New Webinar on October 26: HR Changes & Challenges for the New School Year

Join us on October 26 at 1:00 pm ET for an important look at human resources (HR) practices and activities that are highly relevant in this post-pandemic school year, from efforts to retain staff and fill the voids left by retirement to the importance of staff social and emotional wellness and HR’s part in that. How does a district address the needs of students and staff and ensure compliance with all the new laws that impact the district? Join us on October 26 for suggestions and possible actions to take this school year—all to make it productive and one to remember. Click here to register.

Coaches’ Corner: ISA’s Julie Conason

Julie is an ISA coach and the managing director of LearnEdVT. In addition to her work with ISA, her other consulting has included work with the nonprofit leadership development organization New Leaders, REACH Solutions, and schools in Vermont; Jersey City, New Jersey; New York City (NYC); and St. Louis.

Her leadership work is grounded in her experience as the principal of Humanities Preparatory Academy, a NYC public high school, which raised graduation rates from 41% to 95% during her tenure. Prior to her work as principal, she worked alongside teachers, students, and administrators for 10 years as a teacher consultant for middle schools in the Bronx with the New York City Writing Project. Earlier in her career as a classroom teacher for elementary, middle, and high school students, Julie was a Spanish/English dual language teacher, taught both English and Spanish as second languages, and ran a middle/high school library.

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

While he wasn’t specifically “my teacher” in a formal sense, my friend and colleague Anthony Conelli had a profound impact on my coaching style. I first met him at the Institute for Literacy Studies, where he was in a leadership role in the program Students at the Center. I was working with the New York City Writing Project. We spent time together in monthly institute-wide inquiry meetings. This was in the late ‘90s, and it was more or less the infancy of inquiry-based work as a methodology not only for classrooms but also for professional learning communities. Many people there in addition to Anthony had an impact on my coaching style, which was also shaped by the work we did together. He later became my supervisor when he hired me to work in the NYC DOE’s Office of Leadership as the executive director of collaborative leadership during the time that he was the deputy chief academic officer for leadership.

One of the things I learned from Anthony early on, often simply by listening to his responses to others, was the notion of pushing each other’s thinking in a very nuanced and subtle way. This usually happened by asking the kinds of questions that allowed people a place to enter into a dialogue or larger conversation without defensiveness. It has become so intrinsic to my work now that when a principal, for example, asks me to work with a specific teacher on a specific problem, I immediately begin to construct in my mind the kinds of questions that will engender a good dialogue and support both the teacher and me in the work of problem-solving together.

Anthony also used to say, “Everything is based on relationships.” We consider that idea foundational now, but he was the first person in my teaching/coaching life to talk about it in such explicit terms. He often stressed the notion of “leaving our egos at the door” when we enter a school or a classroom. I often think about that in an almost literal sense. There’s a moment of “emptying myself of self” as I listen to others whom I’m coaching, which allows me more freedom to create a space for shared solutions rather than jumping in immediately with my own ideas. While we may also get around to my ideas eventually, I’ve found that the richest work comes from collaborative thinking.

What do you enjoy most about your coaching work?

I love creating generative relationships with other educators. When we’ve built even a little bit of trust together, the work starts to flower as folks step out of their comfort zones. The transformation from skepticism to excitement about trying out new methodologies and strategies is so potent. And there’s nothing like being a part of that excitement and its contagious power as the shared work in a school begins to take off.

What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? 

So many flavors, so little time. Probably my all-time favorite is Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk, which I like with a scoop of coffee Haagen-Dazs.

In Memoriam: Dina Heisler

It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of longtime ISA coach and great friend Dina Heisler. In May, she was diagnosed with an untreatable cancer, and she passed away on September 20. She had two sons, Abe and Josh, and three wonderful grandchildren.

Dina was the founding principal of ISA partner school Pablo Neruda Academy and then coached for ISA for more than 10 years. Her career also included teaching interdisciplinary social studies and English/language arts to English learners and serving as a network achievement coach for the New York City Department of Education and adjunct professor at the Principals’ Institute at Bank Street College of Education.

Back in March of 2020, we highlighted Dina in this newsletter, and she talked about her coaching work as “a gift to self. It’s work that enables me to continue learning. It stretches me in wonderful ways.”

Dina was a gift to all of us here at ISA, a faithful friend and educator filled with good humor, graciousness, generosity, and light. All of us here are grateful for the time she spent with us. Zichronah livracha. May her memory be a blessing.

From the National Education Policy Center: “Grow Your Own” Programs: Examining Potential and Pitfalls for a New Generation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Community Teachers

In this newsletter we highlight a recent policy brief from the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) called “Grow Your Own” Programs: Examining Potential and Pitfalls for a New Generation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Community Teachers.

As NEPC writes , “Grow your own (GYO) programs are designed to recruit, prepare, and place community members as teachers in local schools. They do this through partnerships between educator preparation programs, school districts or local educational agencies, and community-based organizations. The nation is currently seeing new and thoughtful uses of the approach. This policy brief examines models with an explicit commitment to advancing justice and equity in teacher development, which can be leveraged to open doors to the profession for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teachers with roots in, and understanding of, the community.” Click here to read more.