November 2018 Articles

11/29/2018

New Kid at the Conference…What I Learned When I Stepped Outside of My Comfort Zone

By: Virginia Ressa

GettyImages-618766306.jpgI always enjoy going to conferences. Spending time with colleagues, discussing content and pedagogy issues and debating the latest concerns always renews my commitment to education. As a social studies teacher, I looked forward to the Ohio Council for the Social Studies conference every year. I looked forward to having lunch with old friends and talking about our shared struggle of making ancient history interesting to seventh-graders. I really enjoyed participating in this conference and similar conferences, like the Ohio Council for Law-Related Education’s Law and Citizenship Conference, each year. I knew people and was comfortable in those settings. But, looking back, I wonder if I was really learning anything new. I heard updates from the Ohio Department of Education, learned about new resources and maybe picked up some ideas on how to teach certain topics. There was a great deal of value in the renewal and re-energization those conferences provided, but was I really stretching myself? Did these conferences really challenge me to grow professionally?

My last blog post was about attending the Future Ready Ohio conference. I chose to write about that conference because I got so much out of it. Maybe it was because the content was new to me, and I didn’t know what to expect. I ventured out of my comfort zone and, as you might expect, I learned a great deal. This month, I attended all three days of OCALICON. Do you know about OCALICON? Some quick background: Here in Ohio, we are lucky to have a nationally recognized organization that works to improve achievement for students with disabilities. OCALI (formerly known as the Ohio Center for Autism and Low Incidence) holds an annual conference that attracts more than 2,000 participants from across the country and even internationally. Since 2007, participants have come from all 50 states and 17 countries.

This year, the Department’s Office for Exceptional Children partnered with OCALI to hold its Special Education Leadership Institute in conjunction with OCALICON. It was a great pairing and allowed Ohio’s attendees to participate in some Ohio-specific events and access all OCALICON’s rich content. Participation was up to about 2,900 attendees! I was one of the new attendees, and I felt the mild tension of being in new territory.

When I was a content area teacher, OCALICON wasn’t on my radar. None of the special education conferences were. Yet, all my classes included students with disabilities. I had their individualized education programs (IEPs) and knew what kinds of accommodations I was supposed to make. That seemed like enough. I never realized how little I knew about students with different disabilities and how to support them in accessing grade-level content. By attending conferences only related to my content area, I was limiting my learning and my ability to improve my practice and meet the needs of all the learners in my classroom. At OCALICON, I found myself outside of my comfort zone — and it was great. There were a few familiar faces and session topics, but most were new to me.

Of this year’s 2,900 attendees, only 60 were general education teachers. This number grew slightly from last year’s 38. Still, the majority of attendees are special education teachers or intervention specialists and special education directors. I’m beginning to think we are approaching conferences in the wrong way. I’m a social studies teacher and know a lot about history because it is something I’m interested in. I read books and watch movies about history all the time. What I don’t know enough about is how to support students with multiple disabilities. What I don’t know enough about is how to use technology to provide students with intellectual disabilities access to grade-level content. About 80 percent of our students with disabilities can, with accommodations, access grade-level content. This would be much more doable if our intervention specialists were not the only ones who knew how to do it.

So, what have I learned? I’ve learned I should attend conferences that focus on content I don’t know a lot about. This is one of those “aha!” moments when I realize I’ve been looking at something the wrong way for years. I wouldn’t sign up for a course on something I already know, so why keep going to the same conferences? I know our content area conferences are valuable for networking and refueling, but I would argue that attending conferences outside of our comfort zones has a great deal of benefit as well. Conversely, for special education teachers and intervention specialists, that would mean attending a few social studies and mathematics conferences.

My challenge to you is to open your mind to a new, authentic learning experience by finding and attending a different kind of conference this year. For instance, you might consider attending the next Ohio Council for Exceptional Children conference. Without a doubt, you also will want to save the date for OCALICON 2019.

Virginia Ressa is an education program specialist at the Ohio Department of Education, where she focuses on helping schools and educators meet the needs of diverse learners through professional learning. You can learn more about Virginia by clicking here.

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11/20/2018

Thank You, Superheroes, for the Difference You Make in Ohio’s Classrooms

By: Jonathan Juravich

GettyImages-997953384.jpgA week after I was named the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, I received a note from an administrator in another part of the state asking if I really thought I “was the best teacher in Ohio.” I was taken aback by this question — the answer clearly is no. I am in no way the best teacher in Ohio or even at my school. But I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to advocate for and represent teachers from all corners of our state. And over the past year, I have had the opportunity to meet remarkable, inspiring teachers who are nothing short of superheroes.

My 5-year-old came home from her first week of kindergarten in Columbus City Schools proclaiming, “Mrs. Coneglio is a superhero without a cape.” Within those first few days with her teacher, she realized something very important — this teacher did remarkable things for her and the rest of her classmates. Mrs. Coneglio was not flashy with a sparkling uniform and a flowing cape. She did not have a mask concealing her identity. Instead, she was an everyday person with the extraordinary ability to build connections and bring her students into a state of awe.

During this season of thanks, I want to take the opportunity to thank the remarkable teachers across Ohio who give of themselves every day for their students and communities. These teachers believe in the power of their students as individuals. And for that, I am truly grateful.

I am thankful for teachers like Veronica Cotton, a third-grade teacher at John P. Parker Elementary in Cincinnati Public Schools, who welcomed me into her classroom with open arms. I watched her validate and then integrate her students’ unique experiences into their learning during Language Arts and Science. Thank you, Veronica, for reminding me, and all of us, that our students’ individual contexts fundamentally influence their learning.

Thank you, Dillon Sedar, art teacher at Munroe Elementary with Tallmadge City Schools. His students bring in works of art they create at home to trade with him. He proudly takes their masterpieces and gives them a piece of his own artwork. This connection validates their role as individual artists. Thank you, Dillon, for challenging and valuing your students’ individual voices and creative spirits.

I am grateful for the infectious positivity spread by Jen Savage, a teacher of the deaf at Windermere Elementary in Upper Arlington. In small, purposeful ways, she works tirelessly to make sure her students and their families are taken care of and well represented. Thank you, Jen, for all you do to make learning accessible to all students.

Thanks, Arthur Lard. Arthur is a business teacher at Portsmouth High School. He teaches financial literacy, educating his students about the economic risks that could profoundly impact their lives. He encourages them to be patient and take time to find their own answers instead of relying on teacher-driven decisions and solutions. Thank you, Arthur, for empowering your students as they consider their futures.

Many thanks to Bre Sambuchino of Loveland High School. Bre models selflessness for her students through community service-oriented instruction. The Day of Service she organizes for her high school students gets them into the community to make a very real difference for others. Students attach notes of love and affirmation they have written to coats they donate to a local center. Thank you, Bre, for inspiring the future leaders, teachers and citizens of our world with kindness and empathy.

To this small handful of educators and the countless others across Ohio, I say, thank you. Thank you for your leadership, your voice and your dedication to your students…our future. Though you might not wear a cape to school each day, know that those young eyes looking back at you see you in a theatrical way. They envision you in a stance of strength and power, with the wind in your hair and lights shining behind you. To those students. Your students. YOU are a superhero.

Jonathan Juravich is the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year. For the 2018-2019 school year, Jonathan is taking a sabbatical from his position as an elementary art teacher at Olentangy Local Schools to serve as the Department’s teacher-in-residence. You can learn more about Jonathan by clicking here.

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11/15/2018

National Apprenticeship Week...A Fresh Look at a Classic Career Path

By: Steve Gratz

GettyImages-878440230.jpgNational Apprenticeship Week is a national celebration that offers leaders in business, labor, education and other critical partners a chance to demonstrate their support for apprenticeship. Gov. Kasich proclaimed Nov. 12-18, 2018, as National Apprenticeship Week in Ohio.

National Apprenticeship Week gives apprenticeship sponsors the opportunity to showcase their programs, facilities and apprentices in their community. The weeklong event highlights the benefits of apprenticeship in preparing a highly skilled workforce to meet the talent needs of employers across diverse industries. We’re seeing a resurgence of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities across Ohio and the nation. Once considered a secondhand career path, today, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs are providing excellent pay and benefits. Many apprenticeship programs provide a salary of $30,000 or more with full benefits throughout the training program. On average, apprentices who complete their training programs earn $60,000 or more per year after graduation. You can learn more about apprenticeships by visiting AprenticeOhio.

There are 19 National Apprenticeship Week events in Ohio this year. Most events are centered around apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing and construction. For example, the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee is hosting an event to bring awareness to SkillsUSA. SkillsUSA is a national membership association serving high school, college and middle school students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. Schools can participate in SkillsUSA and have students compete at the regional level. The event also includes information about the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and the programs offered, along with a tour of the campus.

Near my hometown of Bluffton in Allen County, GROB Systems, Inc., is hosting an open house for individuals interested in advanced manufacturing. GROB is a family-owned company and has been a leader in designing and building highly innovative production and automation systems. GROB has apprenticeship opportunities for individuals interested in manufacturing, computer numerical control, robotics, automation, machining and engineering. The company will hold an informational presentation describing the program in depth with a question and answer session to follow. After the presentation, GROB apprentices will take attendees on a tour of the very clean, state of the art, highly technical and temperature-controlled facility. Apprentices at GROB gain hands-on knowledge, a great hourly wage, a free associate degree from Rhodes State College, free health, vision and dental insurance, and a 401k match.

Ohio has many pre-apprenticeship programs that partner with companies like the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and GROB. Some of the most successful programs are located at Miami Valley Career Technical Center and Upper Valley Career Center. You can learn more about Ohio’s effort in establishing pre-apprenticeship programs by visiting the Ohio Department of Education’s webpage on apprenticeships and internships.

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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11/8/2018

Recognizing the Power of School Libraries and Librarians

By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks

GettyImages-819288850.jpgA strong school library program has a powerful effect on literacy and learning for all students. In a March 2018 Phi Delta Kappan article called Why school librarians matter: What years of research tell us, Keith Curry Lance and Debra E. Kachel cite research that supports this:

Since 1992, a growing body of research known as the school library impact studies has consistently shown positive correlations between high-quality library programs and student achievement (Gretes, 2013; Scholastic, 2016). Data from more than 34 statewide studies (including Ohio) suggest that students tend to earn better standardized test scores in schools that have strong library programs.

The work and impact of school libraries directly align to support Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Each Child, Our Future. School librarians especially support the four learning domains because school libraries serve as a connector among all four domains.

In the domain of Foundational Knowledge and Skills, school libraries clearly have a strong focus on literacy and technology. From teaching students about media and digital literacy to a lifelong love of learning, literacy in all forms is the key to a strong school library program.

In a conversation I had with Deb Logan, the president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA), she talked about why school libraries matter and how they promote student achievement. She commented that school libraries provide choices and support students as they find their voices. They help students consider using a source or not. School librarians teach critical thinking skills for evaluating media sources. A school librarian changes a school library from a repository of information to a place to create new information sources and students from consumers of information to creators of resources.

I am a former school librarian, and I keep my license current. I am proud to serve as the Department liaison to OELMA. OELMA just had its annual conference and, across the board, the sessions supported all four areas of Each Child, Our Future. For example, the session called Lending Hope in Times of Trauma supported social-emotional learning. The program described the session like this: School librarians have unique opportunities to lend hope and foster resiliency and wellness and create an environment of safe refuge for students in their school libraries.

Sessions focused on everything from literacy and technology to design thinking. They covered makerspaces and STEM — the librarians in Ohio are truly Future Ready and able to serve as reliable instructional partners and resources for students and staff in your schools.

In addition to the professional learning at the conference, OELMA honored some superhero Ohio school librarians who received recognition with an Ohio Educational Library Media Association Notable Award grant or scholarship. The awardees included:

  • Kristine Konik, Westerville City Schools - Leadership in Action Award;
  • Shelley Bertsch, Rossford Schools - Floyd Dickman Programming Grant;
  • Amy Price, Princeton City Schools - Intellectual Freedom Award;
  • Brandi Young, South-Western City Schools and Angela Wojtecki, Nordonia Hills Schools - Information Technology Innovation Awards;
  • Betsy Gugle, Columbus School for Girls - Outstanding Administrator Award;
  • Dr. Christina Dorr, Hilliard City Schools - OELMA Outstanding School Librarian Award;
  • Meagan Fowler, St. Joseph Academy - Library Leadership Ohio Scholarship.

OELMA provides up to two scholarships for licensed school librarians who are OELMA members to participate in Library Leadership Ohio. Library Leadership Ohio, a collaboration between the State Library of Ohio and OhioNET, is an institute designed to develop future leaders for Ohio libraries.

In addition to honoring educators, OELMA honors four K-12 students who value reading for pleasure and share their joy of reading with others with the Read on, Ohio! award.
Congratulations to the following:

  • Isaac Simkanin - Rootstown Elementary School;
  • Hannah Sadler - Hilliard Weaver Middle School;
  • Caitlin Klein - Maplewood High School;
  • Emoni Harmon - Rossford High School.

You can find more about all of OELMA’s awards, grants and scholarships on its website.

In addition to the conference, another source of inspiration for school librarians is Future Ready. The Ohio school library community embraces the #FutureReadyOH movement. See their commitment to be part of this here. High-quality school libraries are so important that Future Ready librarians across the nation designed a specific framework to help them align their work. The learner-centered focus on literacy drives the seven gears and the momentum for librarians to lead from the library. For districts, supporting a strong library program allows you to create an intersection where all four learning domains can unite…school libraries truly are the heart of it all!

Stephanie Donofe Meeks is director of integrated technology at the Ohio Department of Education, where she supports technology integration innovations and blended learning initiatives for districts and schools across the state. You can learn more about Stephanie by clicking here.

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11/1/2018

Each Child, Our Future…Something to Sink Your Teeth Into

By: Marva Jones

ThinkstockPhotos-76763121.jpgI first heard about Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education when I began looking for my next gig at the Ohio Department of Education. As I read the plan, I thought: Now here is something I can sink my teeth into and make an impact. Honestly, I believed the Department needed something to guide its work, make policy decisions and connect with families, communities and partners to reach each child and affect their future. So, I read on.

There are more than 134,000 full-time educators serving in 3,600 public schools and educating approximately 1.7 million school children in Ohio. The strategic plan was built by Ohioans for Ohioans and launched by Ohio’s superintendent of public instruction and the State Board of Education in the summer of 2018. More than 150 Ohio-based partners worked to develop the plan. Approximately 1,200 Ohio citizens — including parents, caregivers, preK-12 educators, higher education representatives, business leaders, employers, community members, state legislators and, of course, students themselves — attended meetings across the state to review the plan and provide feedback. In total, more than 1,350 Ohioans helped develop the plan.

The plan made me think of my teaching days, but more importantly, it brought up memories of when I became a principal early in my education career. Being the head of a school combined my favorite aspects of education: student interaction, implementation of curriculum, mentoring and supporting teachers, achievement gains, reducing behavioral issues, and partnering with parents and community members. Everything we did focused on how we could positively impact the lives of the children. This sounds just like the strategic plan components.

Specifically, I had a flashback to when I became a new principal in 2006-2007 at Dueber Elementary in Canton City Schools. Being the youngest of 24 principals in the system, I thought about the monumental goal of educating each child. To do this, one of my main missions was to create partnerships with families and community members. I wanted the school to be a great place for students and a place where teachers loved working! That became my mantra.

This document provides an excellent summary of the strategic plan. It highlights that the strategic plan encompasses the following components:

Four Learning Domains — Foundational Knowledge & Skills, Well-Rounded Content, Leadership & Reasoning, and Social-Emotional Learning.

One Goal — Ohio will increase annually the percentage of its high school graduates who, one year after graduation, are: enrolled in post-high school learning; serving in a military branch; earning a living wage; or engaged in a meaningful self-sustaining vocation.

Three Core Principles — Equity, Partnerships and Quality Schools.

10 Priority Strategies — 1) Highly effective teachers and leaders; 2) Principal support; 3) Teacher and instruction support; 4) Standards reflect all learning domains; 5) Assessments gauge all learning domains; 6) Accountability system honors all learning domains; 7) Meet needs of the whole child; 8) Expand quality early learning; 9) Develop literacy skills; 10) Transform high school/provide more paths to graduation.

The state-level vision provides an aspirational guide for students, parents, partners and the education system: In Ohio, each child is challenged to discover and learn, prepared to pursue a fulfilling post-high school path and empowered to become a resilient lifelong learner who contributes to society.

My mission as a principal more than 20 years ago included many of these components. In my coming blogs, take a stroll down memory lane with me and discover how aspects of the strategic plan always have been sprinkled liberally throughout my career. I hope this will help educators see how the work we do aligns with the plan and helps us recognize the difference we are making for each child and the future. In my next blog, I’ll share my thoughts on partnerships.

Marva Jones is senior executive director for Continuous Improvement for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Marva by clicking here.

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