FEATURE: Invest in Yourself. Just Do It!

Tech and Learning recently sponsored a leadership event in Denver on Bridging the Equity Gap. For me, the learning and inspirational message went beyond the topic and technology.

By Paul D. Vieira, Ed.D.

Learning from Each Other

We made a site visit to the Denver School of Science and Technology. It was evident from the visit that there was a strong sense of culture, high expectations, opportunity, and student voice throughout the campus. What was most impressive is that 100% of their graduates have been accepted to a 4-year college. The school’s core values are posted all over the school and from the two hours we spent there, I could see that those values were living and breathing in the life of the school. 

At another Denver school, Conservatory Green High School, Principal Adeel Khan said, “real learning happens through relationships.” We can take this a step further and say that a leader is only successful once they have built true relationships. We spend a lot of time focusing on how to raise scores, close gaps, and address issues, but how much time are we spending building relationships in our schools and districts?

Wisdom Amouzou, cofounder and executive director of Empower Community High School in Aurora, (CO) said, “Chromebooking the hell out of schools does not create digital equity.” A lot of what we do in education is “throw products” at students. But if we are going to see true systemic change, “the system must change to truly serve all.” Just because a district has the resources to purchase materials and programs does not mean that they will close gaps and see progress. Meaningful change comes from within and must be part of your core values and beliefs in order for change to be effective.

Wisdom Amouzou, cofounder and executive director of Empower Community High School in Aurora, 

Wisdom Amouzou, cofounder and executive director of Empower Community High School in Aurora, 

Kristy Sailors is the director of technology for Houston (TX) Public Schools. She serves more than 200,000 students in her school community. In talking to Kristy and other leaders from across the nation, it was apparent that the size of your school district or your budget does not matter. The issues are the same everywhere. 

2017 Colorado Teacher of the Year Sean Wybrant believes in student agency and voice. Empowering students is so important to their success. What was evident in listening to Sean speak is that he has high standards and expectations of all his students, and they are able to meet them. Sean’s classroom can serve as an exemplar of what is possible in giving students a voice while still maintaining rigor and high expectations.

District leaders share challenges and solutions

District leaders share challenges and solutions

Expanding My Professional Learning Network

All of us know the importance and power of a PLN. That Denver weekend served as a strong example of this. Jen O’Neill, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in Norton (MA), introduced me to Brad Hubbard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in Community High School District 117 (IL), Tom Todd, the 2017 National Secondary Principals of the Year (NASSP) from Colorado Springs, and Johnnie Thomas, superintendent of Rich Township High School District 227 (IL). Three educators with different backgrounds from different parts of the country. We joined up with Eric Conti, superintendent of Burlington Public Schools (MA) and his assistant superintendent Pat Larkin for an engaging conversation about education and students. All of us walked away from that conversation with a new and different outlook on how each of us face our challenges to better our school communities and an appreciation for what needs to be done to make that happen. More importantly, I walked away with a stronger and better PLN and six people that I can reach out to for help and support.

Paul D. Vieira, Ed.D.is assistant superintendent for Ashland (MA) Public Schools.