ISA’s May Newsletter

By Abner Oakes

ISA's Director of Outreach


ISA’s May 13 Webinar: Cultural Competence

in the World of Virtual Education

While the pandemic has disrupted our schools and the teaching and learning happening in them, educators are doing what they can to stay connected to their students and to create nurturing environments for them, even as they are online.
In this webinar ISA’s Dr. Ebony Green, Senior Director of Programs for Equity and Access, and Chanel Ward, Assistant Dean of Diversity at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York City, discuss the critical importance of infusing cultural competence, compassion, and empathy into this new virtual education space – qualities not only important for our young people but also for the educators serving them.

ISA’s Virtual Coaching and Technology Assistance

As teaching and learning have moved online, ISA is fully prepared to assist schools and districts in two ways.

First, ISA coaches are already helping teachers, schools, and school and district leaders with online learning while preserving the importance of relationships and engaging learning design. All ISA coaches are experienced classroom teachers and school building and district leaders, and even when they’re online, they bring the authenticity, knowledge, and wisdom of real-life school experience to the work of coaching. ISA coaches can assist in areas such as:

  • Leadership
  • Instructional coaching
  • School design and redesign
  • Social, emotional, and academic development
  • Equity

Please contact ISA’s Abner Oakes for more information.

Secondly, ISA’s senior director Keith Look, a Certified Google Trainer and former superintendent, can assist school and district teams with their online strategy and implementation, be it Google-based or any other collection of online tools. Offered support includes:

  • Building the tech toolkit: What we need and how to do it
  • Distributed responsibility within an online learning environment
  • Building online learning capacity within a strategic plan
  • Equity and online learning: Bridging the gaps
  • Google Classroom virtual tutorials

Please contact Keith for more information.

June 3 Webinar: Meeting the Social and Emotional Needs of Students, Educators, and Parents

Join the Institute for Student Achievement for our second webinar on issues related to K-12 education and the pandemic. This webinar will examine the practical ways educators and parents are meeting the social and emotional needs of their students and children during this time and will feature a panel discussion of school-level practitioners, district personnel, and parents. Participants to include:

  • Dr. Carol Montague-Davis, Principal, Carver High School, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (NC) School District
  • Ebony Jason, Mathematics Teacher, Carver High School, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County (NC) School District
  • Dynell Kellyman, Associate Director of Partnership Engagement, Institute for Student Achievement
  • Nate Dilworth, Senior Math Specialist, Institute for Student Achievement
  • Dave Casamento, Assistant Superintendent, East Meadow (NY) School District

The webinar will start at 3:00 pm ET on Thursday, June 3. Register here and we look forward to seeing you!

Blog Posts this May: Teacher Appreciation and Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

For Teacher Appreciation Week, ISA president Stephanie Wood-Garnett and senior director Keith Look shared blog posts about teachers in their past and their impacts on them. In Stephanie’s post, she recounts a challenging experience in countering low expectations and, in turn, experiencing excellent teaching. In Keith’s post, he shares stories of Mr. Speed, who helped to shape Keith’s social justice path.

In her blog post about social, emotional, and academic development (SEAD), Janet Price, Senior Director of Programs, writes that “students don’t leave their social and emotional needs at the classroom door, and there are a range of strategies that they can employ that not only result in greater academic success but also in a belief that effort and perseverance will lead to continued academic success.”

“Every educator’s job,” she writes, “is to find a strategy that ‘stuck’ students can learn and practice that will help them overcome the obstacles and thrive both academically and personally.”

Want to learn more about our SEAD work in action?

Meet ISA Mathematics Coach Zenon Borys

(Here’s our fourth article about an ISA coach, this time Zenon Borys. Zenon joined the ISA coaching community in 2017 and is a mathematics instructional coach at Integrated Arts and Technology High School in Rochester, New York. Before moving to Rochester to pursue his doctorate in education, he taught mathematics in the South Bronx at Banana Kelly High School; he also taught ballroom dancing and was the high school’s wrestling coach. His current research focuses on the design of and teachers’ use of digital curriculum resources.)

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

I’d have to say David Henderson and Kelly Gaddis influenced my approach. Kelly taught my geometry course in graduate school, and David was the writer of the curriculum. I’ve also worked with both on curriculum development, and this extended time working with them on how students engage with mathematics was formative for me. The course and curriculum we worked on was very experiential; the underlying philosophy treated mathematics as a language and tool used to make sense of our experiences. Students would have some sort of experience (e.g. make a height chart, locate a specific spot in the room, build a 3-D object, etc.), and as the unit progressed, so did the formalism of the words and symbols used.

The important lesson for me was to pay attention to what and how students were talking about the experience; the mathematical concepts and relationships were there in the students’ descriptions and experiences. And as a class, we learned more detailed and specific ways of expressing their ideas, turning them into more conventional looking math. This reminds me of a quote that David used to push in teaching: “Only answer questions that students have.” This detail informed much of my teaching (and still does) because it pushed me to craft experiences where students would want to ask questions that were mathematically rich. I’ve found that getting students to ask the right questions is the bulk of teaching.

What do you enjoy most about your coaching work?

There is a satisfaction when you are a part of a team solving a problem or learning something new, just like teaching. Being able to work with someone on a problem that matters is rewarding. It also keeps me in the seat of a learner, too. It doesn’t matter if I solve my problem; the important part is working on the same problem with teachers.

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

There are many students I’ll never forget, but one of my favorite memories revolves around a student when I taught in the South Bronx. This student came to me as a senior with a rough math history – not passing exams or really liking the subject. Over the course of the year, as our relationship grew, the team worked with the student through the needed exams, which was great, but my favorite memories revolve around his transformation in the classroom. The student evolved from a head-down, reluctant participant to a class leader (while picking on me for my coffee habit!). The student even earned the senior class’s math award for perseverance and growth.

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?

So many! But if I had to pick one, I’d say black raspberry; it was one of my grandmother’s favorites, and I have fond kid memories of always choosing that flavor in a cone (covered with chocolate sprinkles). It’s pretty good plain, too.