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6/20/2019

Voice, Recognition, Leadership... A Reflection on My Year-in-Residence

By: Jonathan Juravich

Group.JPGOne year ago, a proposal was on the table to transform the Ohio Teacher of the Year program from a one-year experience to a two-year commitment. The first year would be one of recognition and learning, followed by a year of service to the state as the Ohio teacher-in-residence. I was hesitant. What would life outside of my classroom look like? Would I be bored, spinning around in a chair all day? Was I even capable of living up to everyone’s expectations? Twelve months later, I am wrapping up my time piloting this program and dizzied from a year of growth and inspiration.

I was having lunch with a group of teachers this spring, and one of them asked me what I actually do in this role. I answered saying, “I focus on teacher voice, teacher leadership and teacher recognition.” She then said that this was all well and good but wanted to know more details. What was it that I was actually doing?

During this past year, I have toured the state, meeting with teachers, administrators and students while learning about their schools, aspirations and communities. Sometimes I offered professional development for teachers, spoke at conferences, led whole-school student assemblies or provided hot chocolate to teachers at staff meetings. Then, I brought all of these experiences and the information I learned from my visits back to the Department to help provide Department staff with insight from the field and context for decision-making.

In April, I testified to the Primary and Secondary Education Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives. One of the members of this committee asked me to reflect on what it is that I heard from teachers when I visited schools. I noted how inspired I was by Ohio’s educators, their professionalism and their heart. These teachers spoke of their admiration for their students and the strength of their colleagues down the hall that, in their words, I “just had to stop in and see before leaving.”

This year, I was motivated by great teachers like the enthusiastic Chris Basich in Riverside Local Schools; by the heart of third grade teacher Devery Scott from Whitehall City Schools; Chris Williams and the remarkable staff at Colerain Elementary School in Columbus; the thought-provoking conversations with Cheshire Elementary’s Mikela Thomas; and the creativity of Terry Stewart at the Ohio School for the Deaf. Meeting these teachers and countless more, hearing their stories, their hopes for their students and the triumphs they had just recently witnessed have changed who I am as an educator.

In one of my first meetings at the Department, I was told there was interest in an additional teacher recognition program. Through hard work and lots of collaboration, the TORCH (Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart) recognition was rolled out this winter. In its inaugural year, TORCH recognizes teachers for their engagement with the community and advancement of educational equity. Five honorees from across the state were selected and recognized during surprise events this spring. I am honored to have met Tequila Pennington-Calwise of Cleveland Metro Schools, Leila Kubesch from Norwood City Schools, Sylvania’s Tami Blue, Sarah Thornburg of Columbus City Schools, and Alicia Spears from the Tri-State STEM+M Early College High School. These teachers strive to teach the whole child and every child. I, for one, cannot wait to hear about the teachers that will be recognized through this program in the future, for their service-centered lives.

Honestly, what I am most excited about is the future of the teacher-in-residence program and how it will continue even when I am gone. I am thrilled to see how future Ohio Teachers of the Year will put their own unique spin on engaging educators to use their voices, advance leadership, and recognize the goodness in one another. When I am back in my art room at Liberty Tree Elementary School this fall, I know that Mona Al-Hayani, the 2019 Ohio Teacher of the Year, will be stepping into this role, rebranded as the Ohio Teacher Fellowship. She will bring professionalism and passion to her work, advocating for all of Ohio’s teachers and students.

On my last full day as the Ohio teacher-in-residence, the Department hosted the first-ever Teacher Leadership Summit at The Ohio State University. Two hundred teacher leaders and administrators came from across the state to join Department staff and share in a day of learning and inspiration that had taken most of the year to plan. Many of the amazing people I met over the past few months were there, making connections with one another and filling the room with energy. As the morning opened, I stood on the stage looking out at faces I had not known a year prior and the table of staff members from my own school. These colleagues, both the familiar and the new, had become a part of the journey. I stood there at the summit realizing that this year-long adventure, this metaphoric summit, was only the beginning for me…for all of us. There are new mountains and challenges to take on in the quest to advance teacher voices, leadership and recognition. How incredibly grateful I am for the opportunity to have represented the amazing educators of Ohio in this work as the teacher-in-residence.

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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5/8/2019

In-Demand Jobs and Career Exploration: Critical Lessons that Help Ohio’s Economy and Your Students

By: Cassandra Palsgrove

IDJW_logo.jpgOhio is an amazing place to live, partly because it also is a great place to work. As we move closer to graduation season, we are reminded that students across Ohio are making important decisions about their futures. The learning experiences, exposure and relationships they have built throughout their educational journeys inevitably influence those decisions.

Beyond graduation, students have many opportunities. Ohio’s One Goal for Education in Each Child, Our Future is to increase annually the percentage of its high school graduates who, one year after graduation, are:

  • Enrolled and succeeding in a post-high school learning experience, including an adult career-technical education program, an apprenticeship, or a two-year or four-year college program;
  • Serving in a military branch;
  • Earning a living wage; or
  • Engaged in a meaningful, self-sustaining vocation. 

As students are making their decisions about what is next, it’s important to know that Ohio's manufacturing industry leads the country in production of plastics and rubber, fabricated metals and electrical equipment. Our state’s agricultural industry covers 13.9 million acres of land and leads the nation in the production of swiss cheese. We also are home to great careers in other major industries including information technology, transportation and trade, business services, real estate, education and health. Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Ohio include Cardinal Health, Nationwide, Marathon Petroleum, Macy’s, Procter & Gamble and Kroger.

What do these stats about Ohio’s economy have to do with school? It’s important for us as educators to understand how the role we play contributes to the economic viability of our state. Educators help develop students who have foundational and well-rounded content knowledge and skills and are strong communicators, creative, and collaborative individuals who will contribute to our state’s growing economy.

In-Demand Jobs Week is an opportunity to engage and inspire those students. It also is an opportunity to help younger students begin developing career interests, so they can explore pathways toward these interests while they are still in school. During In-Demand Jobs Week, we encourage communities to partner and plan events and activities that will inspire students and job seekers.

Wait, what are In-Demand Jobs? In-demand jobs are those that pay a sustainable wage and offer a promising future based on the projected number of openings and growth. Ohio has in-demand jobs in more than 200 occupations across a wide range of industries. Ohio’s In-Demand Jobs List is developed and updated using labor market information, job postings on OhioMeansJobs.com, JobsOhio regional forecasts and employer forecasts.

As educators, we can help students and their families make informed choices about their futures by having conversations about these opportunities. Using the In-Demand Jobs resources and data provides us a common way to communicate about professions available in Ohio.

In-Demand Jobs Week is an opportunity to increase student career exposure and provide experiential learning and engagement about careers. My role at the Ohio Department of Education includes strengthening business and education partnerships across our state. This includes developing resources for schools to provide students early opportunities to experience careers. To get started, look at our In-Demand Jobs Week classroom toolkit. This toolkit houses simple activities that can jumpstart these opportunities for students!

Coming from the classroom, I have seen firsthand the significant influence teachers have in the career choices of their students. We must more closely embrace this important role we play. Our students need positive mentors who are willing to help guide them through this important choice they are making about their futures. We also can help them decide what education and training pathways they take to get there. 

As educators, we have many responsibilities. We are asked to teach, supervise and support the academic and technical content that students are charged with knowing and performing. We make sure they are safe at lunch and on the playground. We are asked to ensure that parents and guardians are well informed. We volunteer for after-school events and manage extracurricular activities.

It is easy to think of providing career awareness, exposure and planning activities for students as “just one more thing” and in some respects — it is. But I suspect that helping students make an informed choice about their futures, and preparing them to take those next steps, is at least partially what attracted us to this profession in the first place.

Career advising is worthwhile and rewarding and can be an excellent way to get to know what motivates the students in your classroom. This is no easy feat, and luckily there are many online career planning systems that can assist students, parents, guardians and educators in thoughtful career advising. Ohio's no-cost, career planning system is OhioMeansJobs.com. The K-12 backpack function allows students to learn more about their career interests and in-demand jobs, build résumés, take practice ACT and WorkKeys assessments, search for college and training programs, create a budget based on future expenses, and develop meaningful academic and career plans for high school and beyond.

Want to hear from other schools and districts doing this work? Come check out our Career Connections conference on July 29. Want even more resources on how schools and businesses can partner to provide students with more opportunities to get a head start on their futures? Visit SuccessBound.Ohio.gov.

I look forward to continuing this conversation with you! Let’s connect on Twitter @cpalsgrove, or you can email me at Cassandra.palsgrove@education.ohio.gov.

Happy In-Demand Jobs Week!

Cassandra Palsgrove works in the Center for Teaching, Leading and Learning. She oversees programs that help connect Ohio’s business and education sectors, including Ohio’s Career Connections and SuccessBound programs. You can read more about Cassandra by clicking here

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3/21/2019

ENCORE: Universal Design for Learning Equals Learning Opportunities for All

By: Kimberly Monachino

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Source: Brookes Publishing Co.

Editor's note: March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. We thought this was the perfect time to re-run this March 8, 2018 blog about making learning accessible to all students.

Today’s classrooms are very busy places. They are filled with students who have diverse needs and learning challenges. To meet their needs, teachers may be equipped with a variety of instructional strategies and have many other tools in their tool boxes. However, even with multiple tools, trying to meet the unique needs of each individual child sometimes can feel daunting.

One approach that can help teachers customize the curriculum to meet the needs of all learners is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Universal Design for Learning originated with the term universal design. Originally, universal design meant creating products and environments that are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Automatic doors, closed captions, ramps and curb cuts are all universal designs. These modifications assist people with disabilities, but individuals without disabilities also benefit from these adaptations. For example, automatic doors make entering a building easier if you use a wheelchair or if you can walk but are carrying several bags of groceries.

We know that every learner is unique, and one size doesn’t fit all. The Universal Design for Learning structure is research based and aims to change the design of classrooms, school practices and coursework rather than change each unique learner. It minimizes barriers and maximizes learning no matter what a student’s ability, disability, age, gender or cultural background might be. It reduces obstacles to learning and provides appropriate accommodations and supports. It does all of this while keeping expectations high for all students. Universal Design for Learning makes it possible for all learners to engage in meaningful learning by making sure everyone understands what is being taught. Coursework developed following Universal Design for Learning is flexible — the goals, methods, materials and assessments consider the full range of each learner’s needs.

In a Universal Design for Learning classroom, students have goals and are aware of what they are working to achieve. To accomplish this, the teacher might post goals for specific lessons in the classroom. Students also might write down lesson goals in their notebooks. The teacher refers to lesson goals during the lesson itself. In a traditional classroom, there only may be one way for a student to complete an assignment. This might be an essay or a worksheet. With Universal Design for Learning, there are multiple options. For instance, students can create a podcast or a video to show what they know. They may be allowed to draw a comic strip. There are a wide range of possibilities for completing assignments, as long as students meet the lesson goals. With Universal Design for Learning, teachers give students feedback about how they are doing with lesson goals. Students reflect on their learning and think about their progress toward the goals. If they did not meet the goals, the teachers encourage students to think about what they could do differently next time.

The three major ideas in the Universal Design for Learning structure are:

  1. Multiple means of representation is showing or presenting the information in different ways to the learners. For example, students with sensory disabilities (e.g., blindness or deafness); learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia); language or cultural differences, and others may need information presented in different ways. So, instead of the teacher having all the students read from a textbook or only using printed text, there are options for students based on how they best learn. Some students prefer to listen to a recording of the textbook, use pictures to understand the print or use a computer.
  2. Multiple means of action and expression means providing opportunities for learners to demonstrate their knowledge in alternative ways. For example, when the teacher gives students options to “show what they know” beyond paper and pencil tests. The students show their understanding by creating something such as a poster, making a PowerPoint presentation, writing a poem or making a TV or radio commercial.
  3. Multiple means of engagement is discovering learners’ interests and motivating them to learn. When teachers take the extra time to learn about their students’ personal interests and make learning relevant to their experiences, students often become more engaged. For example, the teacher who knows her students are excited about sports and incorporates those interests into reading and math activities.

You can find detailed information about these three principles here.

The National Center on Universal Design for Learning is a great resource for people who want to learn more about this topic. Additionally, you can explore the Universal Design for Learning  guidelines here. These guidelines offer a set of practical suggestions that can ensure all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities.

Kim Monachino is director of the Office for Exceptional Children for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Kim by clicking here.

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3/7/2019

The Rewards of Recognition… How the Ohio Teacher of the Year Program Opens Doors

By: Jonathan Juravich

Editor’s Note: During the Ohio Teacher of the Year selection process, outstanding educators from each of the 11 State Board of Education districts are chosen to be District Teachers of the Year. Finalists for the Ohio Teacher of the Year will be selected from these 11 honorees. Ultimately, only one will become the Ohio Teacher of the Year. This person is then in the running to be the National Teacher of the Year. 

As the nomination window for the 2020 Ohio Teacher of the Year opens, 2018 Teacher of the Year Jonathan Juravich invited Bre Sambuchino, a 2019 Ohio Teacher of the Year finalist, to help him write this blog. Below, Jonathan and Bre share how their respective recognitions have impacted their careers and lives. They also invite you to nominate an outstanding teacher for this honor.

NewOTOY_noyear-002.pngJonathan Juravich, 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year

To be named the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year set into motion the most remarkable year and a half of my life. To be honest, I will never be the same again. I have realized that I have become a stronger version of myself. I am confident in sharing my perspective and my experiences in the classroom. I have learned what true leadership can be and how sometimes sitting back and actually listening to someone else can mean so much more than being the loudest voice in the room. I have learned that Ohio Teacher of the Year is so much more than a title, it is an opportunity, a responsibility and full of possibilities.

Right before the announcement was made of my recognition, I was on a conference call with previous honorees. One of them said, “You are going to join the most incredible professional network of people when you meet the other state teachers of the year.” I remember rolling my eyes. Really? Another network of educators? I think I’m okay. And then I met the 54 other state Teachers of the Year and realized this was so much more than a professional network. This group of educators has so many things in common with me — they process the same struggles, challenge me to think bigger, are there when I need someone to listen and have opened my eyes to gratitude. They have become my close friends.

Together, we have had once-in-a-lifetime experiences. We explored Google’s campus, shared our experiences with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, toured the White House, attended Space Camp and stood on the field during the national anthem at the National Championship football game. And the adventures continue. Then, there was that day I stood on the TED stage in New York City, telling the stories of my students, my daughter and my grandmother to fellow teachers in the audience.

Throughout these experiences, I was very cognizant that I was representing Ohio and the excellent educators of our state. I knew when I saw something amazing or experienced excellent professional learning, it was my job to share it with the people who needed it. And now, piloting the teacher-in-residence position at the Ohio Department of Education, I have had the opportunity to meet and celebrate some of the most remarkable educators across our state.

This experience has led me to dream big and believe in possibilities — possibilities for my students, for education and for myself.

Bre Sambuchino, 2019 Ohio Teacher of the Year Finalist

I remember the day when my superintendent walked in my class with flowers in hand. I was teaching Education Principles. This is a class for seniors who wish to become teachers, and they are absolutely delightful — a joy, really. She came in and explained she had just submitted my name for Ohio Teacher of the Year. The students in the class were enthralled. They wanted to know everything and asked, “So, what is next?” “When will she know?” “How can we help?” I remember thinking they were being so sweet, but I was pretty sure my road was going to end that day because I knew of all the amazing teachers that were in my building — let alone the state of Ohio.

They asked for a group hug. Yes, a hug. Senior students were hugging it out. I thought, “Maybe I did teach them something.” As the instructor for our school’s Teaching Professions Academy, my motto is to do all things with grace and love.

The Ohio Teacher of the Year process continued and was challenging at times. I was juggling a lot of life changes at the same time as I was preparing for my presentation and writing my essays. However, the process gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and, for that, I am grateful. When all the essays were written, I realized I like building and creating things. Almost everything I had been recognized for had been for creating something that had not existed previously.

The process gave me confidence, which gave me grace. It gave me the opportunity to say, “What is next?” Since then, I have volunteered with the St. Vincent de Paul Retrofittings Committee, and I recently met with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society about becoming involved in their work. I love working on teams, building things and creating anew.

In the classroom, the Ohio Teacher of the Year process has solidified the passion I have for my vocation. I know I am meant to be an educator. I love what I do and am grateful for each day. I love modeling grace and love, and I know I am where I am meant to be.

Our challenge is for school administrators, community members, parents, students and fellow educators to nominate an outstanding teacher for the Ohio Teacher of the Year program. Excellent teachers open doors to opportunities for students. In turn, excellent teachers deserve to have doors opened for them.

Jonathan Juravich is the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year, was a finalist for National Teacher of the Year and serves as the Ohio Department of Education’s teacher-in-residence.

Bre Sambuchino is the State Board District 4 Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for 2019 Ohio Teacher of the Year. She teaches in Loveland City School District.

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2/28/2019

Practical Tips to Harness the Power of Student Engagement

By: Kimberly Monachino

GettyImages-877033978.jpgWe hear the term student engagement quite a bit, but what does that mean in the classroom and how is it done? Student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism and passion students show when they are learning or being taught. This extends to their levels of motivation to learn and progress in their education. To create high levels of student engagement, teachers craft lessons that focus on student-driven inquiry and create learning environments that challenge students to actively research, investigate and collaborate. Students have multiple options to demonstrate their mastery of both content and skills. Simply stated: the students are actively participating in their learning, not passive bystanders.

As Benjamin Franklin stated, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” This quote speaks to the power of student engagement. We know that the more students are engaged, the more learning occurs. So, how do we create classrooms with high levels of student engagement?

Here are several ways to increase the amount of time students are engaged.

  1. Make the lesson meaningful and real. Have the students incorporate their experiences, interests and knowledge.
  2. Give students choice. Empower the students to make choices on their assignments (for example, tic-tac-toe style boards that offer choices of activities).
  3. Use the 10:2 method. For every 10 minutes of instruction, allow the students two minutes to process and respond to the instruction or reading material. This can be done in various ways: have them write about what they learned or read, have them ask or write down questions they have about what they read or learned, or have students discuss the lesson or reading material with partners.
  4. Incorporate movement into your lessons. Require students to respond to a question about a reading passage or lesson by moving to a certain spot in the room, writing on whiteboards or standing (or sitting) when they are done thinking about the question.
  5. Embrace collaborative learning. By teaching students to work together, they learn how to problem-solve, think critically, improve social interactions and develop communication skills.
  6. Allow students five to seven seconds of ‘think time’ when asking a question about a story or reading passage. At the end of the time, draw a random name to answer the question.
  7. At the end of a lesson, have students use the 3-2-1 method of summarizing. In this method, students record three things they learned, two interesting things and one question they have about what was taught or read. Allow time for them to share their findings with peers.
  8. Take a moment to pause. Periodically pause mid-sentence when teaching and require students to fill in the blanks.
  9. Establish positive teacher-student relationships. Students need to feel safe in their classrooms. They need to know they can take risks and make mistakes in their learning.
  10. Remember your role as a teacher. Remember that the goal of engagement in the classroom is to change from being a teacher who is the sage on the stage to one who is the guide on the side.
Kim Monachino is director of the Office for Exceptional Children for the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Kim by clicking here.

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2/14/2019

Educator Talent and Experience… Why It Matters and How to Build Upon It

By: Julia Simmerer

Editor’s Note: Cheryl Krohn helped author this blog. Cheryl is the strategic administrator in the Department’s Center for Teaching, Leading and Learning. You can contact Cheryl here.

GettyImages-476719889.jpgImagine a student who, year after year, has teachers in their first year of teaching. Novice teachers often are less effective than their more experienced peers, which can negatively impact outcomes for students. This impact compounds when students repeatedly have inexperienced teachers. Ohio’s students of color and economically disadvantaged students are twice as likely as other students to have first- or second-year teachers. This is one example of the inequity that many Ohio students experience and the Department addresses in Ohio’s 2015 Educator Equity Plan.

Ohio’s strategic plan for education, Each Child, Our Future, defines equity as ensuring “each child has access to relevant and challenging academic experiences and educational resources necessary for success across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background and/or income.” Every school day, we want students throughout Ohio to have educators who challenge, prepare and empower them. All school staff members have the ability to positively impact students’ learning experiences, but — as the strategic plan notes — “highly effective teachers and instructional practices are at the heart of student learning.”

To help schools and districts address equity gaps and other challenges, Each Child, Our Future emphasizes a shift in policy and practice to focus on supports and services for students. One key to ensuring each child has equitable access to excellent educators is to systematically change the way we engage in human capital management. Human capital is the value employees bring to an organization because of their knowledge, skills, abilities and experiences. Schools and districts need to reimagine human capital practices to help build the educator talent in schools to meet each student’s needs. This requires recognizing that the responsibility for human capital in schools goes beyond the human resources office to seeing it as a central function of the system at many levels. It also means moving beyond the isolated policies and actions to a comprehensive approach of attracting and keeping educator talent. The Center for Teaching, Leading and Learning is deepening its support to schools and districts in this area by launching a new website, The Human Capital Resource Center.

Resources to attract, hire and support excellent educators in Ohio
The Human Capital Resource Center website helps schools and districts establish comprehensive approaches to human capital management and includes a variety of tools to help schools make decisions about attracting, hiring and supporting excellent educators. To explore the resources and learn more, visit www.ohiohcrc.org.
 
The Ohio Human Capital Resource Center highlights four key areas:

  1. Attract & Prepare helps fill Ohio’s pipeline of future educators with people who are properly prepared for the realities and rewards of the profession. There is a focus on exploring careers in education.
  2. Recruit & Hire refines schools’ and districts’ recruitment and hiring practices to address current and future staffing needs, so each child in Ohio has excellent educators. Here the focus is on educator recruitment.
  3. Support & Grow recommends ways that school and district leaders can develop and manage talent. The focus is on mentoring for all educators and supporting educator professional conduct.
  4. Engage & Reward shares strategies for establishing a culture that engages stakeholder voices, maintains transparency, fosters collaboration and recognizes exemplary service — all of which improve recruitment and retention. Here the focus is on educator recognition.

The Human Capital Resource Center will continue to expand and evolve to provide more resources that support schools’ and districts’ efforts to ensure each child has access to excellent educators.

Julia Simmerer is senior executive director of the Center for the Teaching, Leading and Learning at the Ohio Department of Education. You can learn more about Julia by clicking here.

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2/11/2019

State Supt. Paolo DeMaria Visits J.F. Dulles Elementary School

By: Staff Blogger

Increasing the number of highly effective teachers and leaders is one of 10 strategies set forth in Each Child, Our Future – Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education. The educators at John Foster Dulles Elementary personify this strategy with their exceptional commitment to students and social-emotional learning. Supporting the whole child is at the center of Each Child, Our Future and at the heart of this learning community’s culture of caring. Dulles was named a 2018 National Blue Ribbon School for their focus on continuous improvement and preparing all students for success. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education presented Elizabeth Riesenberger, Dulles Elementary principal, with the Terrel H. Bell award for outstanding leadership. State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria visited the Oak Hills Local School District in Cincinnati on Feb. 8 to see the incredible learning connections Dulles Elementary educators create for students.

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1/14/2019

State Supt. Paolo DeMaria Visits Central Elementary

By: Staff Blogger

Central Elementary School educators shine a spotlight on improvement with their focus on foundational knowledge and skills, one of the four learning domains critical to the success of students. This focus, showcased in Each Child, Our Future and connected to its accountability system, is one of the reasons the school was recognized as a High Progress School of Honor for 2018. On Jan. 11, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria visited Central Elementary, in the Logan-Hocking School District, to meet this community of caring educators and staff.

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1/10/2019

Teachers Who Pass the Torch Deserve to be Recognized

By: Jonathan Juravich

TORCH_Seal.pngIn the field of education, teachers are a part of an incredible relay — a passing of the torch. Knowledge and guidance are passed from teacher to student, from teacher to teacher, and from teacher to the community. Over the course of my first 14 years in education, I have been a part of this relay with some exceptional teachers. These teachers do remarkable things for their students and communities.

Erin Budic is one of those inspiring educators. This third grade teacher at Liberty Tree Elementary School in Powell was affected by a student’s illness. She organized a school-sponsored American Red Cross blood drive to benefit other patients. Many years and many blood drives later, Erin has helped the school and the American Red Cross collect 1,056 units of blood.

And, in the past year as the 2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year and the Ohio Department of Education teacher-in-residence, I have had the pleasure of meeting teachers from all corners of the state of Ohio who astound me with their heart for the community. David Kaser teaches in Barberton City School District. In his high school STEM program, students design and utilize a 3D printer to create prosthetic hands to be donated to individuals across the globe. David’s students know how to utilize their learning to impact others. 

Teachers know their work extends beyond the curriculum or their specific areas of instruction. They know that before students can meet academic goals, they must feel seen, valued and safe. For these reasons, I am incredibly excited about the inaugural year of the Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart (TORCH) recognition.

Administrators, fellow educators, community members, parents and students can nominate teachers whose dedication to social justice and their communities makes them stand out in the most inspiring ways. Five Ohio teachers will be selected for the TORCH recognition and will be honored in a surprise reveal later this school year.

Please consider nominating a teacher who truly models a life of compassion, integrity, honor, and respect by visiting the TORCH website. Nominations are due Jan. 31, 2019. Together, let’s celebrate those educators who are making an immeasurable impact on their students, schools, communities and our future.

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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12/13/2018

25 Things I’ve Learned from Nearly Four Decades in Education

By: Steve Gratz

Editor's Note: Our colleague, Steve Gratz, is retiring after many years in education. Steve’s blogs have challenged many education concepts and provided sage advice for innovation in education. Thank you, Steve. We wish you luck as you transition to your next opportunity.

GettyImages-1035083424.jpgI’m retiring from the Ohio Department of Education on Dec. 31, 2018, after 36 years in education and 10 state superintendents of public instruction — including two interims. Seven of those years were spent as a teacher of agriculture, and the remaining 29 were with the Department in various capacities — the last five serving as one of the agency’s senior executive directors.

When I started my career as a teacher of agriculture in 1983, I never envisioned the path my career would take. I’ve had the opportunity to teach thousands of students at the secondary and postsecondary levels and coach more than 200 Ohio FFA state officers. I love the teaching and learning process and will always consider myself a teacher and learner.

During my 29 years at the Department, I visited hundreds of schools — mainly high schools and career centers. I enjoyed visiting with students, teachers, administrators, board members and community members. Coupled with my teaching experience, these visits helped frame and solidify my teaching philosophy. At one time during my career, I thought I wanted to be a school administrator and went back to the classroom, but I soon realized I could have a greater impact back at the Department.

I have delivered hundreds of presentations throughout my career, including a few commencement speeches. During some of my recent presentations, I’ve shared a list of items those looking to redesign a school should consider. A few people asked for my list, so I felt it would be appropriate to share in my final blog.

These are not in any particular order of importance sans the first one. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather thought-provoking. This list is fluid, and I’m sure I’ll revisit it often.

  1. Transition all students to something and not out of high school. For too many years, we have been focusing on transitioning students out of school simply because they have met graduation requirements. It is time for us to adjust how we envision student success, and graduation alone is not the right measure. Graduation rates out of high school are not nearly as important as student success rates out of high school.
  2. Make your district the economic driver for your community and region by identifying in-demand sectors in your region — keep your talent local but don’t prevent students from pursuing their career aspirations. Some students may need coaching on differentiating a hobby and a vocation. The recently released OhioMeansJobs Workforce Data Tools website is an excellent resource to help start the process.
  3. Develop in-demand pathways beginning no later than grade 7, and show the progression of advancement. These begin as broad pathways and narrow as the student progresses. At a minimum, start a Personalized Professional Pathway program. This can be a quick win for students and the community.
  4. Blur the lines between technical and academic content. I firmly believe this will result in more meaningful teaching and learning. The burden shouldn’t fall on educators alone to make these connections. Employers, communities, and industry leaders should reach out and support educators in making academic and technical concepts real for students.
  5. Increase the number of integrated courses offered so students receive simultaneous credit. Integrated coursework and simultaneous credit can redesign the school day. If you don’t believe me, ask any STEM school.
  6. Increase the percentage of students completing Student Success Plans through OhioMeansJobs. Currently, this is only required for at-risk-students, but I encourage all students to have Student Success Plans.
  7. Ensure every school employee knows the career aspirations of every student. By knowing students’ career aspirations, teachers can contextualize their teaching to students’ interests during the “formal” teaching and learning process and help advise students during the “informal” teaching and learning process. I believe this would have positive impact on the ethos of the school.
  8. Embrace personalized learning for ALL students. Coupled with competency-based learning, personalized learning will allow students to progress at their own pace. The Future Ready Framework is a great resource to assist with developing personalized learning.
  9. Provide ALL students with the supports they need to succeed. This will look different from district to district; school to school; and student to student. A good place to begin is the Department’s webpage for Ohio’s Social and Emotional Learning Standards.
  10. Utilize the Literacy Design Collaborative and the Math Design Collaborative to ensure students are learning literacy and numeracy skills across all disciplines.
  11. Increase the percentage of students earning industry credentials, where applicable. Please make sure the credentials being earned align to students’ career aspirations.
  12. Increase the percentage of students participating in work-based learning experiences. There’s ample evidence-based research on the benefits of experiential learning not to mention the embedded work readiness skills.
  13. Increase the percentage of students earning the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal is for ALL students, and research indicates that students who have the attributes aligned with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal are more persistent in their postsecondary endeavors.
  14. Provide counseling to students for two years after graduation. I realize there are additional costs associated with this concept, but I truly believe this strategy would be extremely impactful to student success. This should be combined with the Career Advising Plan required of every district.
  15. Work with the Business Advisory Council and regional partners. Students need to learn skills that businesses require, so they can get well-paying jobs as adults. And who can do this better than business? Be sure to involve teachers with the Business Advisory Council too.
  16. Blur the line between secondary and postsecondary education. Schools need to increase work toward a system that eliminates grades, both student grades and class grades. Competency-based education is an excellent model for school redesign to help accomplish the elimination of grades.
  17. Encourage participation in all advanced standing programs when students are ready. College Credit Plus is one of the most robust dual-enrollment programs in the country. Districts with limited access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses can encourage student participation in Modern States' “Freshman Year for Free” program, where students can enroll and take tests in AP and CLEP courses for free.
  18. Start collecting longitudinal data on high school graduates. This data will prove invaluable when sharing the success of graduates. Data should include, but is not limited to, uninsured employment data and college persistence and graduation rates (National Student Clearinghouse).
  19. Establish metrics with your local board of education that define school and student success. These should be the metrics that are most important to the community.
  20. Continuous improvement is fundamental to ensuring students are prepared when they transition. This is imperative at all levels of the educational system.
  21. Communicate ad nauseum with school employees and the community members on the school’s or district’s vision and progress toward that vision.
  22. Maintain outreach to school and district alumni. One of my favorite ways to engage alumni came from a district that has a class reunion every year, including a parade spotlighting classes in five-year increments. After the parade, all alumni enjoy a picnic together at the community park.
  23. Share quick wins and promising practices on the SuccessBound webpage.
  24. Think big, start small, scale fast.
  25. Move forward with a sense of urgency.

No one should look at this list and feel compelled to try to implement too many at one time. Ideally, school leaders would collaborate with instructional staff to prioritize new initiatives.

Those familiar with Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education will see a strong correlation with my philosophy, especially with Strategy 10, and that makes me smile.

It has been a great and rewarding career in education, and I am looking forward to transitioning to my next career. Starting in early January, I will be helping a good friend with a program he founded — AgriCorps. AgriCorps focuses on ending generational poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ll be traveling to Ghana, Liberia and Kenya to kick off 2019. Additionally, I’ll be assisting a few educational service centers and districts with school improvement and redesign.

I’m active on LinkedIn, so please reach out and stay connected.

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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