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Principal Rodney Ivey: The Teacher Enabler — SSL Spotlight #1

Principal Rodney Ivey: The Teacher Enabler — SSL Spotlight #1

Principal Rodney Ivey

Principal Rodney Ivey

The Teacher Enabler, Star School Leader Recipient

This is the first 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.

 

The Makings of a Star School Leader

Growing up as the son of a teacher, Mr. Ivey has always been in the realm of education. From 1977 to just two years ago, his father taught at the elementary school where Rodney himself attended. This gave Rodney an early view of the ins and outs of the career, seeing his father’s passion and excitement especially built around educating students in the environmental sciences. Though his father taught all subjects as a fifth grade teacher, he created a nature trail and organized fun field trips, even inviting other schools in on the festivities.

Getting such a great behind-the-scenes view as the teacher’s kid, it’s no surprise that Principal Ivey would develop a passion of his own for education. Although he did lean toward the medical field in college, even starting with premed in Health Sciences in his early years at University of North Florida, half-way through he made a switch towards education — and hasn’t looked back since. 

He started out teaching Earth and Space Sciences (Honors) for Junior High and Eighth Grade, teaching about five classes of around 20 kids. About four years later he moved into physical education, where his class sizes grew to 40 kids, five times a day. Shortly after that, he was an athletic director where he headed programs of 5-600 students, including the intramural program that was developed at the time.

He soon found himself moving into the administration level, moving to become vice principal at a neighboring school in Clay County before obtaining his current principalship at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary School, where it has been, in his own words, “A-mazing. I’ve loved it… I love watching the progression of kids, from four years old, all the way up until they graduate and move on as sixth graders to the next school. It’s been a lot of fun.”

His frequent walks through our classrooms are welcomed, as he joins in our lessons alongside students; we love it when he photographs engaging lessons and shares them out with the staff. Under his leadership, our campus is a very happy inclusive place, with a supportive family-like atmosphere that encompasses parents, kids, teachers, and staff.

— Janet Shaw, Teacher at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary

What does Mr. Ivey enjoy the most about being Principal?

Unfortunately, he admits, it’s been a bit of a catch-22. When he started as a teacher, he had 20 kids at any given time that he could work with one-on-one. But as he progressed through his career, he was promoted to head larger and larger populations and began to miss the smaller group setting. To that, he says:

I guess the bad thing is I don’t build as many of those personal, I try to build as many as I can, relationships with kids that you get as a teacher in the classroom. But you do have a larger and greater impact — in this case, you know, over 500 students — which has been certainly a blessing, and one that I take very seriously.

Let’s talk about servant leadership.

He does what needs to be done, even vacuuming my classroom when the custodians were busy on another project. His kind, accepting demeanor inspires students and teachers alike to be kind and considerate.

— Janet Shaw, Teacher at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary

After we mentioned the above quote to Mr. Rodney, he gave a big grin. To this quality, he attributes his time working at Wilkinson Junior High School. Under Dr. David McDonald, Mr. Ivey learned his most valuable lesson of leadership: servant leadership. “You know certainly we have the instructional leadership; that’s incredibly important,” he explains. “Then there’s operational leadership; but both of those have to come underneath a larger umbrella: Servant Leadership.” 

I fully believe that my job as an administrator is to make teachers’ jobs easier because they have the hardest jobs. You know, they’re dealing with all of these personalities, with all of these backgrounds these kids are coming from each and every day. Those family connections and building those relationships with parents (are important) and so my job as administrator is to knock down every possible barrier that might get into this teacher’s ways of being the most effective for kids. And that means whatever that means, if it means helping them get their classroom ready.

— Principal Rodney Ivey

Recently, Mr. Ivey’s school opened a new program. They had some some neighboring schools opening up offering Student Choice, so they wanted to offer Choice at his school as well. But to do so, he had to get innovative. After meeting with district leadership, a School Choice program was created within Swimming Pen Creek Elementary. The school still has a traditional pathway for students, but have now also opened a Montessori program this year in four classrooms. They plan to open it to two more next year, then to a total of eight as they build it all the way out. About a third of the student population at Swimming Pen Creek can choose to make that choice. And they also bring in about 25 percent of that population in from other schools.

During this time, they were getting materials up into the minute before school started, and as more classroom materials coming in, there were many chores to tackle — unpacking boxes, organizing, and getting the new classrooms ready. Mr. Ivey saw this as an important moment to take the extra stress off of teachers, as they were focusing on getting ready for the kids. “I’ll take whatever role — you know, I’m not too far removed from being in that position. And I remember the stress and and how hard it is. I’ll do whatever I can to help a teacher get ready.”

 

Mr. Ivey finds ways to boost students and staff, from a shout out bulletin board to eating lunch with children. He squeezes every penny out of a tight budget to gets his teachers what they need, even planning and manning fundraisers to accomplish his goals. While most of us stay late planning and preparing, many times, his car is the last in the parking lot.

— Janet Shaw, Teacher at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary

What makes Mr. Ivey the most proud of Swimming Pen Creek?

“I’m very proud of our teachers’ and students’ growth over the last three years,” says Mr. Ivey. He adds that when he first came into the position he had very big shoes to fill, with a “great, great principal who was here before, who took a different position in another county.”

There was a bit of turnover during the transition, between new hires and retirements. Naturally, this created a mix of inexperienced new educators and accomplished teachers who had been around since the school opened 15 years ago — but there was also a mix of children coming from very different households. It was clear to Mr. Ivey that the population could present some challenges.

To top that, when he arrived the school was a “C” school — “I don’t think that’s a really good representation, but that’s how Florida labels it,” Mr. Ivey shares. But despite all odds, Swimming Pen has been able to move the label to a high “B”, with highly achievable targets on an “A” this year.

“I’m excited to see the growth, whether it be the interpersonal relationships that the teachers have built with each other, or the introduction of significantly more parent involvement than we had when I got here,” says Mr. Ivey.

Before Mr. Ivey became principal, Swimming Pen Creek didn’t have a PFA — nor did they have the quarterly events that are playing a huge role in getting parents involved on campus. “I’m very, very proud to see that movement and that change and growth, not only happening in the classrooms, but around the whole campus over the last three years,” he says.

Mr. Ivey’s positive leadership and vision for doing what is in the best interests of our children sets the tone for all of our faculty and staff to be positive, enthusiastic, and productive . He sees the best in people, therefore young and old rise to his expectations. Rather than micromanage, he works collaboratively with his staff to plan programs and events. He collects data for us, looking for trends and meeting with us on teams to focus on ways to help individual students. 

— Janet Shaw, Teacher at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary

What does Mr. Ivey believe technology’s role should be in the classroom?

The question has come up in a study Mr. Ivey did recently with the Montessori program. “You know, when Dr. Montessori was developing, I figure there wasn’t much technology. So we had to kind of build a schema for what that would look like — what would she have done?” he shares, with a laugh. 

Principal Ivey thinks it’s vitally important to use every tool that’s available to make the educational experience more meaningful, “and certainly more poignant to what the student needs in order to be successful, as they leave elementary school and go into junior high and high school, and out into the world.”

You know we’re preparing kids right now — it’s kind of crazy to think about — for jobs that aren’t even invented yet. They’re going to be asked to do things, to enter careers that haven’t even been thought of yet. And so the innovation and the creativity that our teachers need to build into these students to help them be successful… It can’t be the same way it’s been in the past. They need to understand how to use technology, they need to know how to interact with it.

— Principal Rodney Ivey

Principal Ivey acknowledges the fact that technology has shifted the importance of skills we’re learning in today’s schools, such as the memorization of certain acts and places. “I still think there’s an important role to play that isn’t the end-all, be-all in education like it was, even when I went through school. You know, memorize the states and their capitals or you need to know all of these Russian czars …now you can look that up at the touch of a button,” he says. “How much further can we take a student’s education using the internet and technology?”

Mr. Ivey believes many doors are opened by technology. “It allows kids to get so much deeper into their learning to understand the whys and hows and how to prevents. And how to shape and mold, not only their future but the future of their communities.” He adds that technology also opens a lot of doors for those who can’t travel:

You know, we’re a lower socio-economic community. We certainly fundraise as much as we can, to go on trips. We have families whose kids have never seen the beach, and we live right here in Florida. Who have never seen snow, never seen the mountains. Even though it’s not the same as being there, they can experience a lot of this thanks to technology. So there are just so many ways to utilize technology and to make a full experience for a kid as they’re going through their education.

His advice for other administrators who seek to develop a similar school culture and system:

Mr. Ivey’s advice comes in three parts. Part one is around innovation. “I would say don’t be afraid to go out there and innovate, you know pilot different things, pilot different programs.”

Part two of Principal Ivey’s advice is simple: listen to your teachers. “They’re on the front lines. Your teachers are in the classroom with these kids. You know, we don’t see everything, we can’t know everything, we can’t hear everything. Your teachers know well what things your kids need. And so listen to your teachers, provide as many opportunities as you can, and then learn it along side of them.”

The third bit of his advice is about where great change starts. He believes a movement can’t simply come simply from the top-down, but has to come from the bottom-up, too.

It can’t be something that you do to a school. You’ve got to be a part of it. There has to be buy-in, and that buy-in comes from you sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with your teachers, learning the process, going through the implementation, sitting with the kids while they go through the implementation, hearing what the challenges are that they’re facing, what the challenges are that the teachers are facing, helping to bring people together to troubleshoot this problem solving. If you do that, you know you’re going to get so much more creativity, so much more dynamic change, because it’ll just grow on itself. Because everybody is going to get more and more passionate when they feel they have a voice, when they feel they’re being listened to and that their input is driving some of the decision making.

— Principal Rodney Ivey

 

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.

 

Introducing Responsive Curriculum Management

Responsive Curriculum Management provides visibility into classroom progress so you can build systems of continuous improvement

Academy’s New Curriculum Development Tool is a Game Changer — Part 1

After creating a team to test the new feature, our School Success Lead shares notes with both excitement and regret that she didn’t have this tool when she was a teacher!

What is Keeping Administrators up at Night?

We asked key questions around what’s worrying admins & how they vet & learn about new tools and systems adopted in the classroom to address their greatest concerns.

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!

Live at AESA: Kiddom Chats with The EduTech Guys

Education and SaaS technology leader with a passion for K12 edtech. Last month, Jason Katcher, VP of Revenue at Kiddom, sat down with the EduTech Guys at AESA 2018 (Colorado...

What is Keeping Administrators up at Night?

What is Keeping Administrators up at Night?

A recent study about teacher confidence in educational technology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) found that 99% of all teachers and school leaders are using digital technology in their classrooms. It also found that nearly 96% have seen benefits from the technology they’re using, including improvement in student achievement, cited by 32% of all participants.

But seen is a key word here. How can we gain visibility on how digital technology is improving student achievement when so many factors go into a student’s education? Hopefully this is something we’re considering when choosing technology for our schools.

We recently conducted our own study to learn more about how and why administrators are deciding upon educational technology used in the classroom. What we hoped to gain from our study was some understanding of the most effective methods administrators use to conduct research for tools and solutions used in their school systems. 

Let’s be clear — we know humans to be the real problem solvers in education, and that we can never rely too much on the method as a means to an end. But we were interested in learning more about the research behind the tools and systems that our greatest resource of all — educators — are using to solve those problems. We invite you to follow along in our findings here.

How do admins stay up-to-date on innovative instructional models in 2019?

Perhaps like us, it was no news to you that 74% of all participants cited “education conferences and meetups” as a source for staying up-to-date on innovative instructional models. We were a bit surprised at how unpopular “books and research papers” (1%) were, but not so much about the low score for “PD from the district” (1%).

 

Where do admins discuss new instructional models within their network?

Again, we found that meetups and conferences were very popular for discussion here. “A lot of administrators end up going to at least one educational conference/event every year. A lot of them walk away with great information, so this isn’t surprising to me,” says Amanda Glover, our partnerships lead at Kiddom.

While it’s no shock to discover educators love to share their knowledge with others, what was surprising to us were the chat groups (38%) and social communities (26%) built around such conversations.

 

Are admins satisfied with the effectiveness of those discussion mediums?

At 72%, the trend suggests a high satisfaction with the discussion mediums administrators are having around innovative instructional models.

Of the administrators who weren’t satisfied with said mediums, nearly half (44%) cited “lack of proactive systems were keeping them up at night” and “lack of timelines of academic performance reporting”.

 

What’s keeping admins up at night?

We all know working in education can keep you up at night with a million things running through your mind. But what are the top concerns?

When asked, administrators said the top three topics are “lack of human resources to improve student achievement” (56%), “lack of financial resources to meet district demand” (53%), and “lack of proactive systems to improve student outcomes” (34%).

 

How have admins tried to remedy the above concerns?

Our study found that nearly ⅓ of all participants are requesting more funding to address the problems keeping them up at night.

What is very telling about the current state of education is the use of creative staffing, intervention, and systems adjustment — these cost saving efforts are likely a direct result of increased budget cuts across the board.

We were surprised to see such a low effort to use tools and technology, considering the fact that technology can save schools so much time and money!  

How do admins vet technology they purchase to support their remedies and address concerns?

While it is no surprise that word of mouth is still one of the most common ways administrators vet technology, one trend evident across the board is that administrators are rarely relying on just one place to make their decisions, and are often vetting across multiple sources. 

 

And that concludes our study — we hope this gives you a fresh perspective of how educators are making decisions around the educational technology and systems applied in the classroom.

As educators make these decisions, we hope to see more steps towards measuring the success of the tools in place. So often this data is siloed — grading and mastery data sits in the LMS. Curriculum data sits in curriculum management systems, and even there it may be scattered across spreadsheets and hard drives. Cloud-based platforms have helped a lot here — but they’re not ultimately designed with educators in mind, with a way to calibrate and measure the success of curriculum across a school system.

We’ve designed the K-12 OS to do just that, because we believe that in today’s educational climate, many schools and districts don’t have the time or money to make decisions without data. To learn more about Kiddom Academy, book a demo with us today.

Kiddom Academy picks up where the LMS leaves off, offering an operating system for K-12 schools and districts to measure and act on classroom intelligence. If you’re ready to see what the K-12 Operating System can do for your school or district, you can book a call with one of our specialists today. 

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

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

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

Abbas Manjee is Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom. Before Kiddom, Abbas taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City. 

At an education conference last fall, I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff McCoy, the Associate Superintendent for Academics at Greenville County Schools.

Greenville serves over 75,000 students in South Carolina and is famously known for “OnTrack Greenville,” a proprietary early warning response system that rapidly identifies students requiring academic intervention and helps them get back on track in a timely manner. Of course when I met Jeff, I had no idea this was Greenville’s bread and butter.

Over four years ago, we started Kiddom to enhance the classroom experience for teachers and learners. As we listened to teachers to refine and improve our product, we discovered a an alarming information gap between classrooms and their respective administration bodies.

To learn more, we conducted hundreds of interviews with school and district leaders. The result of this research led to Kiddom Academy, our K-12 school operating system to measure and act on classroom intelligence. Rest assured, we’re never going to stop listening to and learning from the folks we serve.

After the demo, he smiled and said, “What you have here is an early warning response system. We built it five years ago.”

In the spirit of lifelong learning, I wanted Jeff’s take on Kiddom Academy, and he was kind enough to sit through a short demo of our K-12 school OS. After the demo, he smiled and said, “What you have here is an early warning response system. We built it five years ago.”

As it turns out, in 2014 the United Way generously committed $9 million over three years to help Greenville build the software, train staff, and launch the program. I was thrilled to learn the research and work we were doing at Kiddom was putting us in the right direction.

The Components of an Early Warning Response System

To be clear, education technology is one of three components that go into running an early warning response system. It requires an intervention framework like RTI or MTSS, coupled with professionals to take the achievement insights and act on them.

This article explains what went into Greenville’s program. It’s a great example of humans using software to make sense of data in an actionable way to ensure all students succeed.

Early Warning Response Systems: What we Hope to Learn

Next week, Kiddom’s School Success Lead Melissa Giroux and I have the wonderful opportunity to visit Greenville, South Carolina and watch their early warning response system in action. The purpose of our visit is two-fold: (1) identify and understand the classroom intelligence metrics and indicators Greenville County professionals track and (2) identify the essential human processes and protocols necessary to take action on the data to support students.

Greenville County was able to build their early warning response system thanks in large part to a generous $9 million donation by the United Way. At Kiddom, we recognize most districts aren’t that lucky. I look forward to learning from the experts at Greenville County Schools and bringing this knowledge back to the Kiddom community so schools and districts can afford to ensure all students receive the supports they need, when they need it.

kiddom

Kiddom Academy picks up where the LMS leaves off, offering an operating system for K-12 schools and districts to measure and act on classroom intelligence. If you’re ready to see what the K-12 Operating System can do for your school or district, you can book a call with one of our specialists today. 

Educators, do you have any questions you’d like us to ask while we’re in Greenville next week? Leave a comment below and we’ll bring back answers.

Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

Star School Leader Award: Recipient Announcement

What is the Star School Leader Award?

In lieu of National Principals Month, this award was created to honor principals who are the greatest school leaders — and who better to ask than those on the frontlines; teachers?

The nomination period lasted a little over two months, from Oct 14 until Dec 19. During this time, we received hundreds of stories from teachers across the country who were inspired by their principals.

To all those who submitted, we sincerely thank you for your contribution to this award. Your responses were a delight to read — you made us laugh, smile and even cry a bit, at times. But more importantly, your voices instilled in us a vast hope for the future of education, and a sense of how great leadership can pave the path to success for schools, teachers, and students.

You sent so many stories of exemplary school leadership that we were compelled to expand the contest to include multiple winners. In other words, we began with the goal to find a star, but we ended up with a constellation 😉 — of twelve recipients.

So, 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.

What do they win? Recipients will receive a physical Star School Leader award, an Amazon giftcard, free professional development guides, and an upcoming spotlight feature on the Teacher Voice blog — so be sure to check in to view the spotlights in the upcoming months!

And now, without further ado… we present to you:

 

The Star School Leaders

Shameka Gerald

The Inspirational Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Shameka Gerald is the principal at Heritage High School, Virginia. Nominated by Tiffanie Smith.

Mrs. Gerald is an amazing leader that inspires both students and staff.  She is very caring and seeks to meet the needs of everyone. Mrs. Gerald’s leadership has allowed faculty and staff to go above and beyond in many areas.  This includes teachers being leaders in and out of the classroom. Over the past four years as our leader, she has instilled many leadership qualities in teachers to be an effective teacher leader.  This has allowed many to step out of the normal box and try new things in the classroom. Her leadership is very unique in that a few teachers have moved on to higher positions.”

Priscilla Salinas

The Life-Long Mentor, Star School Leader Recipient

Priscilla Salinas is the principal at Henry Ford Elementary, Texas. Nominated by Narda Lugo.

Mrs. Salinas inspired me to continue to move forward in my education by always encouraging me to attain my masters.  I worked with her for seven years as a teacher before entering back to school to attain my Masters in Library Science.  I will forever be grateful towards Mrs. Salinas for giving my first teaching position then for hiring me again as a librarian.  I love my job and I could not have done it if Mrs. Salinas had not encouraged me to continue my education. She is a role model to many and continues to encourage everyone to continue to educate ourselves in a daily basis, even if that means losing one of her educators.  She says, “She might lose a teacher, but gain a role model to others.” She is always looking for ways to encourage us to continue to grow which makes us continue to want to.”

Keith Nemlich

The Thoughtful Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Keith Nemlich is the principal at Central Elementary School, Vermont. Nominated by Judy Verespy.

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… He encourages mindfulness breaks in the classroom. He encourages teachers to share our expertise with one another at staff meetings, and to briefly observe colleagues at work when we can. Keith researches new, more effective ways to accomplish something he believes in, and patiently, persistently works to get administrative support from the district. I could go on and on about the joy of working for a principal who is intelligent, thoughtful, supportive and inspiring. With tighter school budgets, more stringent standards, plentiful new initiatives cutting into already rigorous school day schedules, teaching has become more stressful. Keith Nemlich makes the teachers, para professionals and students at our school want to go to work each day, and be the best we can!”

Carol Leveillee

The Culture Builder, Star School Leader Recipient

Carol Leveillee is the principal at Frederick Douglass Elementary, Delaware. Nominated by Jacqueline Allman.

In the four years that she has been our principal she has turned our failing title 1 school around and now we are thriving! She has brought so many ideas to our school through book studies and motivational speakers. Most recently she took a few staff members to a “Get Your Teach On” conference where staff brought back numbers ideas and now she is allowing us to share and implement new engagement strategies school wide. She also has inspired us to build those meaningful relationships with each other and our students and I believe that has helped us turn our school around.”

Corey Crochet

The Life-Long Learner, Star School Leader Recipient

Corey Crochet is the principal at Labadieville Middle School, Louisiana. Nominated by Cathy Martinez.

Mr. Crochet has a difficult job; how do you inspire students of poverty to value learning? The answer; go back to school to get your PHD in Education.  Mr. Crochet is constantly learning and because of this, he inspires his teachers to do the same. Teachers meet twice a week during the school day, and often meet after school on their own time to study and learn how to make LMS reflect the efforts of the students, teachers and administration. LMS can be a challenging place to work. However, Mr. Crochet’s attitude of removing all obstacles that get in the way of learning is evident  across the campus. He tackles problems and is not afraid to go back to the drawing board when something is not working. His motto is “”Every Student. Every Day, Whatever it takes””. AND he will do whatever it takes through the lens of education and learning.”

Tammy Taylor

The Teacher's Advocate, Star School Leader Recipient

Tammy Taylor is the principal at Wellton Elementary School District, Arizona. Nominated by Lisa Jameson. 

“Before she became principal, Mrs. Taylor worked with Donors Choose to get sewing machines for our school. Now as our Principal, she helps teachers apply for donations through Donors Choose. This is just one of the ways that Mrs. Taylor has inspired teachers and staff members at Wellton Elementary. With her positive attitude and incredible energy, she has been an excellent role model for our teachers and staff.”

Tamara Jones-Jackson

The Analytical Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Tamara Jones-Jackson is the principal at Ralph J. Bunche Academy in Ecorse, Michigan. Nominated by Sandra Fuoco.

In 3 short months, she has created a functioning PTO where we never had one before, allowed teachers to take leadership roles for the betterment of the school, changed policies and procedures so that every day processes run smoother, provided guidance and instruction on how to use our data more effectively so that we can better serve our students, and created positive relationships with students, staff and parents.  But what astonishes me the most is she somehow, someway 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), teachers are getting much needed resources, etc. 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.”

Rodney Ivey

The Teacher Enabler, Star School Leader Recipient

Rodney Ivey is the principal at Swimming Pen Creek Elementary, Florida. Nominated by Janet Shaw.

Mr. Ivey’s positive leadership and vision for doing what is in the best interests of our children sets the tone for all of our faculty and staff to be positive, enthusiastic, and productive . He sees the best in people, therefore young and old rise to his expectations. Rather than micromanage, he works collaboratively with his staff to plan programs and events. He collects data for us, looking for trends and meeting with us on teams to focus on ways to help individual students. Mr. Ivey finds ways to boost students and staff, from a shout out bulletin board to eating lunch with children. He squeezes every penny out of a tight budget to gets his teachers what they need, even planning and manning fundraisers to accomplish his goals. While most of us stay late planning and preparing, many times, his car is the last in the parking lot. He does what needs to be done, even vacuuming my classroom when the custodians were busy on another project. His kind, accepting demeanor inspires students and teachers alike to be kind and considerate. His frequent walks through our classrooms are welcomed, as he joins in our lessons alongside students; we love it when he photographs engaging lessons and shares them out with the staff. Under his leadership, our campus is a very happy inclusive place, with a supportive family-like atmosphere that encompasses parents, kids, teachers, and staff.”

Traci O. Filiss

The Technology Pioneer, Star School Leader Recipient

Traci Filiss is the principal at Taos Academy, New Mexico. Nominated by Elizabeth LeBlanc.

Ms. Filiss is an inspirational leader because she shares decision-making responsibilities with her staff. Her expectations and her trust in their expertise is tremendous. For example, Taos Academy’s Leadership Team is made up of teacher leaders, many of whom also take on administrative roles. She works hard to empower all stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, and families) to be leaders in our school setting.”

Faith Stroud

The Passionate Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Faith Shroud is the principal at Robert Frost Sixth-Grade Academy, Kentucky. Nominated by Sandra Stinson.

Mrs. Stroud is a very strong leader and true advocate for our scholars and our staff. She doesn’t ask anything of us that she is not willing to do herself. She goes into work on the weekends, yes that includes Sundays and works for the improvement of our school to benefit our scholars. She has worked to put a Chromebook in every scholar’s hands at our school. Which for our district is not the case every where else. She works and budgets to set up field trips for our scholars that have real world ties to their curriculum and provides them with experiences that they may not be able to have otherwise. She is a fully transparent leader. She does not hide things from the staff and expects the same from us. She works diligently to provide our scholars with the best educators in their field and strives to improve us as teachers with embedded PD and opportunities to attend seminars and workshops whenever possible. She is a true inspiration to me as a teacher and I think that our scholars feel the same way.”

Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez

The Collaborative Leader, Star School Leader Recipient

Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez is the Superintendent/Principal at San Antonio Union School District, California. Nominated by Diane Stensrud.

Mrs. Hernandez continually seeks to better herself by reading, participating in professional groups for book discussions, attending conferences, taking classes to remain current, and classes to push the boundaries of education. She focuses on 21 Century Future Ready Skills, and encourages the staff to do the same. I love it when she hears us talking about an opportunity for professional development, and says, “Go for it! Let’s make this happen!” She attends as many conferences as possible with us, and makes every effort to provide team-building opportunities. She also makes every effort to equip us to reach our professional goals. 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 is an inspiration to me!”

Sarah Hays

The Motivational Coach, Star School Leader Recipient

Sarah Hays is the principal at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, Montana. Nominated by Tina Martin.

“Each school year Sarah finds a way to motivate us as a staff. This year with the start of a new year with a lot of new staff members and an extra 75 students, we had a lot of movement (rooms, and locations of support staff). This did not stop Sarah from being positive and sharing her passion and goals for us as a staff. At the kick off meeting, Sarah talked about how we all came together and continue to do what is best for the children. She encouraged us and looked at the positives that are happening and not that we are a school bursting at the seams and there is no extra spaces. She shared copies of “The Energy Bus” and had us work break into groups to read each section of the book and come back to summarize what we read to the rest of the staff. Sarah modeled how we too as classroom teachers can share this strategy with our own students.”

Introducing Responsive Curriculum Management

Responsive Curriculum Management provides visibility into classroom progress so you can build systems of continuous improvement

Academy’s New Curriculum Development Tool is a Game Changer — Part 1

After creating a team to test the new feature, our School Success Lead shares notes with both excitement and regret that she didn’t have this tool when she was a teacher!

What is Keeping Administrators up at Night?

We asked key questions around what’s worrying admins & how they vet & learn about new tools and systems adopted in the classroom to address their greatest concerns.

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!

Live at AESA: Kiddom Chats with The EduTech Guys

Education and SaaS technology leader with a passion for K12 edtech. Last month, Jason Katcher, VP of Revenue at Kiddom, sat down with the EduTech Guys at AESA 2018 (Colorado...

How Marshall County Differentiates Instruction with Kiddom (Watch Mini-Documentary Here)

How Marshall County Differentiates Instruction with Kiddom (Watch Mini-Documentary Here)

Abbas Manjee

Abbas Manjee

Chief Academic Officer, Kiddom

Abbas Manjee is Chief Academic Officer at Kiddom. Before Kiddom, Abbas taught high school math serving at-risk youth in New York City. 

Three years ago, the Marshall County Department of Education in Benton, Kentucky abandoned their traditional curriculum and instructional model in favor of individualized, project-based models to offer students more choice and voice.

A change of this magnitude not only requires new furniture, new hardware, teacher training, and community buy-in, but also software to develop a new set of criteria to measure academic success.

Watch “How Marshall County Individualizes Instruction Mini-Documentary” here:

Marshall County decided to trust Kiddom’s K-12 operating system as a centralized source of valuable data to measure student achievement and enable individualization. Since implementation, other districts are following Marshall County’s example as they rethink their own approach to teaching and learning. Since our first pilot with Marshall County, the district has expanded their use of Kiddom. 

It is so rewarding to see how schools and districts tailor Kiddom to fit their pedagogical models as they move towards individualization. The Kiddom team values Marshall County’s vision to use technology to help them transform their instructional practices and we are grateful for the opportunity to have made a difference in this community.

Is your school or district ready to follow Marshall County’s lead?

We’d love to support you in your journey. Book a demo with one of our education specialists below and we’ll be in touch soon.

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3 Ways We Personalized Support for Classrooms and Schools

3 Ways We Personalized Support for Classrooms and Schools

Building relationships with administrators and teachers demands thoughtful inquiry, care, and reflection

Education is awash with efforts to personalize learning. But what does it mean for a company to personalize its support for the teachers who use its product? School leader, Jordan Silvestri and Kiddom representative, Melissa Giroux, describe what it takes for an edtech company to deliver the kind of personalized experience to its customers that teachers give to their students.

 

Jordan Silvestri: Our school focuses on preparing our students during their final years of academic involvement to gain and hone the skills that they will need to be successful after they graduate. We started Torah Academy in September 2016 with a strong vision for how and what we want our students to learn. Every class, student interaction, social setting and community learning experience is another opportunity to help our students see their potential and grow.

After our first year of running the school, we realized that one of our major challenges involved how we were tracking students’ progress. We needed a student-centered program that would be easy to function for the teachers and bring all of our work into one place.

 

Melissa Giroux: Our initial planning session with Torah Academy was extremely energizing. We were excited to meet a school leader who had great clarity around his team’s strengths and goals: Jordan wanted his team to become more accustomed to using data to drive daily instruction and he wanted technology to support consistent routines so his students could become independent learners. His concrete goals made us confident we could support his staff’s day-to-day work from afar.

Working together over the course of the year, we — at Torah Academy and Kiddom — together learned three powerful lessons about how to deliver personalized support to educators:

 

1. Lead with Inquiry

When teachers in professional development workshops push back on learning a new tech tool or question if a new platform might mean more work instead of less, it would be easy for a principal to double down on mandates and take a hardline stance.

Empathetic leaders respond with questions: “Can you tell me a little bit more about that?” or “Can you walk me through the steps you currently take?” and most importantly, “How can I help?”

When teachers hear their administration pause to learn a little bit more about them, learning becomes collaborative. Rather than fighting, they work as a team to figure out if the platform can adapt to meet the needs of a range of educators.

Companies, too, need to build that kind of inquiry into every step of their work with educators.

Educators at Torah Academy teach courses that cover everything from Common Core mathematics to Judaic studies, as well as provide services including speech therapy and vocational training. A one-size-fits-all tutorial about edtech product features wasn’t going to cut it with such diverse staff goals.

The first session between teachers and Kiddom invited the educators to express their concerns so that together we could customize the platform to their teaching styles and goals. Teachers learned how to move their existing curriculum from Google Drive into collaborative Kiddom classes. Other workshops, using the Question Formulation Technique, helped teachers frame collective inquiry goals for professional learning communities.

The Right Question Institute frames this process well: “The skill of question asking is far too rarely deliberately taught in school.” We believe that same kind of questioning skill should characterize how teachers interact with edtech companies.

 

2. Walk the Talk

There’s nothing worse than a classroom full of students staring at you as error messages prevent you from moving on with a lesson. As an administrator, I (Jordan) was worried that some of my teachers might have technical difficulties with onboarding to new technology. The “competency test” for real customer service is simply this: Will it deliver when you need it?

One teacher, in particular, had reported that as she was working to set up her class over the weekend, she hit a snag. She struggled to figure out what was going on. Finally, she contacted Kiddom through the app and had a live troubleshooting conversation on a Sunday afternoon. I was floored by both the teacher’s proactive approach — and the fact that the company walked the talk, big time!

Just as important as responding quickly is speaking the language of the people you serve. The company’s support team has grown from a collection of part-time interns into a team of former educators — people who natively speak “teacher talk” — and avoid the kind of tech jargon that can confuse just about anyone.

No school is the same. Investing the time to send a company’s support team to visit schools and observe users in the field means that teacher advocates learn how to ask questions to troubleshoot and to gain context. They are not merely following tech support flow charts and giving standard responses; they’re relying on their knowledge of pedagogy and the challenging realities of everyday teaching to frame their responses.

 

3. Stop and Reflect

School-based staff don’t always have time to step outside of their day-to-day responsibilities and reflect on successes and challenges. But particularly when you start a relationship with a company, educators must ask their partners: How are you measuring success?

As a school for students with special needs, Torah Academy does not use letter or number grades to assess student progress. Teachers focus on helping students master the skills they will need to be productive members of their community. This approach to assessment — with the ultimate goal of having students apply their goals to new environments and interactions — has been core to our program.

During one of our first joint meetings, the company introduced its mastery grading feature to Torah Academy teachers as if it were a new concept. Hardly the case! In response, teachers showed the Kiddom team how that construct fit right in with the school’s methodology, so that teachers could correlate lessons to goals and assess student progress in one fell swoop.

Throughout the year of working together, our joint team relied on routine check-ins to collect feedback, plan targeted professional development and to provide administrators with a sounding board for worries or celebrations.

But by mid-year, it became clear that educators were adopting the platform in very different ways and at different speeds. We consequently scheduled a mid-year professional development day. The Kiddom team spent the day working with individual teachers during their prep periods, to better differentiate and leverage relationships. Each conversation was private, which allowed for candid feedback and questions and supported individual needs. Some teachers desperately wanted more support in analyzing reports; others were still working on building classroom routines using the platform.

Building relationships between teachers and students takes thoughtful inquiry, care and reflection — and the relationship between an edtech company and the teachers who use its products demands the same. When both groups invest the time, authentic learning happens.


Jordan Silvestri, School Leader
Melissa Giroux, School Success Lead

More information about Kiddom Academy for schools and districts:


Originally posted on EdSurge