Message from Kendall
Happy Fall Y'all!
How can you not be happy with all the beauty that nature is providing these days? I love this time of year - leaves changing, pumpkins & hay, the crisp autumn air, and of course the calm after the storm of putting an event together! This year's IDEA Awards were once again a phenomenal success, thanks to the students that performed, the team that worked so hard to put it together, and of course our entire community that told the stories of the 'planes that landed' and came out to celebrate together!
For those of you that missed this incredible evening of celebration (including honoring our 20 Year Charter School Champion - Senator Tom Carper), we have an amazing recap of the winners in our feature story this month. Over the next few months, we hope to spotlight as many of these incredible members of the charter village as we can. Their stories need to be shared so that we can change the conversation. As I mentioned in my remarks on October 9, I had the incredible opportunity to hear Joel Klein speak at the beginning of the month. One of the stories that he told was about a conversation that he had during his tenure with a NY Times reporter. He asked why the paper was only telling the stories about 8 failed schools out of 100 and not the incredible stories of the 92 that didn’t fail. The reporter responded that they don't report about planes that land. We need to change the message - we need to talk about the 'planes that land'! The IDEA Awards is an amazing opportunity to do just that.
That cannot be the only time though! We are asking every day: "What planes landed today?" We want to share the stories of our successes, but cannot do so without those of you on the ground helping! Please tell your stories and let us help get the word out so that everyone knows about the Planes That Landed!
PS - check out this cool video - love this song, especially since I believe that all of our charter community are Renegades! click here For those that were at the IDEA Awards, you will recognize the song, as it was played a good number of times that night!
Feature Story: What's the big IDEA?
Innovation. Dedication. Education. Admiration. These are the qualities we celebrated a few weeks ago at the IDEA Awards. It was a festive evening devoted only to shining light on the goodness of charter schools. And it was a SUCCESS! Spirits were high, the mood was right, and for at least one night Delaware's charter schools were on top of the world. And I haven't even mentioned the outstanding performances given by our very own charter students. Ten schools represented by more than 200 students demonstrated such unbelievable talent, the audience was awestruck. And then, of course, there were the awards...There were 70 nominations for awards in 8 categories, with Providence Creek Academy garnering the most at 17. Way to go PCA! (Should your school have had more? Well, I have great news... YOU have the power to make that happen. We will start accepting nominations for the 2016 awards in late spring. Watch for the notice then and tell us who you think deserves recognition.) In the end there were 18 award recipients, who are listed in the right-side margin, among a room full of charter school supporters who just enjoyed an entertaining, inspiring, and pride-inducing evening. Can't wait 'til next year!
We are featuring a few of the winners in the Spotlights this month, and others in the months ahead so that you can meet these folks who are making a difference every day in our schools. Kristen Egan at ASPIRA won the Innovation Award - Elementary School. She is a Special Education Teacher who takes a personal interest in each of her students, going the extra mile to find resources to help them succeed. On top of her teaching responsibilities, she took on the overhaul of the school's Response to Intervention program; and when she finished that she developed a new gifted and talented program for the school. In her spare time, she also oversees the school's social media program. Read more about Kristen below...
Kristen Egan, Las Américas ASPIRA Academy
Why did you choose to teach at a charter school?
Before pursuing my Master’s degree in education in an alternative routes program, I worked for one of the largest employers in the U.S. While completing my studies alongside teachers at district schools, their woes of the bureaucracies in which they worked were disheartening. At the same time, I found myself inspired by the country’s education reform leaders and the success stories that were emerging from smaller systems and schools achieving success in underserved areas. I knew that in order to make this career change worthwhile, I wanted to work with children at a school that was able to make quick decisions and adapt to their students’ needs without the antiquated uniformed decision making typically associated with the traditional district model. I’m so glad that I found a home at ASPIRA!
What is your favorite thing about teaching at your school?
I truly value the empowerment that I have benefited from at my school. My leadership has allowed me to experiment with and bring to life many different ideas and I just feel constantly inspired and motivated to keep learning and keep on trying new things to reach our students. Currently, one of my favorite things specific to teaching is that I’ve had the opportunity to loop with a group of students, teaching them all through middle school. While this dynamic is challenging at times, I’ve loved having the opportunity to see them grow and develop from 5th grade kids to 8th grade teenagers.
What are the biggest challenges in your classroom?
The biggest challenge is not having the time to do everything I want to do. I feel like we could spend all day everyday learning math, with reading, social studies, science, writing, and character building sprinkled in, but alas, I’m not provided that kind of time for my class.
What do you wish would change about education today?
I wish I could shift the focus away from achieving uniformity and more towards mastery learning for individuals. We don’t require all adults to have the exact same knowledge and skillset, and I believe a heavy reliance on standardization is jeopardizing the education of students who don’t fit the mold. I’d also like to allow all students to ride bikes or otherwise move their bodies while they learn :)
Should teachers be more involved in the political process where education is concerned? Why?
I think involvement is awesome, but if they don’t want to be involved, they should at least be aware of what’s going on. Teachers should understand the climate that exists outside of their classroom and where they fit in to the system as a whole.
What do teachers need that would enable them to become more politically involved?
TIME! Teachers need time in order to do everything, but in addition to that given, I think there’s a lot that leadership can do in short, digestible bursts, to help teachers stay abreast of issues that affect them, their schools, and their families.
Name: Kristen Egan
Charter School Name: Las Américas ASPIRA Academy
Subject(s)/Grade(s) taught: Education Enrichment Director, overseeing Special Education, ELL, RTI, & QUEST programs, currently co-teaching 1 section of 8th grade math
Years teaching: 5
Muhlenberg College, B.A., Psychology & Business Administration
University of Delaware, M.Ed., Special Education
Seton Hall University, Ed.S., Educational Leadership
I love my charter school because... we have such a loving community. The staff is the most hard-working, devoted group of people I have ever met.
If I had a million dollars, I would… This is the hardest question. I would definitely put most of it back into education, specifically towards enriching specific school environments to make them more comprehensive community centers and more adaptable to the diverse needs of learners, but I would also use some of it to create some magic with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, where I moonlight as a Volunteer Wish Granter. I’d also take some of my coworkers on a well-deserved vacation :)
Did You Know?
The SAT is all new for 2016! To help students prepare, the College Board and Khan Academy have partnered to create an online tool. The Official SAT Practice through the Khan Academy will be available to all students FOR FREE. For further details visit: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/