From St. John’s School in Houston, Texas, there are six enthusiastic teachers in the Connected Learner Experience program this year.
- Susan Chennisi, 4th Grade Social Studies
- Cristi Connor, 3rd Grade
- Barbara DiPaolo, Upper School History
- Sharon Fabriz, Middle School English and MS Curriculum Coordinator
- Charlie Gramatges, Middle School Math
- Lori MacConnell, Director of Instructional Technology
Sharon and Lori presented at the Independent Curriculum Group’s conference last spring at St. Stephen’s School. They had the opportunity to hear several inspiring presentations. A common thread was that several of these presenters had participated in a previous year-long Powerful Learning Practice program. Upon arrival back to campus after the conference, Sharon and Lori immediately began investigating the possibility of St. John’s participating in the program.
The greatest experience for Cristi has been the opportunity to connect with fellow PLPeep Tina Schmidt in Pennsylvania to do a Skype with their third grade classes. Cristi’s young Texans were surprised that the students in Pennsylvania could visit another state without a drive of several hours.
Barbara and her department colleagues recently revised a student project that had been more traditional in methodology to now incorporate an inquiry-based approach with student teams creating projects to showcase their research using a variety of web-based storytelling tools.
In addition to spending time in the CLE webinars and connecting with others online in the PLP Ning, this team has committed to a weekly face-to-face morning meeting. Susan says that although the webinars have exposed her to a new way to exchange information, the regular meetings with teachers from other divisions have broadened her perspective of the professional community in which she works.
According to Sharon, “Our group has gelled around a common purpose, and we are learning to move toward a goal together, to revise our ideas together, and to ‘get excited’ about future possibilities together. We have a level of trust that was founded in our willingness to inquire, and PLP helped to nurture and value that as a viable way for us to grow.”
In one of the webinars, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach urged schools to evolve in a learning ecology from “transactional” to “transformational.” In a school with long-standing cherished traditions, it can be difficult to navigate through the murky waters of change. Charlie’s hope is that the team will continue to develop their teaching styles and learn to utilize new ways of facilitating connected learning in our classrooms to be a model for colleagues. He wants students to be able to expect a curriculum of daily experiences with the outside world that goes beyond the textbook and static lessons.
Lori is excited that connection and growth is already beginning at St. John’s. The PLP team has reached out to the campus Tech Coaches and members of the Technology Department to work on projects with the goals of building collegiality among faculty members and sharing best practices. With everyone working together, this team expects a bright future at St. John’s School.
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