had no intention of going into education as a student. I watched often how disrespectful kids were to the teachers, and how tired they were.”

She had her sights on foreign service, and even began to pursue a master’s degree in international public administration. While she completed her own schooling, Principal Pam taught swimming lessons on the side.

One of her teachers observed her swimming class and pulled her aside to say that she would make a great teacher. “I said, ‘Mrs. Nulty, with all due respect––there’s no way in hell I’d ever become a teacher.”

But the garage classroom never forgets. After leaving her master’s program, she began substitute teaching for income. That’s what her true calling finally clicked: “I remember thinking, holy smokes, you can get paid to do this?”

“What I really love most about my position is that I have the authority to help set the direction and empower everybody within the organization. I get to be the ‘Yes!’ person.”

Principal Pamela Gildersleeve-Hernandez, San Antonio Union School District

From Classroom Garage to Front Office

Mrs. Hernandez taught for 17 years before transitioning into the role of principal. Up until then, it seemed that with every passing year, it was less likely that she’d ever leave the classroom. “My passion is with kids, so it was a hard leap to take,” she says. One could not prepare for how hard that leap would be.

Ultimately, Principal Pam was wrenched away from the classroom by tragedy. Gang violence was very prevalent in her community: “My last year in the classroom, we had the highest per capita murder rate in the country.”

That year, one of her students was killed.

“It had such an emotional impact on me that summer,” Principal Hernandez recalls. “I realized I didn’t have it in me to lose another student. But I do have it in me to support teachers that may be in a similar situation.”

Aside from being her inspiration for administrative work, supporting teachers has played a huge role in Principal Pam’s career. During her first year as an assistant principal, she may as well have earned this spotlight. “I had some quick wins, so I ended up getting a lot of attention right out of the door.”

After examining contracts at her school, (Asst.) Principal Pam advocated for teachers and better working conditions. Less than a month into the school  year, the assistant superintendent paid her a visit. When he asked how she was doing, she replied frankly: “This may have been a mistake.”

It didn’t take long as an administrator for Pam to realize that working with kids is what “feeds her soul.”

She credits the superintendent’s advice for maintaining the rest of her career in school leadership. He told her to block two hours a week in her calendar, and connect with a teacher whose classroom she could teach. “That’s what kept me on the administrative side of the house, and in education.”

Serving a small school district allowed Principal Hernandez to wear many hats, and keep one foot in the classroom. Adjacent to her office is a door that leads directly to the playground. Throughout her time as a principal (and later, superintendent), Principal Pam continuously made time for direct interaction with students. In fact, the 2019-2020 school year will be the first time in 26 years that she hasn’t taught! 

“If I’m struggling with a decision, or if something doesn’t feel right, I get to walk out on the playground and hang out with the kids. Then I know exactly who I’m making the decision for, at any time. No doubt whatsoever. And that is by far the best part of my job.”

Principal Pamela Gildersleeve-Hernandez, San Antonio USD

 

Setting the Tone for a Campus Community

The impact on the school’s community is at the forefront of every decision Principal Hernandez makes, whether it’s combining classes or rearranging the staff lounge. While telling us about her time as principal, she beams brightest when praising her team of teachers, office administrators, guidance counselors, and custodial staff. “Everybody has each other’s back all of the time. Nobody hesitates—we’re a team. And when we take care of each other, it’s good for the kids.”

“Despite the challenges of working in a small district, and wearing many hats, Mrs. Hernandez continues to grow as a learner, as well as a leader. She attends as many conferences as possible with us, and makes every effort to provide team-building opportunities.”

Diane Stensrud, teacher at San Antonio USD

Making sure that teachers enjoy their jobs produces a huge impact on the students. Teachers have piloted dynamic initiatives to foster a stronger reading culture at the school, using Bitmojis to show themselves immersed in books. “When my team brings me these ideas, it just puts me in a really nice place. I get to say, ‘yes, that’s it!’”

 

Accelerating Learning with Technology

At San Antonio Union School District, technology is used to accelerate learning and show students their own impact on the larger world. With the Future Ready initiative, students learn about workforce opportunities that feed their interests and benefit their local community. “We connected with a NASA astronaut on Twitter, and he ended up being part of our summer STEM program — how cool is that?!”

One last time, Principal Pam invites her neighbors to take a seat in her classroom garage — although by now, she has upgraded to a podium. When asked for advice to give other school leaders trying to give technology a resonant role in their community, she offers one word, “Perseverance.” 

In addition to a lack of funding and late adopters, educators who advocate for technology are also fighting against public perception: it can’t be a good thing that we are so connected to devices all the time. Can it?

Principal Hernandez recommends listening to people’s concerns, and bringing information and experience to annul them. “We need to look at it more closely, and rely on partnerships with people — even those that may be pushing back on something that we want to move forward quickly.” 

When embarking on a new technology initiative, the first step is to align on the vision, the purpose, and the goal you wish to achieve. Technology can make processes more efficient, but only when they are appropriately matched to a need. Ultimately, success comes from communication: to parents, teachers, pilots, and leaders. “It’s really important that every voice is heard,” Principal Hernandez says.

“Mrs. Hernandez continually seeks to better herself by reading, attending conferences, and taking classes—both to remain current, and to push the boundaries of education. She is an inspiration to me!”

Diane Stensrud, teacher at San Antonio USD

Using technology to enhance education has been a lifelong passion for Principal Pam—so much so that it has inspired her to take the next step in her career. In March 2019, Mrs. Gildersleeve-Hernandez was named the Executive Director of CUE (formerly Computer-Using Educators, founded in 1978). Check out her blog here, and tweet her a congratulations using the handle @pgilders!

Recap: What Makes a Star School Leader?

Great school leaders empower their teachers. What teachers do is one of the most difficult, and often thankless jobs. And while we all agree that teachers are the true heroes of every school system, it takes a special kind of leader to enable their teachers with the right support to focus on the important things. Like teaching.

The Star School Leader rubric stands on three pillars, hanging from one common theme:

  1.  Empowering others by setting a positive attitude, culture, and environment.
  2.  Empowering others with the right use of technology as a means and not an end.
  3.  Empowering others through supportive coaching and access to professional development.

To read about the rest of the Star School Leaders, visit our recipient announcement page.

Kiddom + Open Up Resources: Best-in-Class Digital Curriculum

We’re excited to announce a partnership with Open Up Resources (OUR) to offer schools and districts best-in-class curriculum delivered via the Kiddom education platform.

Building a Web of Support for Students: What We Learned

Merging data with qualitative instincts should be the standard in education—not a privilege. A visit to Greenville, SC gave us a glimpse into that future.

Principal Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez: The Collaborative Leader

Former Principal & Superintendent Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez has had a lengthy career of advocating for teachers and using technology to enhance education.

Back to School Checklist: Are You Ready?

Some teachers may be waving a white flag in October, while others decorate it with Sharpie! Find out which one you’ll be with this back to school quiz.

Welcome Back to School: A Letter From Our CAO

This week all Kiddom employees (many of whom are former educators) received the following letter from our CAO. We were so inspired, we had to share!

More From the Star School Leader Series

Back to School Checklist: Are You Ready?

Back to School Checklist: Are You Ready?

Ahhh, nothing compares to the sounds of September. Sneakers skid and squeak across tile floors. Students quote their favorite songs or movies from the past 3 (or 12) months. Summer’s great and all, but after a certain point—the stark contrast between warm weather and a cold, empty classroom can feel isolating.

It’s about time to fill up those seats! Are you ready for the bell to ring? Find out with this 3-question quiz.

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Kiddom + Open Up Resources: Best-in-Class Digital Curriculum

We’re excited to announce a partnership with Open Up Resources (OUR) to offer schools and districts best-in-class curriculum delivered via the Kiddom education platform.

Building a Web of Support for Students: What We Learned

Merging data with qualitative instincts should be the standard in education—not a privilege. A visit to Greenville, SC gave us a glimpse into that future.

Principal Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez: The Collaborative Leader

Former Principal & Superintendent Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez has had a lengthy career of advocating for teachers and using technology to enhance education.

Back to School Checklist: Are You Ready?

Some teachers may be waving a white flag in October, while others decorate it with Sharpie! Find out which one you’ll be with this back to school quiz.

Welcome Back to School: A Letter From Our CAO

This week all Kiddom employees (many of whom are former educators) received the following letter from our CAO. We were so inspired, we had to share!

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