Thursday, June 2, 2016

Spring Branch ISD Names First Vanguard Fellows Teaching Cohort

Nineteen Spring Branch ISD educators were welcomed as the first-ever team of Vanguard Fellows during a daylong learning session held May 18 at the SBISD Technology Training Center on Memorial Drive.

The Cohort I Vanguard Fellows, as the group is officially known, were named to begin a long-term district effort to encourage and to support innovative classroom instruction through smart technology integration and curriculum design.

The Vanguard Fellows were chosen through careful review of personal nominations. They range from prekindergarten to high school instructors. Fellows include a teacher librarian and a special education teacher. They represent 16 campuses across SBISD.

During the May 18 welcoming session, SBISD Superintendent Scott Muri, Ed.D., described how an Advanced Placement student told him recently how “boring” a college-level class was for her and high-performing students like her, but she accepted the idea that learning was just like that.

Hearing about student complacency like this is a plea for change in traditional teaching and instruction, he said.

“It’s an exciting time for Spring Branch ISD to take such a great step forward,” Dr. Muri said. “You’re here today because of the process of change. . . . We need to create a real coalition of the willing – YOU! – who are willing to help us change so that student says ‘Wow!’ about her AP class.”

SBISD’s Vanguard Fellows will develop in its own way, but similar teams have been created successfully in two public school districts where Dr. Muri served. These include Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina and Fulton County Schools in suburban Atlanta.

Up to four Vanguard Fellows will serve on each Fulton County campus soon. In SBISD, initial plans call for Vanguard Fellows to actively serve in campus roles for three years, and then help innovation move forward by serving in emeritus status as new fellows are later named.

After professional training and development, one goal for Vanguard Fellows will be mentoring of capable colleagues, who might then be named Vanguard Fellows in the future. A grassroots development model is expected to both encourage and spread classroom innovation.

In addition to SBISD Educational Technology staff, Vanguard Fellows kickoff presenters included Heather Cox, an education technology specialist at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga. She was a fourth-grade teacher when she joined a Vanguard group in Fulton County.

“One of the great and beautiful things about being on the Vanguard Team is that you’ll see the most amazing teaching and the most amazing learning,” she told the new SBISD cohort team.

During the welcoming day, the new fellows learned about expectations, instructional coaching, blended learning models, digital tools and topics, and opportunities for group collaboration and book studies. The educators will get special Vanguard T-shirts. They will stay connected online through a portal, and through a blog and monthly newsletter, among other group supports.

One fun, transformational activity titled #vantasy will allow Vanguard Fellows to review their own classroom needs ranging from furniture to digital devices to help transform classrooms into the kind of innovative learning spaces that reflect their individual grade levels, subject areas and needs. Design plans will be reviewed for funding by use of remaining bond funds.

“There is absolutely no one who will change practices more in the classroom than the classroom teacher,” said Karen Justl, district director of educational technology. Justl talked with Vanguard Fellows about the learning journey ahead, including the urgent need to “share, share, share” with others, and addressed the importance of being prepared for failure along the way, too.

The Vanguard Fellows will meet several times next year in special team sessions.

Cohort I Vanguard Fellows

Shelby Acevedo, Northbrook High, Special Education Co-Teacher
Christina Canney, Westchester Academy, 6th Grade Science
Jonathan Claydon, Northbrook High, Pre-Calculus and Calculus
Jamie Flint, Spring Woods High, Pre-Advanced Placement (AP) and AP Chemistry
Sofia Guerrero, Landrum Middle, 7th Grade Mathematics
Kari Heitman, Spring Oaks Middle, Teacher Librarian
Ashley Johnson, Hunters Creek Elementary, 1st Grade Self Contained
Edith Lewis, Spring Oaks Middle, 7th Grade Science
Sharon Mahabir, The Lion Lane School for Early Learning, Prekindergarten
Angela McNeil, Westwood Elementary, 4th Grade Self Contained
Annie Mitchell, Nottingham Elementary, 3rd Grade ELA Arts/Social Studies
Crystal Nicholas, Northbrook Middle, 7th Grade Mathematics
Lindsay O’Neil, Cedar Brook Elementary, 2nd Grade Self Contained
Jennifer Roberts, Westwood Elementary, 3rd Grade, Self Contained
Becky Singley, Stratford High, English Language Arts/English I
Anne Smalling, Memorial Drive Elementary, 4th Grade Self Contained
Francisco Villareal, The Panda Path School for Early Learning, Prekindergarten
Donna Ward, Spring Forest Middle, 7th Grade Mathematics
Amarilys William, Northbrook Middle, 8th Grade Science


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