ISA’s February Newsletter

By Abner Oakes

ISA's Director of Outreach


ISA’s Annual Winter Leadership Institute

On March 3 and 4, ISA personnel and leaders from ISA partner schools and school districts will make their way to Winston-Salem, NC for a chance to share and support each other’s practice. The theme for this winter’s institute is Leading Continuous Progress in Math Achievement, and the keynote will be from Dr. Peter Eley, Interim Chair of the Health, Physical, and Secondary Education Department at Fayetteville State University and Chair of the Elizabeth City State University Foundation.

In addition to this keynote, participants will unpack best practices in building elementary and secondary math instructional programs that result in students achieving positive school outcomes; there will be classroom visitations and observations led by the math department at ISA’s partner school in Winston-Salem, Carver High School; and there will be small group activities during which school leaders engage in a mathematics work-in-progress protocol where leaders will both receive and provide peer feedback.

ISA’s Urban Education Symposium
in St. Louis

On February 20 and 21, ISA helped launch the St Louis University School of Education‘s inaugural Urban Education Symposium. As a Jesuit institution committed to service, SLU SOE sought out ISA to help re-introduce the institution’s support of systems of education operating within the North County/Greater St. Louis region.

ISA Senior Director Dr. Keith Look and School of Education Dean Dr. Gary Ritter collaborated to provide meaningful investigation and discussion among the local districts and charters. Panels of superintendents, CEOs, professors, and education advocacy groups assessed conditions of equity, needs of students and staff, and the opportunity provided through social, emotional, and academic development.

The panel discussion entitled More than a Number: Making Students, Schools, and Districts “Whole” dug into current conditions of the wholeness concept. As Dr. Look noted, “It is a concept that reflects much about the time period in which it is used. Responses to wholeness often show how scales are tipped between those who see growth and opportunity and those who approach it from a position of deficit and limitation. Thus, we see wholeness in discussions of equity, social and emotional learning, and the shadow side of data.”

Panelists shared how they each take significant action to create wholeness for those under their aegis, and how advancing wholeness today takes a collaborative, community-focused effort.

New Blog Post: Newark’s Malcolm X Shabazz High School

Did you read our latest blog post, courtesy of Naseed Gifted, principal of ISA partner school Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, NJ? In the post, Mr. Gifted shares that Shabazz “scholars are enrolled in exciting programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills; that inspire creativity; and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.” The school’s “mission is to provide each scholar with a rigorous curriculum to ensure college and career readiness, cultivate leadership, and uphold a commitment to community.”

Mr. Gifted is also the founder of PBS Media, an independent comic book publisher, and the founder and author of the comic P.B. Soldier, which not only provides an exciting story of an African-American antihero but is also designed to teach STEM skills.

Meet ISA Coach Kate Spence!

We’re kicking off a new feature in the newsletter, to help our readers get a better sense of our fabulous coaches. A coach with ISA since 2006, Kate previously taught English at both the middle and high school levels, and she’s also served as a literacy coach and an associate professor of education. Oh, and that’s Kate with her sons last summer. :)

What teacher of yours do you feel most impacted your coaching approach? Why?

I’ve had so many great teachers that it’s difficult to choose one. In middle school, I had a team of teachers who taught us the four core subjects. The science and English teachers, Leigh Garrity and Karen Weiss, were an amazing pair. Karen and Leigh (we called our teachers by their first names) collaborated closely and developed multiple interdisciplinary projects that connected what we were learning to the real world. They used purposeful grouping that allowed all of the students in the class to meaningfully contribute to the projects – those of us who were inherently academically motivated and those who were less successful in school. I was just talking to my own children about how being in those classes really changed my thinking about some of my classmates, allowing me to see their strengths in ways I previously had not perceived. As I work with teachers now in a coaching capacity, the potential of planning and implementing instruction similar to what Karen and Leigh did is always in the back of my mind.

What do you enjoy most about your coaching work?

Coaching allows me to learn so much about teaching, which I really enjoy. It also provides a great balance for the pre-service teacher preparation I do when I’m not coaching. Coaching keeps me connected to the realities of what life in school is like; collaborating with educators helps me to continue becoming a better coach and teacher.

What was your most memorable moment with a student or students when you were teaching?

When I was teaching high school in the Baltimore suburbs, I taught a senior in the spring semester of her final year who was really struggling with attendance. She was vacillating between finishing her senior year or dropping out and getting her GED instead of a high school diploma. We talked about the pros and cons of each option and made a deal: I would give her a reminder phone call every morning to help her get up as long as she did her part and came to school. If she missed a day after getting the reminder call, the deal was off. Seeing her walk across the stage on graduation day is one of my best memories!

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Anyone who knows me knows that bringing me ice cream is a direct path to my heart! I typically go for anything chocolate, but as a native Vermonter, my favorite flavor is Ben and Jerry’s Coconut Seven Layer Bar.