By LISA A. DAVIS
More than a year after the pandemic shut down most of the nation, Step Up For Students and its leaders in the Student Learning & Partner Success Department knew just what educators needed: a good dose of laughter, the best medicine.
And that’s just what nearly 1,000 private school educators got May 20 virtually from longtime educator turned social media star Gerry Brooks when they logged onto computers from their schools, homes and watch parties for the virtual Step Up For Students 2021 Choice in Education Celebration: Boosting Learning Through Laughter.
Last year’s annual Step Up for Students Choice In Education Conference was one of the casualties of COVID-19. So a Step Up team created an event to not only bring some belly laughs, but also take a moment to celebrate educators in what may have been the most challenging time in their career.
Among Brooks’ eight-lesson presentation, infused with laughter and serious advice, is that educators need to remember that this challenging time will not last.
“When you are in the midst of a season, you can’t see your way out. Things are going to get better. The season is going to pass,” he said, holding a package of Peeps. The springtime seasonal candy is among his favorite sugary treats. He saves a stash in his freezer year-round.
Brooks shared with Step Up’s audience eight “object lessons” to really drive home points about educators’ personal time and culture. He held up everything from Dollar Tree reading glasses to Butterfinger candy to peanut butter and jelly.
“When they see the object that you show them then, hopefully, they will remember that lesson weeks down the road,” he said.
The objective of this virtual lesson: “My goal is to be able to encourage you as an individual and open up some doors,” he told his audience. “… I believe if you have positive personal climate and culture you can get through anything.”
In the talk that lasted more than an hour, Brooks told stories about being a kid and when the “Mr. Magic 8 Ball” could predict which kid was in love with whom. He talked about a lot of serious things, too, while still getting many laughs like he does from his viral videos. He did this while wearing a bright blue shirt saying “Erducator Strong!”
“I like misspellings,” he said, his southern accent thick.
Before he took the virtual stage, Step Up For Students Founder and Chairman John Kirtley applauded educators.
“I know I’m stating the obvious when I say that we at Step Up are grateful for the incredible efforts you have put forth during the pandemic,” Kirtley said. “It may be obvious, but it still needs saying. Here at Step Up, we know how hard it’s been for you.
“… You adapted, you worked harder than ever, and frankly, you took risks for your students. Step Up knows that, and we are very grateful.”
Paula Nelson, senior director of Student Learning & Partner Success, said after the event she couldn’t be more thrilled.
“I think this has turned out to be even better because it came at a time when we really need to have a celebration,” she said. “The message was so timely and powerful. I think there’s a chance we may do it again.”
Lisa A. Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By ROGER MOONEY
The online course is run in partnership with BloomBoard, the leading platform for enabling education advancement using micro-credentials.
The program begins Sept. 16 and runs until March 1, 2021.
Each micro-credential, according to BloomBoard, defines a specific goal or purpose; proven growth in practice and competence in each skill, and recognition for that growth through a digital certification for the skill.
“Despite most school leaders’ desire for opportunities to hone their craft and improve key practices for teaching and learning, they simply do not have the time to research and create their own professional growth experiences,” said Carol Macedonia, vice president of the Office of Student Learning at Step Up for Students. “Through this new certification program, Step Up For Students is committed to providing school leaders with personalized, job-embedded professional learning that is tailored to the culture of private education settings and results in a change of practice, not just learning.”
Participants have 18 months to earn eight micro-credentials – six required and two electives – that are designed to foster professional growth and forward thinking for school leaders. To earn a micro-credential, participants must demonstrate competency in specific areas. A certificate is awarded upon earning the eight micro-credentials.
“Step Up for Students believes that the Choice Leader of Excellence Certification Program is an important vehicle by which we can help administrators improve and refine their practice and elevate the impact their school has on the lives of their students,” said Jamie Onorato, Step Up For Students’ Office of Student Learning coordinator.
The required micro-credentials are:
Participants choose two of the following electives:
The benefits of completing this program are school distinction (a searchable filter on Step Up For Students’ ‘Find a School’ tool), board leverage (ability to demonstrate competency as a school leader) and leadership building.
“School leaders have a significant influence on student learning and it’s imperative that we provide them with professional learning opportunities that are personalized to their individual needs,” BloomBoard CEO Sanford Kenyon said. “We’re excited to partner with Step Up for Students to offer private school leaders around the state an opportunity to build capacity while gaining opportunities for incentives and advancement.”
Registration, which closes Aug. 26, is $695. There is a $100 reimbursement upon completion. Payment plans are available.
For more information, contact Onorato at email@example.com or 904-616-7765.
Roger Mooney, marketing communications manager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s something amazing going on in Step Up For Students partner schools and hundreds of teachers, their students and their students’ parents and guardians are benefiting from it: The Teaching and Learning Exchange.
The Teaching and Learning Exchange (TLE) is a free web-based application designed to support teaching, learning, communication and accountability for administrators, teachers, parents and guardians and students. It was created by Step Up For Students Office of Student Learning and IT team members.
“This tool is opening the lines of communications between all key factors in a child’s education: students, teachers and parents,” said Carol Thomas, vice president of Office of Student Learning. “And our latest update of the applications has really made some tremendous improvements, particularly on the parents’ side.”
The most recent rollout of the TLE features an easy-to-use parent portal, which enhances communication and collaboration between school staff and families.
“It allows families to stay engage in their child’s academic and social progress, all from the click of their home computer,” said Thomas. “It’s not supposed to replace in-person parent involvement, it’s supposed to enhance it.”
The TLE allows teachers to create Personal Learning Plans (PLP) for their students, customizing what they need to work on at their pace. It helps has a collaborative parent conferencing tool, assists in identify student strengths and concern, document academic, social, emotional and note behavior goals and provides parents with a live view of their children’s grades. The TLE also has a comprehensive grade book, allowing teachers to record conduct grades and create progress reports, report cards and transcripts. It even has an attendance tracker and lunch count feature. Other features include easy access to explore Florida State Standards, unit and lesson planning, and standards mapping.
Currently, the TLE has more than 800 administrators, teacher and guardian active users. Educators, especially, are finding it a valuable tool.
Said Lilah Mills, principal at Masters Preparatory School in Hialeah:
“I really like the Personal Learning Plan, especially the conference feature. I think the format of the PLP [the elements of what the teacher is doing, what the student needs to do, and what the parent can do] really triangulates the responsibility between all three groups and provides accountability for the parents and teachers.My teachers think it is so user friendly: all the standards are pre-loaded and all of the resources are easy to access.”
Susan Gettys , lead educator at Broach School Tampa is also impressed with the TLE, especially the Personal Learning Plan.
“I love that the Personal Learning Plan tells us automatically if a student has mastered or passed or failed a specific standard based on their grades, since we can tie assignments to standards,” she said. “The customer service aspect has been amazing. Usually with a software program, you install it and never can reach anyone again. But with Step Up, I can always get help, and I love that you tweaked it based on our suggestions and needs.
“We teach multiple grade levels in a classroom, and students with multiple special needs, so the flexibility of this program makes it really viable for us as a special needs school.”
Thomas said she encourages scholarship parents to ask their teachers to use Step Up’s TLE.
“It really enhances and aids the learning experience for all parties involved,” she said. “It makes it easier for parents and guardians to communicate with their children’s teachers, received class announcements and really be in tune with what standards your child should be mastering and how they’re doing in school on a regular basis.”
Teachers, administrators, and guardians interested in using the TLE or learning about other Office of Student Learning programs, please click here to reach OSL staff.
Reach Lisa Davis at email@example.com.