If you were around for the planning of the Innovative Learning Center you would have heard a very common question.
Simply put, here’s why. School isn’t a one size fits all hat that looks cool worn backwards anymore. Neither is the ILC. There isn’t one solution that will make every student succeed. There aren’t round holes that we plug round students into. We have squares, triangles, and shapes we don’t have names for. You know what we didn’t anticipate? The different shapes of teachers and the success they would experience. The magic happens when you take outlier students and pair them with outlier teachers. We have had plenty of magic this year.
“The Why” is a student that finds their musical passion. “The Why” is a student that wouldn’t attend school without a police escort, but thrives instead. “The Why” is a student that wants to create virtual worlds instead of writing papers, and believe it or not, learns just the same. “The Why” is the student that graduates HS as a sophomore in college status. “The Why” is the students going on to be teachers. “The Why” is the state finalist competing with his business plan. “The Why” is three high schools sitting in one class, not caring what type of cat they are. “The Why” is a student finding their reality with the Blue Jackets. “The Why” is a senior saying this was the greatest part of their Hilliard experience. “The Why” is a student creating Happy videos, simply because she’s happy. “The Why” is the last chance for some students to see graduation. “The Why” is a staff seeking, questioning, and growing. “The Why” is the staff defining themselves not only by successes, but also by failures.
The easiest way to put it is, “The Why” is our students and staff, finding their Why.
I guess a better answer to the simple question of “Why?” would have been, “Why Not?”, the ILC isn’t for this kid, or that kid. It’s not for every student. It’s not for every teacher. It’s for those that want to find their why and are willing to fail along the way. The beautiful thing about Hilliard City Schools is that you have choice and excellence at all buildings. So why not reach every student and teacher that you can?
The giant ear to ear grins on student and staff faces all year long is my Why. No other reason needed.
Thank you to all those who supported this unbelievable journey. As Cecil Beaton said “Be Daring, Be Different, Be Impractical; Be Anything that Will Assert Integrity of Purpose and Imaginative Vision Against the Play it Safers, the Creatures of the Commonplace, and the Slaves of Ordinary. See you in the fall.
Jennifer Sayre serves as our online English teacher and will be taking on a new challenge next year as the teacher leader of the online program. Mrs. Sayre has been instrumental in taking our online program to new heights in many different ways. She is passionate about online instruction, and works tirelessly to be certain that both students and staff reap the benefits of working in the online world.
When asked about her experience as part of the staff here at the ILC, here is what she had to say:
Without a doubt, my first year at the ILC has been the most inspiring time in my life, both professional and personally.
If you’re not careful, teaching can make you feel like a mailman. You’re doing the same thing, day after day, year after year. There are different faces that drift into your classroom, in and out of the main office, in and out of your life. There are unique situations and problems to face, from time to time. There are those moments that fill you with pride and make you feel like it’s all worthwhile. But, looking back, those moments aren’t necessarily the ones that stick out. It’s easy to fall into a routine, like a mailman. Deliver information. Assess. Repeat. So many teachers fall, often not realizing what’s happened.
I was on the edge of the mailman cliff when I first heard about the ILC. I didn’t realize it, of course. But, I was there. I had fallen into that rut of every day being the same. Busy? Absolutely. But, still the same. Fun didn’t describe any school day and inspiring wasn’t even on my radar. Then, I heard about the ILC. The idea, like most revolutionary things are, was kind of scary…but exciting.
Since Day 1, the ILC has been nothing but inspiring to me. My eyes have been opened to what teaching can be… to what education should be. From changing the way that we design lessons (Let students come up with the plans? Sure!) to the way we assess students (Let them assess themselves? Why not!), I have felt like the world has been tilted on its axis. And I love it. My passion for teaching has been reignited. My views have changed – at school and at home. I feel like a different person – as a teacher, a parent, a colleague, a leader. I look at my students and courses differently. I even look at my parenting differently. It made me want to scrap everything I’ve done for the past 15 years and start over. And, unlike ideas in the past, I’ve already acted on that desire to make a change. I couldn’t wait to get started.
I wish every student, every teacher, and every administrator would make the ILC part of their lives. When they do, they’ll understand. The ILC is inspiring. It’s contagious. It’s revolutionary. It’s fun. It’s exactly what I needed… what I still need. And I know that it can bring life-changing inspiration to anyone who walks through the doors.
Amy Henry and John Riley come to us via Tolles and lead two of our academies in the Young Professionals Network.
Mrs. Henry teaches our business course, Academy INC. INC is a two-year program for the student interested in a career in business. The course is focused on product and business development, and features the opportunity for students to create their very own business plans, compete in competitions using those plans, and then eventually work to put the plans into action. Mrs. Henry’s background in business allows her to use real world experience and examples to create unique and innovative lessons to engage our students.
Mr. Riley is the leader of Academy EDU, our teacher academy. EDU is also a two-year program and is focused on educating the future educators. Students learn to view school from the other side of the desk. From creating lesson plans to getting real experience in classrooms throughout Hilliard City Schools, the students get an authentic taste of an educator’s lifestyle.
When asked about their experiences during this past year at the ILC, here is what they had to say:
When I first came to the ILC, I had it all figured out- I knew the recipe for success. I knew how to get students excited through hands-on learning and I knew how to engage stakeholders. After my first week at the ILC, however, I realized I was doing it all wrong. Crap.
The first thing the ILC has taught me as a teacher is to let go of the control and let learning happen. At the ILC, I am not a teacher, I am a connector. Don’t believe me? Just read the title on the back of my ILC Staff T-shirt! After a few short weeks of working here, I realized that my first claim, being an expert in “hand-on learning” was nothing short of a sham. I had, for years, been offering students direct instruction, using a variety of technology (earning those brownie points- yay me!), accompanied with plenty of formative assessments. Then, after I felt they were “ready,” I would divulge to them the hands-on project, which would serve as their summative assessment. Ummmm…Anyone else see the problem with that? By very definition, that would be a “hands-on assessment” not “hands-on learning.” I have done a lot of reflection as to why I had always “done it that way” and I have come to the conclusion that I was afraid to let students try something and fail. If I could control the instruction before the assessment, they would be more likely to do well on the assessment. But the culture at the ILC has eased that fear. The night before the first day of school, the staff received an email from our fearless leader, Mr. Wise. In it, he wrote, “There are zero expectations that everything will be “magical” tomorrow, and we won’t have a million problems to work on. If I can provide you with anything for tomorrow, it’s permission to fail. The only thing I ask is that everything you do is Best For Kids.” I thought about that for a long time. Since starting the year, I have decided to allow the hands-on learning to be the instructional piece. So what if there is a little chaos surrounding the classroom learning that day, so long as students are learning. The administration at the ILC has made it ok to let kids learn through experience, even if that means they mess up a few things.
The second thing I’ve learned from the ILC is that I am far from an expert in my second claim: engaging stakeholders. The methods I used to use to engage stakeholders included meeting face-to-face, phone, and email. My awesome co-teacher and friend John Riley very politely hinted that I may be a little out of date. If a fly on the wall of our office could talk, he’d probably sum up everything he’s heard in a conversation sounding something like this:
John: Maybe you could try some new apps. Your technology preferences are a couple of years old.
Me: I’m not even 30 years old; I’m still hip.
John: Oh really? Still using Power Point? Clickers still cool in your world?
Me: You know it.
John: Don’t have a Twitter account?
Me: Yeah, so what? Like I care what Justin Beiber and Ashton Kutcher are eating for lunch.
John: Still using Apple products for everything?
Me: Is there any other way? Apple for lllllllllllife!
So what?…kids, parents, community members, and my fellow teachers expect and deserve more. If I am comfortable using a piece of technology, that probably means it’s time to find something new. Not that technology is the “catch all” for imparting knowledge and learning to students, but it is a very important vessel. From the ESL student I have in my class, I have learned how much more difficult it can be to learn a new subject if it’s not taught in one’s native tongue. From working at the ILC, I have learned that the newest technology is the native tongue of many of our students, and I need to learn to speak it. The staff at the ILC has created a safe learning environment, where teachers teach one another how to use different apps and how to integrate different technology tools in their classrooms.
I appreciate that I can work somewhere that it’s okay to give students the reigns, even if that means they get a little off track. I appreciate that I can work somewhere that I can have PD on “how to take a selfie.” I appreciate that the people I work with don’t take their titles too seriously, and instead do what is best for kids.
I have the best job….literally! I love the art of teaching and I am passionate about sharing that with others. I get to do this daily with students that are excited to be here and learn about a career in education. One thing for sure, I am surrounded by a group of like minded individuals. The staff at the ILC are passionate about what they are doing and are here for one purpose….the Students. At the beginning of the year the Director opened up with “Do what’s best for the kids!” Anytime I want to try something new I ask myself….”Self…is this what’s best for the kids?” It’s amazing what that simple little question can do to your planning process. Before the ILC I was the teacher that graded everything and it all counted. Not one point went unnoticed and if you didn’t turn something in, you got a zero. If you turned it in late, I deducted points because you were terrible at your job…..being a student. If you didn’t put your name on the paper, I took points off! Let’s face it, you knew the deadline and I couldn’t bend, because as the teacher, I have policies on a syllabus that dictate my very being! Now, fast forward to the new, more informed me. I consider myself to be more of a guide on the side. I simply show the students the standards, create an environment that allows them freedom and creativity, and together we create an experience that will impact their future. Today we celebrated our seniors and a parent said the following, “I appreciate what the ILC has done for my child. You did not teach them Book Work you taught them Life Work!” That is what this place is about. Connecting students to life lessons that help them define who they are and where they want to go.
Mr. White serves a number of roles at the ILC. He works primarily with the CBI program, and also serves as a mentor to many of our Davidson students that are enrolled in the Personal Success Network. He is an advocate for our students, our programs, and our philosophy. The Hilliard Community is impacted greatly by Mr. White’s presence in the ILC because his influence can now reach beyond the walls of Davidson on a daily basis. When asked about his experience at the ILC, he said:
The ILC has provided a tremendous opportunity for me to develop a new and better appreciation for the great educators we have throughout the district. After seeing many great things being taught at Davidson for the past 14 years, it has been refreshing to see and meet new people here at the ILC. It has also been a great opportunity to be but a minute piece of the puzzle that is the ILC, and to benefit from a new administrative style. The “Linchpin” thought process that is encouraged at all times is definitely something I was ready to experience. It’s great to see new ideas not only tolerated, but encouraged. I look forward to my son being able to take advantage of the many opportunities provided by this place as he advances through his educational future.
Mr. Allen and Mrs. Fought,
Doug and Hilary are the instructors of our 7th grade humanities course. This is a course that blends social studies and English to offer a unique approach to these subjects. The class (of nearly 50 students) is co-taught by Mr. Allen and Mrs. Fought and they are managing to provide some incredible experiences for the students with some outside of the box instruction.
When asked about their experience here at the ILC, here is what each had to say:
Doug Allen: Read More…
Mrs. Gongwer’s day at the ILC is filled with smiles. She is loved by her students, and is a tremendously positive influence amongst the staff. Those around her can tell that she loves her job, because of her enthusiastic approach to the relationships that she fosters with students, staff, and the mentors with whom she is able to place her students. When asked about her experience at the ILC, it is no surprise that she uses “we” to describe her classes…
“I teach Career Mentorship, Academy EDU and Online Personal Decisions at the ILC. One of the things I like best about the ILC is that my students come from different buildings, which means they bring unique experiences and perspectives to the classroom. Once we start class, we unite because we are all at the ILC for one reason: to have a meaningful learning experience. The Academy EDU students want to become teachers so they observe in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms-they are getting real teaching experience with actual students. The Career Mentorship students spend 50 hours experiencing a career that they want to explore. Can you imagine mentoring with a crime investigator, general manager of a well-known golf course, head chef at one of Cameron Mitchell’s top restaurants, a veterinarian, a mechanical engineer, and animal assisted therapy at Buckeye Ranch? These are just a few of the placements of my students. The coolest part of my job is that I get to experience the journey with my students!”