ISA’s March Newsletter

By Abner Oakes

ISA's Director of Outreach


Teaching and Learning at This New Moment

At ISA, we’re experiencing the unfolding of the pandemic as you are. The impact on schools, districts, and the world is immeasurable. As students embark on virtual learning with educators scrambling to get lessons uploaded and connectivity established, we wanted to offer our support, in several different ways:

  • Have a question or concern about instruction in this new age? Ping us at our Twitter feed or via email, and we can help.
  • Have an extra moment to read old ISA blog posts? Well, here you go.
  • Have an extra moment to watch our webinar on an instructional approach called Maze Moments? Find it at our Vimeo site.
  • Are you a district leader or school board member and have a question or concern about equity-related issues, as students access instruction online and might not be getting the meals and support that they would normally get at school? Please email us, and we can be a thought partner.

Be safe and healthy, ISA friends and family. Wash your hands. Practice smart physical distancing. Check on your elderly neighbors. Be patient and smile. Classrooms will open again, no doubt, with that joyful and optimistic noise of students bounding into a classroom. And when they do, we’ll continue to be right there with you to help get everyone back on their teaching and learning feet. Let’s use the anticipation of that moment to carry us through these next several months.

Our Latest Blog Post: Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy

Principal Reggie Hunt and teachers Melissa Currence and Jamila Neely

Reggie Hunt, principal of ISA partner school Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy, wrote our latest blog post. In it, Mr. Hunt shares that Winston-Salem Prep’s building “was erected in 1931 as a Rosenwald School,” and “many visitors [to the school] remark that they can feel the history as they walk through the building. When visitors enter learning environments at our school, they sense the familial environment between staff and students and our work to build this climate to grow both our students and teachers.”

Hope that you enjoy learning about this magnet school in Winston-Salem!

Meet ISA Coach Dina Heisler

Here’s our second article about an ISA coach, this time Dina Heisler. Dina’s been with ISA since 2011, and her career has included teaching interdisciplinary social studies and ELA curriculum to English language learner high school students and taking on the leadership roles of principal, network achievement coach, and adjunct professor for the Principals Institute at the Bank Street School of Education. The photograph is of Dina with her grand-daughter.

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

My mind often drifts back to my beloved third grade teacher. Within a traditional public school setting, she offered a vastly different child-centered approach to education: ability groups, self-guided freedom of movement, delegated tasks, a visiting parent who played guitar and taught us folk songs, exhibitions of student work, lots of helpful feedback, and a personalized interest in each of her students. We often associate this model with younger teachers, but this particular teacher was an older gray-haired woman who seemed so much younger than her more youthful peers. My third grade year was a ray of sunshine, never to be repeated but also never forgotten.

What do you enjoy most about your coaching work?

I feel my coaching work is a gift to self. It’s a work that enables me to continue learning. It stretches me in wonderful ways. I particularly love the push and pull of creative dialogue that I get to engage in with administration and faculty. At its best, we’re able to create meaningful strategies, curriculum, and best practices. I also feel privileged during those opportunities when I get to work with students. Helping them towards “aha” moments and a sense of empowerment is exhilarating.

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

As a teacher, I remember fondly those times when student groups took ownership of their learning. It was almost a chemical reaction which flowed out of a finely tuned balance between the academic challenge I set and students’ skills, available resources, and their level of engagement. I remember standing in the doorway and watching the class hum with purpose. While I felt great pride in their achievement, I also realized with some dismay that at that moment I was superfluous. It helped me realize that if I truly wanted my students to become the stars, I had to cede the stage.

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Coffee ice cream is my downfall.

Educator Resources During the Pandemic

We’ve highlighted a few resources that we believe can be both helpful and hopeful.

  • World Central Kitchen (WCK), which provides tasty, hot meals to those in the midst of disasters, is mapping food relief all over the country. You can also find WCK providing meals in Washington, DC; the Bronx; Los Angeles; Oakland; and Little Rock, Arkansas. More info here, for both volunteers and those that need food.
  • Need an afternoon break from your online teaching or want to provide a great digital field trip for students? The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is doing what they call Home Safari Facebook Live each day at 3:00 pm ET. More info here. And the Virginia Zoo is doing what they call a Virtual Voyage each day at 2:00 pm ET.
  • NPR has the most complete list of virtual concerts to watch and listen to, for both you and your students.
  • Using Zoom for your teaching? Here are instructions on how to randomly assign a group of up to 150 students to breakout rooms of 3 or more. And another powerful feature of Zoom is the ability to conduct a live poll of participants. See here.
  • Panorama Education is offering survey questions on students’ needs, as well as free tabulation of results. More here.
  • The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has compiled extensive resources for teachers and parents, as has the US Department of Education in this list.
  • Finally, this list from Teaching Tolerance is amazing, from printable resources to ways to provide emotional support to students to resources for families in need.

Got something that we should know about and include on the list at our website? Send it here.