ILASCD - Spring 2023 Journal

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Impact • Service • Advocacy Quarterly Journal - May 2023
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A Letter from the President

Welcome to this beautiful time of the year! Mostly a time of rebirth after a long and, at times, harsh winter. We look forward everyday to see what new beauty has sprung from the Earth. The vibrant green of the grass, the harmonious tunes of the birds, and the smell of freshness. In Spring, everything around us can be a haiku moment.

The Earth readies for the season of growing and new beginnings. As educators, we are gardeners. What will we sow? What do we desire to reap? And, what do we need to do in between to ensure that our time and efforts benefit those around us and ourselves?

The metaphors abound, and can be so cliche. But, when seeking metaphors for growing a garden and being an educator, if the metaphors are personal, they are not cliche. There resides a certain calm inside as I attempt to metaphorically answer related to my career as a gardener of humans and thoughts. How am I a gardener?

Quick Links
5 Whole Child
Book Review: DeImplementation 20 Resource Corner 26 If You Water It 32 Novice Gardener 36 Strategic Planning 41 Instructional Coaching 46 Growing Independent Learners 52 Growing the Teaching Profession 59 Fertilizing Student Growth Using MTSS 63 Affinity Spaces 69 Agronomic STEM 71 Sustainable Gardens for Schools 78 Upcoming Events

ILASCD Leaders

Belinda Veillon, President

Akemi Sessler, Past President

Scott England, President-elect

Amy Warke, Treasurer

Debbie Poffinbarger, Media Director

Amy MacCrindle, Secretary

Ryan Nevius, Executive Director

Bill Dodds, Associate Director

Task Force Leaders:

Membership & Partnerships

Denise Makowski, Andrew Lobdell

Communications & Publications

Joe Mullikin, Jeff Prickett

Advocacy & Influence

Richard Lange, Brenda Mendoza Program Development

Bev Taylor, Terry Mootz, Sarah

Cacciatore, Dee Ann Schnautz, Doug Wood, Amie Corso Reed

In what ways have I been a gardener?

What have I learned in my attempts to be a gardener?

At what point in our professional environment will we finally be able to experience the rebirth and rejuvenation that Spring annually brings. The struggles of the last few years have impacted our soil, our tools, our conditions, our seedlings. Gardeners do not give up. Their toils include observing and responding to the needs of their seedlings. Some things are in control of the gardener, and some things are not within the gardener’s control, but that never stops the gardener supporting the seedlings for the best possible outcome.

As educators, we are the soil, the nourishment and the sunlight. The labors of gardening are self-evident. And, the beauty is, we will take what we have learned and nurture a new crop. Approach everyday with a gardener’s heart, mind, and soul.

4 A Letter from the President (cont.)

Whole Child

For the Growth of the Child: A Mindset and Whole Child Approach

Spring in Illinois packs quite a punch, when the gray days and dreary weather of winter finally give way to bursts of color. If Spring carried a message at all, it would be “rebirth, renewal, regeneration,” each word representing a different manifestation perhaps of growth—Growth, by definition, requires the channeling of movement into a purposeful action. Yet growth usually does not come about on its own—growth happens as a result of intention, from developing our talents—and believing they can be developed—as a result of one’s own efforts to improve (Dweck, 2006).

This is the idea behind the growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset, in which one’s talents and abilities remain static). Dweck (2006) posits that no one is completely one or the other, rather, every person has a combination of both mindsets and both evolve and are impacted by a person’s individual experiences. Additionally, like growth, gardening, and being a gardener, providing a space that is ideal for growing is one that is cultivated with intention for students to learn, create, make connections, stumble and rise while being supported. Thus demonstrating the tenets of, not just implementing, but promoting and

Dr. Yurimi Grigsby Dr. Israel Espinosa Dr. Andrea Dinaro

instilling the safe, healthy, supported, engaged, and challenged tenets of the Whole Child Approach a foundation to help grow in learners a belief in the self.

Growth mindset and gardening

Growth mindset can be compared to gardening in several ways. In gardening, just as in learning and personal growth, there are stages of growth, setbacks, and opportunities for improvement.

Here are some ways in which a growth mindset can be compared to gardening, in alignment with the ASCD Whole Child Framework:

1. Preparation: Before planting a garden, it is important to prepare the soil and create the right conditions for growth. Similarly, in fostering a growth mindset, it is important to create a supportive and encouraging environment that promotes a safe space, effort and persistence. SAFE Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.

2. Planting: When planting a garden, it is important to choose the right plants and place them in the right location to ensure optimal growth. Similarly, in fostering a growth mindset, it is important to provide students with the right challenges and opportunities

to encourage their growth and development. ENGAGED Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.

3. Watering and nurturing: In order for a garden to thrive, it needs to be regularly watered and nurtured. Similarly, in fostering a growth mindset, it is important to provide students with regular feedback and encouragement to help them stay motivated and engaged in the learning process. SUPPORTED Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.

4. Pruning and weeding: Just as in gardening, where it is important to prune back dead or overgrown plants and remove weeds that can hinder growth, in fostering a growth mindset it is important to help students identify and overcome obstacles and challenges that can hinder their progress. CHALLENGED Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

5. Growth and harvest: When a garden is well-tended and nurtured, it can produce a bountiful harvest. Similarly, when students are encouraged to

Whole Child (cont.)

develop a growth mindset and work hard to achieve their goals, they can achieve academic success and personal growth. They also learn what a healthy environment needs, and have the opportunities to practice.

HEALTHY Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.

Overall, the analogy of gardening can help teachers and parents understand the importance of fostering a growth mindset in children and students. Additionally, the Whole Child Framework helps schools and educators be certain to tend to each tenet mindfully and with purpose. Just as a garden requires consistent effort and care to thrive, so too does a growth mindset require ongoing support and encouragement to flourish.

What a growth mindset looks like in teaching and learning contexts

A growth mindset is a belief that one’s abilities and talents can be developed and improved through dedication, hard work, and persistence. It is the opposite of a fixed mindset, which assumes that abilities are innate and cannot be changed. In teaching and learning contexts, a growth mindset can foster a love of learning, encourage risk-taking and experimentation, and promote resilience in the face of challenges.

Here are some examples of what a growth mindset looks like in teaching and learning contexts, in alignment with the ASCD Whole Child Framework:

1. Emphasizing effort over talent: Teachers with a growth mindset emphasize the importance of effort and hard work in achieving academic success, rather than just innate talent or ability. They provide students with opportunities to learn and practice new skills, and encourage them to persevere even when they face challenges. HEALTHY Each student enters school healthy and learns about and practices a healthy lifestyle.

2. Encouraging risk-taking and experimentation: Teachers with a growth mindset create a safe and supportive environment where students feel comfortable taking risks and experimenting with new ideas. They encourage students to try new things, make mistakes, and learn from their failures. SAFE Each student learns in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe for students and adults.

3. Fostering a love of learning:

Teachers with a growth mindset instill a love of learning in their students by promoting curiosity, creativity, and exploration. They encourage students to ask questions, seek out new


information, and make connections between different subjects. ENGAGED Each student is actively engaged in learning and is connected to the school and broader community.

4. Embracing challenges as opportunities for growth: Teachers with a growth mindset view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than as obstacles to be avoided. They help students develop strategies for overcoming challenges and provide them with support and encouragement as they work through difficult problems. CHALLENGED Each student is challenged academically and prepared for success in college or further study and for employment and participation in a global environment.

5. Providing feedback that promotes growth: Teachers with a growth mindset provide feedback that is focused on helping students improve their skills and knowledge, rather than just evaluating their performance. They provide specific, actionable feedback that helps students identify areas for improvement and develop strategies for addressing them. SUPPORTED Each student has access to personalized learning and is supported by qualified, caring adults.

Overall, a growth mindset is essential for creating a positive and supportive learning environment that promotes personal growth and academic success. Teachers with a growth mindset can help their students develop the skills, knowledge, and mindset they need to succeed in school and beyond. The ASCD Whole Child Framework supports schools in aligning identifying the ways in which they are moving beyond singular or siloed definitions of success, and serving students in multiple opportunities.

Strategies and Whole Child alignment to foster a growth mindset

Fostering a growth mindset involves promoting the belief that skills and abilities can be developed through effort, persistence, and dedication. The ASCD Whole Child Tenets strengthen the ability to identify evidence of those areas of strength or opportunities for improvement in schools. Here are some strategies that can help foster a growth mindset in students:

1. Encourage effort and persistence (Engaged): Emphasize the importance of effort and persistence in achieving success, rather than innate talent or ability. Encourage students to take on challenges and to persist even when they face setbacks or difficulties.

Whole Child (cont.)

2. Emphasize the power of “yet” (Safe): Encourage students to add the word “yet” to the end of statements such as “I can’t do this.” This simple addition can help shift the focus from fixed abilities to the possibility of growth and development.

3. Model a growth mindset (Healthy): Teachers and parents can model a growth mindset by acknowledging their own mistakes and setbacks and emphasizing the importance of learning from them. Avoid praising innate abilities or talent, and instead praise effort, hard work, and perseverance.

4. Provide specific feedback (Supported): Provide specific and actionable feedback that focuses on how students can improve their skills and knowledge so that students know what, where, and how they are growing. Again, avoid evaluative feedback that focuses on innate abilities or fixed traits.

5. Encourage reflection and selfassessment (Supported): Encourage students to reflect on their learning process and assess their progress. Help them identify areas where they have improved and areas where they can still develop.

6. Provide opportunities for challenge and growth; Encourage risk-taking and experimentation (Challenged): Provide students with opportunities to take on challenging tasks and projects that require effort and persistence. Encourage risk-taking and experimentation, and provide support and encouragement as they work through difficult problems.

7. Teach growth mindset explicitly (Supported): Provide students with explicit instruction on the concept of growth mindset and how it relates to learning and achievement. Use examples and case studies to illustrate the importance of effort, persistence, and dedication in achieving success.

8. Set high expectations (Challenged): Set high expectations for students and provide support and encouragement as they work to meet those expectations, as well as the ability / willingness to attempt and learn from any experience.

By implementing these strategies, teachers and parents can help foster a holistic growth mindset in students, which can promote resilience, motivation, and academic success in safe, healthy, supported, engaged, and challenged ways.


Whole Child (cont.)

In closing, by starting with intention, using a Whole Child foundation, and implementing these growth mindset strategies, educators, parents, and administrators can, like a gardener, provide an ideal space for growing.

Garden assessment: Identify in what ways you or your teams are already promoting and instilling the safe, healthy, supported, engaged, and challenged tenets of the Whole Child Approach as a foundation to help prepare your garden (environment), and help learners thrive in every season.

is a seminal work on the importance of a growth mindset in achieving success in various domains, including education. It provides evidence and case studies to support the idea that individuals who embrace a growth mindset are more likely to succeed and be resilient in the face of challenges.


ASCD. Whole child tenets. https://www.

Dweck, .C. (2016). What having a “growth mindset” actually means. Harvard Business Review. https://

The following are some references to support the importance of a growth mindset in teaching and learning contexts:

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House. This book by psychologist Carol Dweck

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge. Visible Learning is a research-based book that synthesizes over 800 meta-analyses related to educational achievement. The author, John Hattie, identifies the importance of a growth mindset in learning and teaching, stating that students who believe that intelligence and abilities can be developed tend to have higher academic achievement and are more likely to persist in the face of challenges.

Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development, 78(1), 246-263. This study investigated the relationship between mindset and academic achievement in middle school students. The results showed that students who believed


that intelligence is malleable and can be developed (i.e., had a growth mindset) achieved higher grades and were more motivated than those who believed that intelligence is fixed.

Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational psychologist, 47(4), 302-314. This article discusses how a growth mindset can promote resilience in the face of academic setbacks and challenges. The authors suggest that interventions that promote a growth mindset can help students develop a more positive and adaptive mindset and improve their academic performance.

The following resources are focused on fostering a growth mindset:

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House. In this book, psychologist Carol Dweck discusses the concept of a growth mindset and provides evidence and strategies for promoting it. She emphasizes the importance of effort and persistence in achieving success, and provides examples of how parents, teachers, and coaches can foster a growth mindset in children.

Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development, 78(1), 246-263. This study found that interventions that emphasized the concept of a growth mindset were effective in improving academic achievement in middle school students. The authors suggest that explicit instruction on the concept of a growth mindset can help students develop a more positive and adaptive mindset.

Haimovitz, K., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). What Predicts Children’s Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets? Not Their Parents’ Views of Intelligence but Their Parents’ Views of Failure. Psychological science, 27(6), 859869. This study found that parents who emphasized the importance of learning from failure and adversity were more likely to have children with a growth mindset. The authors suggest that parents can play a key role in fostering a growth mindset in children by modeling and encouraging adaptive attitudes and behaviors.

Paunesku, D., Walton, G. M., Romero, C., Smith, E. N., Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2015). Mind-set interventions


are a scalable treatment for academic underachievement. Psychological science, 26(6), 784-793. This study found that a brief intervention that emphasized the concept of a growth mindset was effective in improving academic achievement in lowperforming high school students. The authors suggest that this type of intervention can be a scalable and cost-effective way to promote a growth mindset in students.

The following references provide evidence and strategies for fostering a growth mindset in children and students. As well as some that connect growth mindset to gardening:

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc.

Diener, C. E., & Dweck, C. S. (1978). An analysis of learned helplessness: II. The processing of success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(3), 340-345.

Boaler, J. (2016). Mathematical mindsets: Unleashing students’ potential through creative math, inspiring messages and innovative teaching. John Wiley & Sons.

Hagenauer, G., Hascher, T., & Volet, S. E. (2015). Teacher emotions in the classroom: Associations with

students’ engagement, classroom discipline and the interpersonal teacher-student relationship. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 30(4), 385-403.

Claro, S., Paunesku, D., & Dweck, C. S. (2016). Growth mindset tempers the effects of poverty on academic achievement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(31), 8664-8668.

Note: While these references do not specifically compare growth mindset to gardening, they discuss the importance of growth mindset in academic achievement, emotional well-being, and overcoming obstacles. The analogy of gardening can be used to illustrate these concepts and provide a relatable example for teachers and students alike.

Dr. Yurimi Grigsby is a Professor at Concordia University Chicago in the College of Education, Division of Curriculum, Technology, and Inclusive Education. She is the Program Leader for the ESL and TESOL programs supporting educators working with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse K-12 and adult learners. Contact: yurimi.

Whole Child (cont.)

Dr. Israel Espinosa is the Chair of the Psychology programs at Saybrook University for psychology programs— generalist track as well as specializations at the Master’s and Doctoral levels. Contact:

Dr. Andrea Dinaro is Professor of Special Education at Concordia University Chicago, is the Chair of the Division of Curriculum, Technology, and Inclusive Education, and Program Leader for special educationrelated doctoral programs. Contact:



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Book Review

Weeding the Education Garden with Peter Dewitt’s De-Implementation: Creating the Space to Focus on What Works

In our daily academic lives, on the news, and on social media we have become aware of an exodus of educators from our profession as 300,000 public school teachers and staff departed from February 2020 to May 2022 (Dill, 2022). According to a survey conducted by the National Education Association, a staggering 55% of teachers reported they are considering leaving education earlier than planned (Walker, 2022). Knowing public education needs to change to keep our schools staffed, Peter Dewitt has written De-Implementation: Creating the Space to Focus on What Works. DeWitt has created a

framework for school leaders and teachers to weed the education garden and reduce the number of initiatives in our schools. In the introduction of his book, DeWitt reveals this is not just a concern among teachers, but also among educational leaders stating that 42% of principals indicated they were considering leaving the profession (DeWitt, 2022, p. 1). De-implementation is critical to sustaining public education and ensuring our youth receive the highest quality of education they

Click the cover to view on Amazon Review by Jacquie

deserve. DeWitt writes, “What we all need is time to focus and cut down on the noise. We need time to breathe and engage in conversations that focus on deeper impact,” (DeWitt, 2022, p. 10). This forces us to ask ourselves as educators are we doing the right things and are we doing things right?

DeWitt’s De-implementation: Creating the Space to Focus on What Works provides a process for teachers and school/district leaders to de-implement with the focus remaining on student learning. DeWitt leverages Adam Grant and the science of implementation which emphasizes doing less of something does not simply lead to better results, rather it is a balance of quantity and quality (DeWitt, 2022, p. 19). Thus, educators are cautioned to not simply target eliminating practices we are not fond of, but those that are not impactful on student learning.

As DeWitt guides the reader through the process of de-implementation, he provides realistic examples from schools he has successfully completed this work in. DeWitt stresses the importance of collaborating in teams and not in isolation. Through sharing his own experiences, DeWitt allows the reader

the opportunity to engage and reflect on their current practice (DeWitt, 2022, pp. 3-4). He presents discussion questions that educators can ask themselves and colleagues to weed their garden and develop their own path to success.

Although earlier chapters lay the foundation for the work of deimplementation, DeWitt gets down to business in chapter three: “What Gets Deimplemented.” Here, he discusses partial reduction (reducing a practice we engage in) which is where most educators will become familiar with de-implementation (DeWitt, 2022, p. 47). DeWitt provides practical examples of areas we can start to minimize including the number of meetings, emails, assessments, teacher talk (versus student talk), and homework (DeWitt, 2022, p. 48). Through these examples, DeWitt presents rationale on how reducing these initiatives can help lighten the weight on educators, but also be impactful to student learning. DeWitt identifies four criteria for the deimplementation of programs/practices and urges school leaders and teachers to use the criteria as guidance when planning for de-implementation (DeWitt, 2022, pp. 51-52). (Figure 1 on the following page.)

Book Review (cont.)
...are we doing the right things and are we doing things right?

planning for de-implementation (DeWitt, 2022, pp. 51-52).

Criteria for De-implementation:


The program/practice has not been shown to be effective and impactful

The program/practice is less effective or impactful than another available.

The program/practice causes harm

The program/practice is no longer necessary

“De-implementation is not cut and dried,” (DeWitt, 2022, p. 58). As teams initiate de-implementation, DeWitt emphasizes the importance of utilizing direct and indirect evidence as well as valid research when making decisions about the impact initiatives have on student learning. To that point, it is critical that student learning remains the focus and as educators, we are only looking to de-implement initiatives that are proven ineffective.


● Frequent PowerPoint lessons

● Popcorn reading

● One size fits all professional development

● Homework

● Zero Tolerance Policies

● Fixed Groupings

● Chalkboards

● Heavy Textbooks

“De-implementation is not cut and dried,” (DeWitt, 2022, p. 58). As teams initiate de-implementation, DeWitt emphasizes the importance of utilizing direct and indirect evidence

In chapter four: “The Cycle of Deimplementation,” DeWitt shifts from understanding what needs to be de-

implemented to tackling the process, (DeWitt, 2022, p. 66). (Figure 2.)

As DeWitt guides the reader through a thorough explanation of each phase in the cycle of de-implementation, he references one professional experience of when he de-implemented traditional grading and implemented standards-

based grading. Walking the reader through the steps of the process, DeWitt includes templates that educators can utilize within their own schools and teams. Once a team has identified what and why they are targeting for deimplementation, DeWitt also provides a program logic model including a theory of action, resources, activities,

FIGURE 1. Criteria for De-implementation FIGURE 2. Cycle of De-implementation

timetables, and impact (DeWitt, 2022, pp. 78-79). Through the sharing of his experiences, DeWitt ensures the reader knows how to use the tools throughout the process.

Within the program logic model, DeWitt includes a de-implementation checklist. He denotes the deimplementation checklist is needed when a team approach is being utilized to formally de-implement an initiative or activity (DeWitt, 2022, p. 81). The de-implementation checklist has eleven sections that are detailed and userfriendly to be completed by teams.

The final chapter motivates the reader by giving them the tools necessary to find a better work-life balance. Educators and team members become more knowledgeable as they engage in the de-implementation process. DeWitt continues to drive the focus back to students, “De-implementation is about taking our control back in an effort to provide a deeper learning experience for students and that requires the input of each member of the instructional leadership team,” (DeWitt, 2022, p. 96).

DeWitt outlines how to build a team, who should be on the team and cautions against over-utilizing the same teacher leaders in our schools who volunteer routinely and could face burnout. He

suggests the structure for the teams including team roles and the idea of a co-chair to ensure more than one person is leading the work (DeWitt, 2022, p. 98). Continuing to share useful models for the reader, DeWitt provides an example of a pacing guide for deimplementing teacher talk to increase student engagement and learning. The teacher talk pacing guides showcase the de-implementation process over a six-month period including reaching the maintenance stage (DeWitt, 2022, pp. 101-102). He also provides a yearlong pacing guide for standards-based grading, allowing readers to see how de-implementing a large-scale initiative takes time to have the impact we hope to achieve.

It is likely that no matter what phase of the process you are in, roadblocks will exist. There will be challenges and not every teacher will be on board with proposed initiatives and activities. However, DeWitt believes the need for this work is essential and given the times we are currently living in, there is a heightened sense of urgency. DeWitt continues to emphasize, as educational leaders, these conditions will only get worse if we do not set boundaries and tackle de-implementation in our schools. In his final thoughts, DeWitt states “We need to take time to de-implement what doesn’t work in an effort to keep

Book Review (cont.)

implementing what does work. Our profession is at stake” (DeWitt, 2022, p. 123). To that end, this bares the question, again, are we doing the right things and are we doing things right?

As we start the process of finishing this school year, and planning for next, districts, leaders, and teachers can utilize DeWitt’s De-implementation: Creating the Space to Focus on What Works to weed our own education gardens. If this work is completed in collaboration with all stakeholders, a path will be made for the future where students and staff can flourish.


DeWitt, P. (2022). De-Implementation: Creating the Space to Focus on What Works. Thousand Oaks: Corwin.

Dill, K. (2022, June 20). School’s Out for Summer and Many Teachers Are Calling It Quits. Retrieved from The Wall Street Journal : https://www.

Walker, T. (2022, 1 2). NEA News. Retrieved from NEA Today: https://

Dr. Jacquie Duginske is currently serving as the Executive Director of Learning Services for McHenry Elementary School District 15. Dr. Duginske is an expert in the areas of curriculum design and assessment with a focus on instructional best practices to positively impact student outcomes. Dr. Duginske believes student growth occurs through teacher growth and has built a systemic model of instructional coaching to support teaching and learning.


Resource Corner


As a teacher, having plants in the classroom can take your teaching game to a whole new level. READ MORE...


Explore growth mindset with Thinky Pinky as he takes you through a exploration of what happens in your brain when it learns. This video is part of the Growth Mindset

Curriculum available with LearnStorm, a back-to-school program aimed at helping students start the school year strong. WATCH THE VIDEO...




The following plant project ideas provide suggestions for topics that can be explored through experimentation. READ MORE...

AMAZON BOOKS Click the cover to learn more.

Join Alex & host Gilbert Cadiz to learn about how you can encourage your student to build a growth mindset. LISTEN TO THE PODCAST...
Resource Corner (cont.)


When schools make space for free play in a natural environment, students are left to their own devices to build, create, and problem-solve—and the benefits continue once they are back in the classroom. WATCH THE VIDEO...

Resource Corner (cont.)


Imagine – just for a moment – going through your entire K-12 experience without seeing a teacher that shares one of your most significant identities. READ MORE...

Click the cover to view on Amazon.

If You Water It, It Will Grow

Play is back and needed in a big way! The students in our classrooms today have much different needs than the students of 10, 15, and 20 years ago. With an uptick in social-emotional behaviors and less time spent with families, play has taken root in kindergarten classrooms and even sprouted into first grade.

Rototilling the Soil

If you walked into PH Miller Elementary seven years ago, kindergarten looked like a high school for 5-year-olds. Play had been stricken from daily activities and replaced with what some would say, was rigorous instruction for high academic achievement. There were several different prog rams teachers were following and all were separate from each other.

One day at a meeting with the kindergarten teachers, they asked, “How are we supposed to rate the students’ development of sociodramatic play on the KIDS assessment if we are not playing?” As the principal and I began to learn about the school in our first year, we become familiar with the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS). We noticed how the assessment looked at the whole child through evidence from observation and the measures were developmentally appropriate for 5 and 6-year-olds. Remember, the 5-year-old brain has never changed, it

26 Article
Melissa Crisci

still develops the same way it always has. The answer was to meet the kids where they were and bring play back. Our minds were worn and trodden by ‘No Child Left

As we began to implement play, we were shocked to find that a vast majority of kids did not know how to play. Yes, from not being able to pretend to play

Behind’ mandates and our practices were dormant. But as soon as we started to overturn our previous beliefs, the culture was fertile for new ideas and practices.

Planting the Seeds

The kindergarten teachers erupted with clapping as the principal announced at a faculty meeting that we are bringing play back! We started digging into our own basements and asking for donations of kitchen sets, blocks, matchbox cars, and anything we could use to at least provide students with “play time” during the instructional day. Little did we know these seeds would grow into a whole garden we could have never imagined. We began educating ourselves about play in the classroom by reading books, taking classes, visiting other districts, and redesigning our classrooms to make way for play areas. A three-year plan was developed by a team of teachers in grades K-2, the principal, and myself at the Teach to Lead Summit.

“house” in a home living area to building a structure with blocks. We had to put some stakes in the ground and scaffold how to play by taking on the role of a mom in the play area or the customer at the grocery stand, helping them take turns with cards and blocks, and asking questions about what they were doing during their play. We knew we had a big field ahead of us, but we were determined to get it sown.

The Drought

Right as the momentum for playing in the classrooms was building, COVID hit. We had to remove all the toys, baby dolls, blocks, and anything that students played with. Even though students could not engage in play, new sprouts began to emerge with the first-grade team. They had been hearing about the benefits of play and wanted to learn more about the KIDS assessment. Soon, we were dissecting the IL Early Learning Standards and writing progressions that would be used to rate students’ abilities

As we began to implement play, we were shocked to find that a vast majority of kids did not know how to play.

If You Water It (cont.)

throughout the year. Grappling with how to integrate the necessary skills, and building language and background knowledge for students, particularly English Language Learners, play and content-based units began to enter the discussion. Before we knew it, with a little wind to carry seeds, play had been planted in first grade!

As we emerged from the drought of COVID and opened boxes that resembled time capsules, we had to start soaking the seeds to get the plants growing. Soon we found that play was more than just a “time,” in the day, it was a method we could use for teaching foundational skills kindergarteners needed in a way that was developmentally appropriate and authentic. Not only could play-based

Here Comes the Sun

As an instructional coach, my job is to provide professional development, support teachers along their path of best practices in instruction, ensure we have a viable curriculum, and analyze the data. Play-based instruction is not easy, but when we sit back and remember that the standards are not the curriculum, but an endpoint, we can choose whatever path we want to get there. We dug into our science and social studies standards and used those as the foundation for our units and integrated math and literacy skills into the play. Teaching this way allows for the sun to shine much brighter by teaching the standards crosscurricular instead of isolated lessons throughout the day. The assistant

instruction be a way to teach academic learning goals but it could strengthen the social-emotional development of students. But how do we add all of this into our day? How do we convert worksheets from a prescribed curriculum and turn them into play? We definitely needed to rototill our mindset from teacher-directed instruction to studentled learning and growing.

principal and I wrote a grant for funds to continue moving play-based instruction forward and one sunny day, the assistant superintendent visited one of our firstgrade classrooms to experience playbased instruction and was astonished at the learning taking place. Before long she was reallocating funds so we could continue to water our garden! I began a focus group called, Prepared to Play. As

We definitely needed to rototill our mindset from teacher-directed instruction to student-led learning and growing.

with our students, our teachers are all on their own path to play and it is my job to meet them where they are. I provided information and resources and then teachers headed back to their gardens to implement what they soaked in about play.

Walking into our classrooms five years ago looked much different than today. Now you will see students counting down for lift-off in a rocket to the moon,

students are blooming in their critical thinking skills, writing, and reading ability. They are growing by leaps and bounds, building background knowledge and language. In analyzing one of our firstgrade classrooms that is integrating math and literacy into play, the percentage of projected growth met on the MAP assessment was 112.9% in math and 136.4 % in reading from fall to winter. Another teacher in kindergarten, who uses play as a method for math concepts,

sorting, measuring, and weighing rocks and then writing about what they found while in space instead of measuring a drawing of a pencil on a worksheet. You might walk into a room and spot students fishing for power words while studying life in the 1800s, building a home for their pet out of blocks after researching what kind of habitat and food the animal likes, or waiting on customers and even delivering the mail from the classroom post office while learning about places in the community.

Beautiful Blooms

I know what you are thinking. With all this play and not enough academics how will these students ever be ready for the next grade? Well, play is the work of children and the data doesn’t lie! Our

began the year with 32% of students in tier 3 on the Aimsweb assessment, and by winter scores had decreased to 10% of students in tier 3. Our data is living and breathing proof that play-based instruction is the fertilizer that will allow students to bloom, creating bright, critical thinkers, preparing them for life.

We have been sharing our seeds with others as well. This past December I presented at the Multilingual Illinois conference on how to build language through dramatic play and presented a session with another teacher about playbased learning in K-2nd grades at the DKG conference in April. We have hosted several visitors from other districts who want to learn about play and Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas who wanted to

29 is the work of children and the data doesn’t lie!

If You Water It (cont.)

learn about how we are using assessment through play. We have been featured in the Illinois state video, “Kindergarteners Learn Best Through Play,” and I came full circle in March by being a critical friend for another school district wanting to implement play-based instruction, at the 2023 Teach to Lead Summit.

Being a gardener in our school is all about rolling your sleeves up, getting dirty, and digging in, doing the hard work. It requires patience, imagination, and planning to see the fruits of your labor (growth of the students). You have to be willing to let go of being the sage on the stage to become the guide on the side and let the students lead. Playbased instruction is what kids need in our schools today. And all good gardeners know, once you’ve planted the seeds and added the fertilizer, all that’s left is to water it and it will grow.

Melissa Crisci is in her 24th year of education. She taught for ten years in elementary grades, was a PreK-8th grade administrator for seven years, and is currently an Instructional Coach in Plano CUSD #88 for all subjects in general education, blended and dual language classrooms. Melissa has been featured in ISBE’s video “Kindergarteners Learn Best Through Play,” served as a critical friend for another district at the Teach to Lead Summit for play-based instruction in K-2, planned content-based units of study with play-based methods, hosted several visitors from other districts including state senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas and received the KIDS VIP award. She holds two master’s degrees; one in Teaching and Learning and another in Administration, as well as an ESL Endorsement. Curriculum design, play & inquiry-based instruction, authentic learning experiences, and formative assessment are a few of her areas of expertise.

WATCH THE VIDEO Kindergarteners Learn Best Through Guided Play

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Research-Based Instructional Strategies for Emerging Bilinguals in the Dual Language Classroom

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Chris Wagner

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The Wants and Needs of a Novice Gardener/New Teacher

Judy Kmak Background

For the last few years, I have had the privilege of working with 100 new teachers prior to their first day of school. I value their feedback and know the importance of making sure I am meeting their needs throughout our staff development time. During my work with these educators, I surveyed their wants and needs to determine the best way I could support them throughout the first year of teaching.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Many of these teachers were not new to gardening. In fact, a number of them had several years of growth and decided to test out the soil in another field. However, all of them were novice gardeners in their new plots of land.

Prior To Planting (The Wants)

In July, I surveyed a group of 30 new staff members from a variety of school districts. I wanted to know if they were assigned to a mentor. The answers varied, depending on the district and the teaching experience they brought to the new district. I asked them to complete the statement, “I feel that the most important role of a mentor is to . . .” The chart on the following page shows their responses to this open-ended statement.

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to know if they were assigned to a mentor. The answers varied, depending on the district and the teaching experience they brought to the new district. I asked them to complete the statement, “I feel that the most important role of a mentor is to . . .” The chart below shows their responses to this open-ended statement.

It doesn’t surprise me that the new gardeners weren’t thinking about assistance in the areas of curriculum, procedures, and weekly check-ins. When interviewing potential new staff, we delve into their background and experience. Many curriculum questions are targeted to determine their skill level. We ask how they organize themselves for long-term and short-term planning. Districts have confidence in who they hire to match the open positions and the recently hired staff members have selfconfidence in their ability to do the job.

It doesn’t surprise me that the new gardeners weren’t thinking about assistance in the areas of curriculum, procedures, and weekly check-ins. When interviewing potential new staff, we delve into their background and experience. Many curriculum questions are targeted to determine their skill level. We ask how they organize themselves for long-term and short-term planning. Districts have confidence in who they hire to match the open positions and the recently hired staff members have self-confidence in their ability to do the job.

members wanted someone they could trust. They wished for a relationship built on mutual respect before tackling more difficult questions.

However, 43% of the 30 new teachers said that they were hoping for a mentor who would support and encourage them and 30% wanted their mentor to be a resource and collaborator. 16% wanted an individual they could rely on to answer all of their questions and be their go-to person. 10% felt that a mentor should be willing to share ideas and suggestions. This data tells me that the new staff members wanted someone they could trust. They wished for a relationship built on mutual respect before tackling more difficult questions.

However, 43% of the 30 new teachers said that they were hoping for a mentor who would support and encourage them and 30% wanted their mentor to be a resource and collaborator. 16% wanted an individual they could rely on to answer all of their questions and be their go-to person. 10% felt that a mentor should be willing to share ideas and suggestions. This data tells me that the new staff

If you consider yourself a gardener, think about the first time you wanted some flowers near your front door. Did you seek out curriculum assistance such as books or websites about plants? I didn’t think about the procedures in my planning. I wasn’t concerned with those weekly check-ins with my garden to do the weeding. The local gardening center was my resource, and I got lots of ideas by examining the pots that were already put together with a variety of plants and colors. The thing I was looking for the most, was for people to notice the colorful combination I chose for the pots at the front door. This was my moral support and encouragement as a novice gardener. These are the same things new teachers hope to obtain from their future mentor.

Comment # of new staff who listed this in their comments % of new staff who listed this in their comments Moral Support/Encouragement/Listen Non-judgmental 13 43% Resource/Collaboration 9 30% Answers to all my questions/Go-To Person 5 16% Ideas/Suggestions 3 10% Curriculum Assistance 0 0% Procedures 0 0% Weekly Check-Ins with the Mentor 0 0%

After Planting (The Needs)

In a local school district, I worked with 70 new hires over a period of 2 years. Each of these staff members was assigned to a mentor who would assist them throughout their first year, regardless of their previous teaching experience and position. In the month of October, I asked them to complete the statement, “The most helpful part of working with my mentor has been…” The chart below shows their responses to this open-ended statement.

working with their mentor was receiving answers to their questions and having a go-to person. They had transitioned their time together into the educational program and focused on curriculum assistance (13%) and valued their mentor as a resource and collaborator (19%). Both Procedures (11%) and Weekly Check-Ins (4%) became a priority.

New staff members indicated that curriculum assistance, procedures, and weekly check-ins were more important once the mentor began to assist them. They began to dig deeper as a team to build skills in their area of expertise.

If you consider yourself a gardener, think about the first time you wanted some flowers near your front door. Did you seek out curriculum assistance such as books or websites about plants? I didn’t think about the procedures in my planning. I wasn’t concerned with those weekly check-ins with my garden to do the weeding. The local gardening center was my resource, and I got lots of ideas by examining the pots that were already put together with a variety of plants and colors. The thing I was looking for the most, was for people to notice the colorful combination I chose for the pots at the front door This was my moral support and encouragement as a novice gardener. These are the same things new teachers hope to obtain from their future mentor.


After a few months of experience in the new district, these teachers had needs that looked different from the wants of a new staff member prior to meeting their mentor. They were getting the moral support and encouragement from their mentor and had moved into a relationship that contributed to meeting their needs.

The data shows that 39% of the 70 new teachers said the most helpful part of

In a local school district, I worked with 70 new hires over a period of 2 years. Each of these staff members was assigned to a mentor who would assist them throughout their first year, regardless of their previous teaching experience and position. In the month of October, I asked them to complete the statement, “The most helpful part of working with my mentor has been…” The chart below shows their responses to this open-ended statement.

Now that I consider myself an experienced gardener, I reflect on what I did last year that made my plantings successful. The drought-resistant flowers were exactly what was needed in a spot that never gets shade. I did seek out books and websites to find out how I can get more of those. I read the suggestions about how far to separate each plant

After a few months of experience in the new district, these teachers had needs that looked different from the wants of a new staff member prior to meeting their mentor. They were getting the


Teacher (cont.)
of new staff who
this in
of new staff
this in their comments Moral Support/Encouragement/Listen Non-judgmental 0 0% Resource/Collaboration 13 19% Answers to all my questions/Go-To Person 27 39% Ideas/Suggestions 10 14% Curriculum Assistance 9 13% Procedures 8 11% Weekly Check-Ins with the Mentor 3 4%
who listed
into relationship
moral and from their and had moved

and how much each type would spread. Now it was critical to think about those weekly check-ins with my garden and find someone to water the plants when I was on vacation. The curriculum, procedures, and weekly check-ins became my priorities. These are the same things that the new teachers were looking for after their relationship had blossomed.

Successful Gardening (The Demands)

I’ve been gardening for a while and thought I had everything figured out. However, I didn’t consider that my neighbors would remove a tree that would cause my shade plants to wilt and die. I wondered why my daffodils were not as plentiful as in previous years. Revisiting my resources answered many of my questions that allowed me to change and modify my garden.

What this teaches us, is that we can successfully grow a garden each year as we develop and refine our skills. The tools I utilize now are very different from those I used as I was learning the basics. My priorities have shifted as I return to the same garden each year with a renewed level of excitement.

I know that we can apply this to what staff members encounter each year, even if they are returning to the same garden. I wonder if second and thirdyear “new” staff continue a relationship with their mentor. I’m sure they utilize other people as resources as they learn about their colleagues’ strengths and draw from their knowledge. The greatest thing we can hope for is that new teachers remember the relationship they had with their mentor and share their gardening expertise to nurture others in the field of education.

Dr. Judy Kmak has implemented new teacher orientation programs in multiple school districts and has coached hundreds of teachers as an administrator. Throughout her career she focused on student engagement, professional collaboration, and community partnerships. Judy currently works with mentors and new teachers as they work together to expand their teaching skills.


Redefining and Reinventing Strategic Planning

On July 1, 2019, I arrived at Community Unit School District 200 to serve as the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services. At that time, the Vision 2022 Strategic Plan was in its first year of implementation, and I was excited about the work outlined for the district. Eight months later, those plans were put on hold to design pandemic learning. The challenges of the pandemic persisted, and soon enough, the reality that Vision 2022 was sunsetting and the time had come to create a new strategic plan. We knew that our organization had entered a new normal, and we could not just pick up from where we were before the pandemic. Instead, we needed to reimagine, redefine and reinvent (Sneader & Singhal, 2020).

Before March 2020, our leadership team had engaged in a comprehensive and inclusive process involving multiple stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents, and community members, to ask what qualities and skills our students should have when they graduate. What emerged from this work was a Portrait of a District 200 Graduate.

The Portrait of a Graduate for District 200 includes four core components:

• Effective Communicators

• Collaborative Learners

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Melissa Murphy

• Resilient Learners, and

• Effective Problem Solvers. With these four core components, the central focus is Academic Excellence. The Portrait of a Graduate became the centerpiece of our strategic plan and the moral purpose of deep learning for all students (Fullan & Quinn, 2016). Next, we needed to develop the roadmap to achieve the Portrait of a Graduate. Since

school programming, and high school programming. Then within each of those systems, each building leader designs the goals and direction for their building.

Emerging from the pandemic allowed us to hit a reset and reimagine how to address the urgent needs best sitting in front of our educators. Throughout the pandemic, our organization pulled together to work in a more united manner

the needs of our students were more significant than ever before, we knew our next strategic plan, Vision 2026, had to create a roadmap that ensured we would reimagine educational opportunities for our students and create a clear and focused direction for our organization system-wide.

Building Coherence

District 200 is a large unit district with twenty schools serving students in early childhood through transitional special education programming. Large unit school districts are complex systems and can naturally fall into the habit of working as separate units, early childhood programming, elementary programming, middle

to address the common and urgent complexities of the time. We found incredible value in breaking down the silos of individuality and pulling together to work horizontally and vertically to create a shared focus. With the development of Vision 2026, the importance of a focused system with a shared depth of understanding and purpose to create coherence was valued more than ever before (Fullan & Quinn, 2016).

Therefore, our Vision 2026 strategic plan identified six broad strategies tied to Academic Excellence to achieve our central mission of the Portrait of a Graduate.

1. Implement learning acceleration strategies and programming.

We found incredible value in breaking down the silos of individuality and pulling together to work horizontally and vertically to create a shared focus.

2. Design and implement a balanced assessment system.

3. Develop implementation resources aligned with our Portrait of a Graduate.

4. Expand programming to prepare students for a full range of postsecondary opportunities.

5. Develop a comprehensive professional learning program and support system for staff.

6. Support the social and emotional needs of students.

Monitoring Progress to Ensure Accountability

An organization must have a clear strategic plan with well-defined outcome metrics and strategies. In the case of Vision 2026, the district’s Citizens Advisory Committee played a crucial role in providing feedback on the Vision 2022 Data Dashboard, which resulted in a redesign to better align with the six strategies and provide more clarity on how success would be measured.

Working with ECRA Group, the district operationalized our strategic plan and dashboard to communicate more effectively. The Vision 2026 Data Dashboard contains more specific measures to communicate the goals and

progress for academic excellence. The outcomes have clear targets to achieve by the end of the 2025-26 school year. The data dashboard serves as the glue to focus the organization’s direction.

Overcommunicating for Clarity

Once the District 200 Vision 2026 Strategic Plan and Dashboard were finalized, we were proud of the visual look. Creating something consumable and straightforward for our stakeholders was essential, but we knew more than just having glossy and sharp documents would be needed to ensure success. We knew this needed to be more than just a document but a guide to redefine and reinvent learning for the next four years.

Therefore, our Senior Leadership Team committed to overcommunicating our priorities. We studied the work of Patrick Lencioni and knew that we needed to remind our people of the direction we are headed often (Lencioni, 2012).

For my role as the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services, charged with all things teaching and learning, we selected three key strategies, College and Career Readiness (Strategy 4), Accelerating Learning (Strategy 1), and Balanced Assessment (Strategy 2), to concentrate our efforts. The phrase “Catch a Cab” was

Strategic Planning

developed to help our leadership team to remember these three big priorities.

I use multiple structures to serve as what Lencioni calls the Chief Reminding Officer to overcommunicate the Catch a CAB focus (Lencioni, 2012). These include monthly newsletters to staff, monthly newsletters to administrators, monthly administrative teaching and learning meetings, and weekly meetings with instructional coaches. Each venue focuses only on implementing the Vision 2026 Strategic Plan and the priorities with the “Catch a CAB” focus.

Creating a Collaborative Culture to Achieve Success

Creating coherence to ensure the strategies laid out in our plan would be implemented to the fullest intent, our system focused on creating a collaborative culture (Fullan & Quinn, 2016).

One of the biggest game changers in creating coherence and collaborative work for learning acceleration has been the adoption of high-quality instructional materials. This year, in grades K-8, our staff is implementing a new math curriculum aligned with our Portrait of a Graduate components. This curriculum adoption has served as an

anchor to create collective leadership efficacy across the system (Donohoo, 2021). At the leadership level, teaching and learning meetings focus more on a collective purpose.

Collective efficacy has also increased across our district by focusing on collaborative professional learning. Over the last year, our elementary leaders have studied the science of reading to build expertise. Taking the time to learn together has created a common, unified sense of urgency. As our teachers learned more, it resulted in a request to secure new instruction materials for ELA as quickly as possible, even on the heels of the adoption of math. We are now engaged in a pilot of high-quality instructional materials for ELA, and the use of those materials has expanded to classrooms beyond the pilot teachers because of the knowledge gained by our staff through collective professional learning.

Lastly, creating a commonly developed approach has resulted in success. For example, our Career Pathways work has laid out a four-year plan to focus on further developing one pathway at a time. Narrowing the focus to a

At the leadership level, teaching and learning meetings focus more on a collective purpose.

specific pathway at a time has allowed for a concentrated and dedicated focus. This year’s focus was on the Education Pathway, which included the addition of dual-credit programming and an internship that has included each of our buildings having a mentor to support our sixty-five students enrolled in the course. While this work is meaningfully taking shape for students, our staff is working on the IT Pathway and creating unique and meaningful student experiences.

Concluding Thoughts

Creating a strategic plan is just the beginning for an organization, but the power comes in how to bring that plan to life. Just one year into the Vision 2026 Strategic Plan, our staff has reported having a clearer sense of where we are going and a stronger sense of how our plan will impact students and staff. The difference-maker for us has been building coherence, creating clarity for our outcome measures, overcommunicating the work, and creating a collaborative culture that has resulted in collective efficacy. Not only does our organization have a clear sense of the work, but it has also significantly impacted our students. With this trajectory, we are certainly on track to redefine the next normal for our students (Sneader & Singhal, 2020).


Community Unit School District 200. (2022). Portrait of a Graduate. https://

Community Unit School District 200. (2022). Vision 2026 Strategic Plan.

Donohoo, J. (2021). 10 Mindframes for Leaders. Corwin

ECRA Group. (2022). Strategic Dashboard Community Unit School District 200

Fullan, M., & Quinn, J. (2016). Coherence. Corwin

Lencioni, P. (2012). The Advantage. Jossey-Bass

Sneader, K & Singhal, S. (2020). Beyond coronavirus: The path to the next normal. com/featured-insights/leadership/ the-future-is-not-what-it-used-tobe-thoughts-on-the-shape-of-thenext-normal

Melissa Murphy serves as the Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services in Community Unit School District 200. She has been fortunate to work for twentythree years as a teacher, instructional coach, elementary principal, and assistant superintendent. Mrs. Murphy is passionate about creating high-quality instructional experiences for all students.

Strategic Planning (cont.)

Cultivating Student Growth Through

Instructional Coaching

As a small rural community in northern Illinois, we are no strangers to cultivating the land in order to produce quality crops. This year, North Boone CUSD 200 embarked on a journey to cultivate student growth through Instructional Coaching. We hired four instructional coaches for our six schools, and have implemented student-centered coaching, based on Diane Sweeney’s model, and our efforts are already producing strong results.

Preparing the Soil

In the Spring of 2022, I started the process of building an instructional coaching program in the North Boone School District. I knew that this would be no small feat, having previously worked in districts that had started instructional coaching programs. I knew that to be successful, I would need to implement an instructional coaching program that supported student growth and learning while also supporting teachers in their instructional practices. I knew that if I wanted instructional coaching to take root in our district, I would need to prepare our teaching and learning soil before I could plant the coaching seeds.

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Kari Neri

Instructional Coaching (cont.)

I wanted our coaching program to include coaching cycles, and I wanted student learning to be front and center. In order to meet these goals, I developed our coaching program around the pillars of Diane Sweeney’s Student-Centered Coaching model. I focused on partnering with building leadership to hire a strong instructional coaching team. The four coaches we hired were from our own district, so we were excited that we were able to “grow our own,” so to speak.

Planting the Seeds

Over the summer, I focused on planting the seeds for a successful first year of instructional coaching. In June, our four coaches started an online course introducing them to Sweeney’s studentcentered coaching model. The same month, I met with our building principals to prepare them on how to create a culture for coaching. Taking direction from Leading Student-Centered Coaching (Sweeney, 2018), we focused on creating a “no optout” culture, on keeping evaluation separate from coaching, and on making it clear to staff that the coaching model is valued. Principals dug into the

Checklist for Getting Coaching Cycles

Up and Running and focused on Stage 1: Calibrate with the Principal (Sweeney, 2020). I wanted our principals to have a strong sense of the student-centered coaching model, and I wanted to provide them the time to brainstorm and problemsolve as an administrative team.

In August, I hosted a principal/coach planning session so they could plan how they were going to kick off coaching at the start of the school year. Each principal/coach team discussed what would work best for the individual building, and they developed a kick-off presentation for institute day. Giving our principals and coaches this opportunity allowed them to determine how best to plant coaching seeds in their buildings, and where to focus their attention as the year began.

Watering for Growth

As we started the school year, the coaches and I were planning on coaching cycles starting by October 1st. I wanted the coaches to have time to plant those coaching seeds in their buildings, and we thought it would take the whole month of September to make that happen. To our surprise, that wasn’t the case! We had teachers signing up for coaching cycles in early September, and coaches were able to hit the ground running.


In their cycles, coaches focused on supporting teachers in selecting a standard, pre-assessing that standard, focusing instruction on students’ growth to proficiency, and post-assessing that standard. Using Sweeney’s ResultsBased Coaching Tool, our coaches kept their coaching conversations on student growth and partnered with teachers to support student learning (Sweeney,

those who were celebrated through the Teacher


Producing Crops

At the end of January, I pulled our coaching data as a mid-point benchmark during the year. The coaches and I were already excited about the success of the individual coaching cycles, and we were anxious to see our impact. We were

2020). The growth we saw during those first coaching cycles was beyond our initial expectations, and other teachers started to notice the impact coaching was having on students.

As the first part of the year went on, we wanted to build more understanding around the coach’s role as well as celebrate teacher success. We decided to create a monthly newsletter, titled “Instructional Coaching Connection,” where we would give instructional tips and where we would celebrate teachers through a Teacher Spotlight. This turned out to be a great way to water the seeds the coaches were planting in their buildings. The newsletter created a buzz in our buildings, and teachers congratulated

ecstatic to see that as a team, we were reaping the benefits of careful planning.

Collectively, the coaches were in coaching cycles for almost the same amount of cycles they had already completed (see Figure 1 on the following page). This showed us that our watering for growth efforts were working as we had almost doubled our cycles. Additionally, our combined cycle data showed us that our model was having an impact on student learning. Figure 2 on the following page illustrates that after completing fourteen cycles, 69% of our students were proficient in the standard(s) measured during the cycle, while 53% of our students grew to proficiency during

We decided to create a monthly newsletter, titled “Instructional Coaching Connection,” where we would give instructional tips and where we would celebrate teachers through a Teacher Spotlight.

those cycles. Even more exciting to us was the percentage of students who had growth during the cycles, which totaled 84%. So, even if students did not reach proficiency, 84% of them were making progress toward proficiency.

Seeing this collective impact made our team proud of the work happening in our buildings. After analyzing this data, we started thinking about how we could expand our program in order to reach more teachers and students.

Cultivating New Land

During the second half of this year, our coaches have expanded their reach. Our two elementary coaches are using Professional Development Boxes to find new ways to work with teachers. When a teacher signs up, that teacher

receives a PD Box with a new strategy, along with some incentives and snacks. The coach either observes the teacher using the new strategy or debriefs with a teacher after using the strategy. For their first round, our coaches worked with 13 teachers. Our two secondary coaches have taken a different approach but with similar success. One has created “PD under 3” videos that he sends to staff weekly. These PD videos under three minutes provide an explanation of a strategy, examples for multiple content areas, and specific examples of a teacher from our district using the strategy with students. Our other secondary coach creates infographics or handouts for strategies, shares them with teachers, then models the strategy in one of their classes. Both

Adjust the Ingredients (cont.)
Figure 1 Figure 2

of these approaches are allowing them to work with new teachers.

For our second year of implementation, we are already planning on cultivating new land for coaching. Our coaches are excited that they have teachers already requesting coaching cycles at the beginning of the school year; so, the seeds we have planted are going to harvest new crops. Next year, we also plan on tracking additional data so we can further measure our impact. We are still in the planning stages of what data to track, but we have brainstormed measuring our impact on coaching teachers in creating assessments, modeling a new instructional strategy, and discussing and analyzing data.

None of this would be possible without our four amazing coaches: Becke, Ben, Mike, and Retha. I am so lucky to have a coaching team that cultivates our teaching and learning soil every day. I can’t wait to see what next year brings!


Sweeney, D. & Harris, L. (2020). The essential guide for student-centered coaching: what every k-12 coach and school leader needs to know. Corwin Press, Inc.

Sweeney, D. & Mausbach, A. (2018). Leading student-centered coaching: building principal and coach partnerships. Corwin Press, Inc.

Kari Neri serves as curriculum director for North Boone Community Unit School District 200 in Poplar Grove, IL. She has been in education for more than 20 years and has served as a high school English teacher, a staff developer, and an English language arts curriculum dean before becoming a director.

Growing Independent Learners In a Fertile Classroom Garden

Classrooms are often viewed as sterile environments where students sit and absorb information, but what if we started thinking of classrooms as gardens and students as plants? This analogy has the potential to transform the way we view education and the learning process (Baptist, 2002).

Just like a garden, a classroom requires careful cultivation and nurturing. The teacher acts as the gardener, providing the necessary tools and resources for students to grow and thrive. A gardener prepares the soil, plants seeds, waters, and fertilizes them. A teacher prepares the classroom environment, creates a curriculum and lesson plans, provides resources and materials, and guides students in their learning.

While plants need sunlight, water, and nutrients to grow, students require the proper conditions to flourish. They need to feel safe and valued, to have access to resources and support, and to be challenged and encouraged to reach their full potential. Like plants, students come in many varieties, with different needs and strengths. Some may need more support and attention, while others may require more autonomy and independence. A

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skilled gardener can identify the unique needs of each plant and provide the appropriate care, and a skilled teacher can do the same for each student.

As with any garden, there are challenges and obstacles to overcome. Sometimes plants may not grow as expected, or may be damaged by pests or weather. Similarly, students may face obstacles such as learning difficulties or social and emotional issues. However, just as a gardener persists in finding solutions to these challenges, a teacher can provide the necessary support and resources to help students overcome their obstacles and reach their full potential.

So what are the critical elements that students need to thrive? What are the essential components that create the conditions for optimal student growth? What educational influences are analogous to soil, nutrients, water, sunlight and air? While there are certainly an endless list of strategies and influences that positively impact student growth, there are some, by research and evidence, that have the potential for creating exponential growth and learning in the classroom “garden.” Regardless of each teachers unique style and approach to teaching, all highly impactful classrooms require a guaranteed and viable curriculum, high levels of student voice and choice, relevancy and novelty

that drive student curiosity and regular clarity of purpose and progress.


Just as a rich soil filled with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is essential for plants to grow and flourish, a well-designed “fertile” curriculum is necessary for students to develop and thrive. A guaranteed and viable curriculum (GVC) provides that “soil” and sets the foundation for learning with all of the nutrients that help students grow and develop.

With nutrients like

• Essential Standards,

• Essential Questions,

• Learning Progressions and

• Success Criteria, a GVC provides a soil designed to meet the diverse needs of students. When teachers use a well-designed curriculum, they ensure that students have access to a range of knowledge and skills that will help them develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.

Additionally, like a gardener who continually tends to the soil to ensure optimal conditions for plant growth, teachers who consistently evaluate and update the curriculum to meet the changing needs of their students, guarantee optimal growth. By providing


a fertile learning environment that is rich in knowledge and skills, teachers can help students grow and develop into strong, healthy, and productive members of society. Gardeners must be knowledgeable and committed to their gardens and

“If schools are to establish a truly guaranteed and viable curriculum, those who are called upon to deliver it must have both a common understanding of the curriculum and a commitment to teach it.”

(Marzano, 2003, p.37)


Water, an essential element for plants in any thriving garden, is akin to student

Listening to students’ perspectives through voice and incorporating their ideas and feedback into the learning process through choice, they provide the “water” that helps students discover their passions and connect new concepts to prior learning.

Plants require consistent watering and students benefit from having a consistent and ongoing opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions. This can occur more regularly through writing for process (as opposed to product), collaboration through pairs and small groups, research, debate, and collective problem solving. By incorporating student voice into the classroom, teachers can create a learning environment that is

Students are thirsty to be heard!

Water them and watch them grow!

voice and choice in a thriving classroom. Water is a necessary resource that allows plants to grow, just as student voice is a necessary component that allows students to develop and learn. When student voice is facilitated, the teacher can observe how the student is making sense of things and where that student wants to go with that knowledge. Such information is invaluable to the teacher designing instruction to meet individual needs (Toshalis & Nakkula, 2012, p.25).

engaging, collaborative, and responsive to students’ needs and interests. Students are thirsty to be heard! Water them and watch them grow!


Just as sunlight is crucial for plants to photosynthesize and grow, relevance, curiosity and novelty are essential for students to process meaning and “buy in” to the skills they are learning

Fertile Garden Classroom (cont.)

and developing. When teachers make learning relevant to students’ lives and interests, they provide the “sunlight” that sparks their curiosity and motivates them to learn. Like plants that lean towards the sun to absorb its energy, students gravitate towards learning experiences that are meaningful and engaging to them. By incorporating relevance, curiosity and novelty into the learning process, teachers can create an environment where students are motivated to explore, experiment, and make connections between their learning and their lives. This helps to cultivate a love of learning that can continue to grow long after they leave the classroom.

Teachers can act as “gardeners” of their classrooms, cultivating a diverse range of learning experiences and activities to help students grow and develop. When teachers introduce novelty into the classroom, they provide a fresh perspective on learning that can spark curiosity and creativity in students. Just as a gardener may introduce new plant species or garden designs to keep their garden fresh and engaging, teachers can incorporate new teaching methods, technologies, or interdisciplinary topics to keep learning exciting and relevant for students. By providing a variety of learning experiences, teachers can help to engage different learning styles and provide opportunities for students to

explore their interests and strengths.

Curiosity is an important condition for language learning and plays a significant role in learner engagement. People are better at learning information they are curious about, as curiosity prepares the brain for learning and makes subsequent learning more enjoyable and rewarding (Stenger, 2014).


While air is essential for plant growth processes, clarity of purpose and progress is crucial in allowing students to set goals and monitor their growth towards them. When teachers provide a clear purpose for their lessons using learning intentions and set expectations for progress using rubrics and success criteria, they create the “air” that students need to process what and how they are learning. When teachers communicate their learning intentions and provide feedback against success criteria on students’ progress, they help create a learning environment that is supportive and conducive to student-led growth.

Additionally, just as plants that are deprived of air can wilt and die, students who are unsure of their purpose or progress can become disengaged and lose motivation. By ensuring that there is a clear understanding of the purpose of learning and the progress being


made, teachers can help create a positive and engaging learning experience for students.

By viewing classrooms as gardens and students as plants, we can shift our focus from simply imparting knowledge to cultivating the whole student. We can create an environment where students feel valued, supported, and empowered to grow and thrive.

This analogy reminds us that education is not just about acquiring information, but about fostering growth and development in all areas of a student’s life. Classrooms, like gardens, require careful tending and nurturing to flourish. (Wees, 2011) So put on your gloves, grab your rake, spade and hoe and get cultivating! Your plants are waiting!

Stenger, M. (2014, December 17). Why Curiosity Enhances Learning. Edutopia. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from why-curiosity-enhances-learningmarianne-stenger

Toshalis, E., & Nakkula, M. J. (2012, April). Motivation, Engagement and Student Voice. Students at the Center-Teaching and Learning in the Era of Common Core. https:// wp-content/uploads/MotivationEngagement-Student-VoiceStudents-at-the-Center-1.pdf

Wees, D. (2011, February 17). Students Are Like Plants. The Reflective Educator. content/students-are-plants/


Baptist, K. W. (2002, Fall). The Garden as Metaphor for Curriculum. Teacher Education Quarterly. https://teqjournal. org/Back%20Issues/Volume%20 29/VOL29%20PDFS/29_4/ revolume29issue4pdfs/08baptist.pdf

Marzano, R. J. (2003). What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Stephen Oertle is tthe Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Roxana Community Unit School District #1 in Southern Illinois, the founder and director of CourseMason LLC, and an independent consultant specializing in the development of curriculum, assessments, instructional best practices and practical school improvement plans. As a national presenter and professional development leader in his district and the state, he works with teachers and administrators from the pre-kindergarten level through grade twelve.

Fertile Garden Classroom (cont.)

IL ASCD Area Representatives

In 2014 when IL ASCD reorganized our leadership team, the role of Area Representative was created. Our “Area Reps” as we call them are a link to and from the various regions of our state. IL ASCD follows the same areas established by the Regional Offices of Education.

Our Area Reps are led by two members of our IL ASCD Board of Directors, Denise Makowski and Andrew Lobdell.

Denise and Andrew are the Co-Leaders of our Membership and Partnerships Focus Area.

AREA 1: (Green)

Denise Makowski Chicago


Andrew Lobdell

Principal of the Junior High School in the Lena - Winslow School District # 202 815.369.3116

Current Area Reps

AREA 2: (Dark Blue)

AREA 3: (Yellow)

AREA 4: (Pink)

AREA 5: (Light Blue)

April Jordan

Jennifer Winters

Chad Dougherty

Heather Bowman

Kelly Glennon

Annette Hartlieb

AREA 6: (Gold) Vacant

Contact information for them can be found HERE.

The roles of the IL ASCD Area Representatives are:

• Encouraging IL ASCD membership to educators in their local areas;

• Assisting with professional development;

• Attend board meetings and the annual leadership retreat, when possible;

• Disseminating information from IL ASCD board meetings or other sanctioned IL ASCD activities to local school districts or other regional members

• Being a two-way communication vehicle between the local IL ASCD members regarding IL ASCD or any educational issues.

• Keeping IL ASCD Board of Directors apprised of pertinent information regarding personnel issues (e.g., job vacancies, job promotions) and district program awards/recognition within the local area.

• Communicating regularly with IL ASCD Executive Director and the Co-Leaders of the Membership and Partnerships Focus Area.


Growing the Teaching Profession

Today’s schools are facing a teacher shortage. While the pandemic created many difficulties and concerns for teachers and schools—leading to 600,000 educators leaving the profession between 2020 and 2022 (Walker, 2022)—teacher shortage has been an issue long before the pandemic.

• Between 2010-2018, teacher education programs across the United States reported a 35% enrollment decline with even greater declines in Oklahoma (80%), Michigan (67%), Pennsylvania (62%), and Illinois (60%) (Partelow, 2019).

• Prior to the pandemic, the teacher turnover rate averaged 16% with 8% of teachers leaving the profession and another 8% voluntarily moving to other schools (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022)

The teacher shortage is a complex problem involving both teacher recruitment and teacher retention. To address the teacher shortage and grow the teaching profession, we must reflect on two questions:

1. How can we recruit more teachers?

2. How can we keep teachers in the classroom?

While teacher recruitment could benefit from having the government provide free schooling to students who

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enter teacher education programs and then serve in the teaching profession for a certain number of years, much like the government does to military recruits who serve active duty, the fact remains that the teaching profession itself must not only be appealing for people to enter the profession but also for teachers to stay in the profession.

With the responsibilities of a veteran teacher being “essentially the same as those of the newly licensed novice” and the teaching profession considered a “flat profession” having limited advancement opportunities (Danielson, 2007), 60% of all teachers who voluntarily left the classroom before the pandemic cited career advancement as the reason (McFeely, 2018) compared to 13% who cited financial reasons (McFeely, 2018).

One way to make the teaching profession more appealing is to establish a network of formally recognized teacher leaders in dual-role positions within a school system that allows full-time educators

to teach in the classroom part-time and to have scheduled release time during the day to take on other responsibilities. Some of these dual-role teacher positions that I have personally seen being utilized include Athletic Director, Social-Media and Webpage Manager, Broadcast Coordinator, Grant Coordinator, Data Analyst, Grant Coordinator, Media Specialist, and Department Chair. Other potential dual positions for teachers include Assessment Specialist, Math Coach, STEM Specialist, Content Specialist, Community Outreach Coordinator, Mentor, Technology Coach, Instructional Coach, Grant Writer, CareerTechnical-Education (CTE) Coordinator, Language and Culture Specialist, and Academic Interventionist. With nearly 40% of classroom teachers interested in “hybrid positions” that allow them to teach part-time and to take on another role within the school (Metlife, 2010), school districts should consider dualrole positions to increase advancement opportunities and to make the teaching profession less “flat”.

With nearly 40% of classroom teachers interested in “hybrid positions” that allow them to teach part-time and to take on another role within the school (Metlife, 2010), school districts should consider dual-role positions to increase advancement opportunities and to make the teaching profession less “flat.”

Recognizing the needs of students, teachers, schools, and communities as well as recognizing and utilizing the strengths, experience, and interests of teachers within a school system can ultimately help meet the needs of all stakeholders within a school system. When teachers can take on additional responsibilities with scheduled release time and are recognized with a distinguishable title other than “teacher,” teachers who seek advancement and new challenges, are more inclined to stay in the teaching profession (Remijan, 2016).

Dual role positions can provide veteran teachers the ability to advance, but such positions can also help meet the needs of newer teachers or potential teachers, especially those from Generation Z, Americans born between 1997-2012 (Dimock, 2019). As GenZers recognize the importance of coaching within a career field, expect promotions, and have aspirations of taking on managerial-type positions (Inside Out, 2018), dual-role positions can provide a new generation of teachers with the coaching support, advancement opportunities, and additional responsibilities desired in a career. Dual-role positions for teachers that allow teachers to teach and to take on responsibilities outside the classroom provide “teachers more flexibility; greater opportunity … without having to leave the classroom.” (Met Life, 2010, P 44).

As a result of the pandemic, the desire for flexibility in the workforce is now the #1 priority for job seekers, including many teachers. (Rodberg, 2022). Besides full-time dual-role positions providing flexibility, part-time teaching positions offer teachers another form of flexibility.

Even before the pandemic, 41% of teachers leaving the classroom cited a desire to work part-time (Sutcher et al., 2016). Reasons for wanting or needing to work part-time could vary from health issues regarding oneself or others, childcare, running a business, desire to explore other interests, or simply wanting a better work/life balance. With nearly a quarter of teachers leaving the profession due to needing or wanting to teach part-time, and 23% of remaining full-time teachers voicing interest in reducing their working hours, even if it means less pay (Worth et al, 2019), parttime positions should be considered as a form of flexibility offered to teachers by school districts.

While part-time positions could be used to keep veteran teachers in the classroom longer allowing teachers to phase into retirement, such positions could also be used as a recruitment method for potentially more teachers from Generation Z who want a transformational career (Carter, 2018) but also have an entrepreneurial mindset

Growing the

and a yearning for work/life balance (Inside Out, 2018).

With 15 years of experience being a fulltime teacher, which included time in dualrole positions as athletic director and then department coordinator, I wanted to further grow and requested a part-

Being a part-time teacher for 8 years, teaching in the classroom and taking on other leadership roles in education outside of my district, I was optimistic that a formal dual-role position would eventually become available. However, to my disappointment, no full-time positions offering dual-role positions

time position so I could conduct research and pursue my doctorate in educational leadership. After receiving my doctorate, however, no dual-role positions were available within my school as there was a limited number of dual-role positions with no open positions. Having the desire to make a greater impact beyond the walls of my classroom, I continued to teach part-time and do other paid parttime work within education, but outside of the district in which I taught. At various times I wrote and coordinated individual grants, led PD work as an independent consultant for a couple of different ROEs, helped write and coordinate a state grant for 13 counties, and served as a part-time PD and Curriculum Specialist for a statefunded agency.

providing advancement opportunities within my district ever became available. With a continued desire to make a greater impact and realizing that no opportunities would become available in my district any time soon, I ultimately chose to leave the classroom and my school district. As the needs and desires of teachers evolve, part-time positions and dual-role positions must ultimately evolve as well. Schools must consider the needs and strengths of teachers as well as innovative ways to utilize teacher leaders in order to keep them in the classroom so that they can directly impact students as well as school management.

Administration can support teachers who want to advance their careers but also want to continue teaching in

Schools must consider the needs and strengths of teachers as well as innovative ways to utilize teacher leaders in order to keep them in the classroom so that they can directly impact students as well as school management.

Growing the Teaching Profession (cont.)

the classroom, by considering dualrole positions. While such positions can provide teachers with the growth and advancement they desire, the number of dual-role positions is small and decreasing (Remijan, 2013). With the creation of dual-role positions, administration can gain a better perspective and a greater knowledge base that helps with overall decision-making, meets the needs of students, and leads to improved management of a school.

Additionally, the administration can support teachers who want to work part-time by being proactive and communicating with teachers each year on their changing needs. At the same time, unions need to support dual-role and part-time positions and need to work together with school boards to create contractual language that addresses these positions as well as corresponding benefits (Remijan, 2016).

Lastly, state retirement systems should reflect on teacher pension calculations to not penalize teachers who take on part-time work, especially those who choose to work part-time at the end of their career. In Illinois, for instance, pension is calculated as the average of the four highest years of the last ten years a teacher works versus the average of the four highest years within one’s career. Administration, unions, school

boards, and teacher retirement systems should consider how supporting dualrole and part-time positions can provide teachers with advancement and flexibility opportunities that can ultimately impact teacher retention as well as recruitment.

Although dual-role and part-time positions may not be of interest to every teacher or potential teacher candidate, the fact remains that such positions can help keep teachers in the classroom (Remijan, 2016) and could help to create a system that makes the teaching profession more appealing to the newer generation of career seekers who desire a career with advancement opportunities and work/life balance. To grow the teaching profession, we must not only grow the number of teachers in the teaching profession but also grow the profession in terms of opportunities for teachers. While systemic change is truly needed to help solve the teacher shortage problem, the creation of and support of dual-role positions and parttime positions for teachers can be used as a form of action that aims to increase numbers by keeping good teachers in the classroom and attracting more individuals to enter the most important profession that exists in our society.



Carter, T. (Winter 2018). Preparing Generation Z for the Teaching Profession. SRATE Journal, 27(1), 1-8. JournalEditions/Volume27-1/ Carter_Manuscript.pdf

Danielson, C. (2007, September). The many faces of leadership. Educational Leadership, 65(1), 14–19.

Dimock, M. (2019). Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from fact-tank/2019/01/17/wheremillennials-end-and-generation-zbegins/

Inside Out Development. (2018). The Ultimate Guide to Generation Z. Retrieved from https://

McFeely, S. (2018). Why Your Best Teachers Are Leaving and 4 Ways to Keep them. Gallup. Retrieved from education/237275/why-bestteachers-leaving-ways-keep.aspx

MetLife. (2010) The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Collaborating for Student Success. Retrieved from ED509650.pdf

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022). Teacher Turnover: Stayers, Movers, and Leavers. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved from https://nces.

Partelow. (2019). What to Make of Declining Enrollment in Teacher Preparation Programs. American Progress Report. Retrieved from article/make-declining-enrollmentteacher-preparation-programs

Remijan, K.W. (2016). Keeping Mid-Career Teachers with Hybrid and Part-Time Positions. ASCD Express. Retrieved from articles/keeping-mid-careerteachers-with-hybrid-and-parttime-positions

Remijan, K.W. (2013). Hybrid Positions for High School Teachers: The Impact of Dual Roles on Teacher Motivation and Teacher Satisfaction. (Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation). Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO.


Growing the Teaching Profession (cont.)

Rodberg, S. (2022). Teaching Must Get More Flexible Before It Falls Apart. EdSurge. Retrieved from https://

Sutcher, L., Darling-Hammond, L., and Carver-Thomas, D. (2016). A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S. Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from https:// default/files/product-files/A_ Coming_Crisis_in_Teaching_ REPORT.pdf

Walker, T. (2022). Survey: Alarming Number of Educators May Soon Leave the Profession. NEA Today. Retrieved from https://www. new-from-nea/survey-alarmingnumber-educators-may-soonleave-profession

Worth, J. and Van den Brande, J. (2019). Teacher Labour Market in England: Annual Report 2019. National Foundation for Educational Research. Retrieved from https://www.nfer. market_in_england_2019.pdf

Kelly Wamser Remijan is a Milken National Award-winning educator, Director-at-Large for the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM), Department of Defense JCOC Alum, and U.S. Navy Community Ambassador. Kelly is a former Professional Development and Curriculum Specialist with the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) – Statewide Educator Innovation, former High School Mathematics Teacher in O’Fallon, IL, former Union Vice-President for the O’Fallon Federation of Teachers, former University Adjunct at McKendree University in Lebanon, IL, and former Teacher Ambassador to Japan as part of the Fulbright Memorial Fund Program. During her 23 years in the classroom, Kelly took on various roles throughout her career: Full-time Math Teacher, Math Teacher & Assistant Athletic Director, Math Teacher & Department Coordinator, and Part-time Math Teacher.


Fertilizing Student Growth using MTSS

At York Community High School, we have been building a variety of structures to support our students academically, as well as socially and emotionally. We are a public high school of about 2700 students located just outside of Chicago in Elmhurst, IL. In the past year, we have taken a variety of programs that were serving this goal and merged them into an integrated program. Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) provide us with a framework to support students and educators using data by selecting the appropriate and BEST strategy (Bohanon et al., 2021). Previously, our academic supports were classes that students were recommended to enroll in. Many students who were recommended opted not to take the course as this took up space in their schedule which could be used for various electives or study hall. The ‘garden’ of MTSS has been fruitful but sparse. Our social and emotional supports were run through our student services department, and classroom teachers were relatively unaware of the groups that their students were participating in. In the 2022-2023 school year, the position of MTSS coordinator was added. Previously, each program was administered by a separate person. Now that we house all of our programs under the purview of a single ‘gardener,’ we can ensure that our students are best positioned to grow.

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Adam Roubitchek Hannah Maurer

York High School has ‘planted the seeds’ of support in tier two programs, which include: “Literacy Support,” “Math Support,” “Study Support,” a variety of behavioral health groups, and our multi-tiered behavioral health program,

group and Executive Functioning Skill building group. These groups run for 25 minutes, once a week, on a rotating basis throughout our eight-period day. Running groups on a rotating basis allows students to attend without missing any

group and

Functioning Skill building group.

“Bridge.” Literacy Support, Math Support, and Study support are all currently offered to students in need during half of their 50-minute lunch period. Math Support and Literacy support aim to provide outcome-oriented, smallgroup instruction to students who have not mastered the skills necessary for demonstrating proficiency in essential standards. Students enrolled in these interventions are expected to attend five days per week until their individual academic goals are met.

The student services team at York High School runs behavioral health groups based on student needs at the time. For example, there may be a grief and loss group that runs one semester, but not the next based on the number of students in need. The two most common tier two groups at York High School include our Coping Skill Building

of their classes more than once. Each of our tier 2 behavioral health groups implement a pre & post-test assessment tailored to the skills and wills of the presenting problem. The final intervention that York has to offer is our multi-tiered program for students transitioning back to school after extended absence or for students who may be on the brink of pursuing an extended absence due to social-emotional needs. Though many students in this program receive tier 3 level support, the structure, purpose, and goal of the program is to reduce the level of support provided to students over time and transition them back to the general education setting full-time.

Students are currently identified for tiertwo interventions in two ways; universal screening practices, and direct referrals from staff. While York is in the early implementation phases of our universal

MTSS (cont.)
The two most common tier two groups at York High School include our Coping Skill Building

screening and practices, we will be rolling out a variety of new initiatives in the fall to create the climate necessary for improving our tier 2 crops. While we work to improve those practices and procedures, we are currently screening for students in need of tier 2 support through routine reviews of D/F data and freshmen on track. Staff is expected to use that information to make referrals to the MTSS screening teams. Those teams meet weekly to review referrals from staff and to discuss students who may be in need of a referral based on concerns brought to the team by the student or their families. As a part of the MTSS screening meetings, teams look closely at students’ BAG data to determine which tier and intervention is most appropriate.

Each academic intervention monitors the progress of the students assigned. As grades in core courses rise, exit plans are considered. There are guidelines that we use (multiple weeks of ‘C’ or higher, passing grade on the most recent summative assessment, etc.) but each student is considered as an individual. The intention is that when a Tier 2 support is removed, it is because the support is no longer needed. Success is determined, not by when students exit from the support, but rather if they do not need to return to the support. Once a student exits from Tier 2 support, they are monitored by the MTSS team.

The success of our MTSS program can be exemplified by highlighting the growth of two different students. Student #1 attended Study Support, our executive functioning program, consistently. She diligently worked through the various reflections and strategies. As part of Study Support, student #1 regularly accessed our peer-tutoring program. Her math, science, and social studies all improved dramatically, but more importantly, so did her confidence. Student #2 was failing her math class. She came to Math Support every day, worked hard, and learned the material while building capacity in her fundamental math skills. Student #2 grades rose from a D to a B! She has graduated from the program and she has maintained her grade of B for the past 5 weeks.

As we look to the future of our Tier 2 supports at York, we have a plan for next school year and beyond. First, we have recently procured access to EmbraceMTSS software. Our Special Education department has been using EmbraceIEP for a number of years, but we have only recently expanded our access. We have just begun to learn about its capabilities in monitoring student progress and sharing that information among a student’s team. At the start of the next school year, Embrace will be embedded in our referral and monitoring scheme.


Another opportunity for growth is our referral program. We have been working to make classroom teachers aware of what supports are available and how they have been integrated. Catching students as they begin to struggle relies on the partnership between teachers and the MTSS team. We will continue to communicate with and support teachers to make sure that they know the process for referral and find the process meaningful. By applying ‘fertilizer’ throughout our academic and behavioral programming, we will continue to see our students grow and mature into a healthy ‘crop!’

Adam Roubitchek is currently the Assistant Principal for Instruction at York High School in Elmhurst, IL. He earned a B.S. from the University of Illinois, an M.Ed. from DePaul University, and an Ed.D. from Olivet Nazarene University. Adam is also a founding member of the Illinois Council of Instructional Coaching as well as a Director of the Cooperative Learning Institute. He is passionate about developing teacher leadership to support colleagues to increase their passion and impact in the classroom.


CBohanon, H., Caputo Love, L, & Morrissey, K. (2021). Implementing systemic interventions: A guide for secondary school teams. Routledge.

Hannah Maurer is a social worker by trade and forever at heart, currently serving as the 504 and MTSS Coordinator for York High School. Though she loves working directly with students and families, she believes that programs, policies, practices, and procedures provide the spaces to impact students’ academic, social, and behavioral well-being in the most efficient and effective manner. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a Master of Social Work degree from Loyola Chicago, and completed the Principal Preparation program with Concordia Chicago. She grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, moved to Chicago in 2013, and currently lives in Edison Park, Chicago with her husband, dog-son, and two perfect daughters

MTSS (cont.)

Be Seen, Be Heard, Belong: Cultivating Community Through Affinity Spaces and Collaborative Connections

Springtime is the season of hiring, and every district is searching for educators to fill open positions. As we work to cultivate learning spaces that center the diverse identities of our students, schools are starting to recognize the richness that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) educators bring to their work. Research shows that teacher diversity positively impacts all students, yet the teaching population in Illinois is 81.3% white (Illinois State Board of Education report card, 2022). As districts begin to invest in “grow-your-own” programs and other avenues of recruiting BIPOC teachers to work in their schools, ISBE’s Strategic Plan has included opportunities to help retain these educators, and to also directly address their needs through the support of affinity groups.

In the report entitled If You Listen, We Will Stay, researchers found that “Teachers of color often encounter workplaces where they feel silenced and overlooked for growth and development” (p. 9). Many Illinois districts have already established an array of affinity spaces as part of their own strategic plans to better meet the needs of their educators. More recently, the addition of the Illinois Affinity Group Network

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Affinity Spaces (cont.)

through Teach Plus—a national nonprofit dedicated to providing resources for educational excellence to teachers—is helping to foster a network of affinity spaces across the state. This network provides community and connections for collective growth by and for educators of color beyond the district level. My district, Lyons

of all 42 leaders of the current Illinois affinity groups, representing some 60 districts statewide, it was the first time that many of them had been in a space with other educators that reflected their own identities. Through the course of a weekend, the summit planted seeds of understanding, of belonging, of shared values and best practices that could

Township High School (a single high school district) has supported affinity groups as an important resource for the hiring and retention of a diverse teaching staff, and LTHS leadership valued our participation in the Teach Plus network as a way to further underscore the district’s commitment to its equity goals.

Being Heard

When talking about belonging, we often focus, appropriately, on what our students go through. However, little focus has been given to the experiences of isolation or lack of connection that BIPOC educators can feel—especially those that work in predominantly white suburban schools. When Teach Plus called an inaugural summit last summer

then take root back at districts across the state.

Before leaving the summit, I resolved to nurture that future growth by engaging a core of participating leaders to continue the work closer to home in a way that would allow us to cultivate these feelings of connection. I engaged the affinity group leaders from HomewoodFlossmoor CHSD 233 (Catherine Cook), Valley View 365 (Chanice Artis), Community District 218 (Dr. Jacqueline Johnson), and education consultant Dr. Raquel Wilson to begin planning a workshop with BIPOC educators at the center. Each of us in this group is a seasoned educator, and our common connection of impacting the field by

little focus has been given to the experiences of isolation or lack of connection that BIPOC educators can feel—especially those that work in predominantly white suburban schools.

supporting other BIPOC educators truly rooted us in rich soil—ultimately demonstrating how much we needed one another in this new affinity collective as we worked to better create nurturing spaces for the teachers back in our schools.

My vision was that this smaller collective could come together for a day of networking, engagement and joy. And in early February 2023, we did so—when we all gathered our BIPOC educators at LTHS to share the work we’re doing within our districts and how we can help one another further. As this gathering was taking shape, the words of Dr. Gholdy Muhammad echoed in my head, “If teachers do not recognize their own genius, they need to be striving each day for it. Mediocrity is not an option.”

(Cultivating Genius, 15.) Paramount was the initiative of bringing educators of color together to grow their professional networks with others beyond their districts. Often this can be a barrier when there are few colleagues who look like you among your immediate peers. Other goals from our daylong workshop included:

• Identify the needs of BIPOC educators to help them remain and thrive in the profession

• Provide a space to be seen and heard

• Support a professional network

• Create a resource to support the needs of BIPOC staff


The day opened with several communitybuilding activities and the creation of a shared intention of sacred space. We asked everyone three questions: “What do you want from this day? What do you need from this space? And what are you willing to give to this community?”

It was powerful to see the Mentimeter graph morph, ultimately identifying our common beliefs and need for support, love, connection and affirmation. Next came a speed-networking activity, with educators engaging in table talk that allowed them to share resources and their experiences in the field. One participant stated that “The icebreakers, speed networking and interactive activities promoted a sense of community” (Anonymous, Post Event Survey, Feb. 2023).

The first half of the workshop included a keynote message from April Wells, an Illinois U-46 educator, member of the Illinois Affinity Group Network and author of Achieving Equity in Gifted Programming. April challenged everyone to perform a “Vision Check”—to know our value and all that we bring into our teaching spaces when serving students


Affinity Spaces (cont.)

and supporting one another. The message pulled us in and gave everyone permission to foster a culture of belonging. April motivated participants to “Create the soundtrack for your life and turn it up!” (Keynote, February 2023).

This message of “turning up our own soundtrack” was carried throughout the rest of the day, and the lunch hour included opportunities for dialoguing, laughing and singing to the upbeat music provided by our event DJ. As part of our transition from lunch to the afternoon activities, we invited some students from the LTHS BoysIIMen organization to join in. Their advisor, a member of the BIPOC Educators Supporting

Teaching (BEST)

Affinity Group, introduced the young men before they entertained the group with a reading of Dear Black Boy (by Martellus Bennet). Everyone present supported these students by writing each of them a message of affirmation, which was placed in a personalized box to be given to them later. This moment brought our purpose full circle, as so many later stated in conversation the idea that they “came to education in order to effect

positive change in the lives of students of color.”

The culminating portion of the day was the educator panel, comprising voices from all of the participating affinity groups. Teachers were asked to share their experiences in our schools, to “name their superpower,” and most importantly, to identify what they needed from districts in order to thrive in their school spaces. After the panel discussion, administrators were able to gather in smaller groups to reflect on what they could take back to their districts in order to enact change. The teachers had time to speak together in this safe and sanctioned space to support their colleagues as they offered up further thoughts on how to move the needle both in their schools and profession.

The day ended with laughter and prolonged conversation as folks lingered and hugs reaffirmed the value of the event. Our planning team had been intent on creating a PD experience that would let our brothers and sisters know how much we care for them and want them to thrive in this work—and the


culminating moments of the day affirmed our success in achieving this goal. Feedback has continued to come to us via our debriefing sessions and exit survey. A quote that aptly sums up the feelings from the day is:

“This workshop provided a space where I could hear, ask about, and learn from the experiences of other educators of color. I have been in education/librarianship for 16 years, and I have never felt more connected, empowered, and inspired than I had after leaving THIS workshop.” (Anonymous, Workshop Participant, Feb 2023).

Moving Forward

Each district affinity group leader who helped organize the workshop has committed to making this a recurring event—one that we will continue to grow and develop as a featured part of our work in supporting each district’s goals surrounding hiring and retention. We know that we have to be actively connecting to and walking alongside

our teachers, especially our BIPOC educators. I know that, personally, I have gained much from my affinity group experiences—and knowing that I can bring my authentic self into my work and in the design of teaching and leadership has made all the difference.

As this current school year winds down and we begin to plant seeds for the next, I hope that we can all find ways to cultivate and grow learning spaces where everyone belongs.

Feedback Shared from BIPOC Educators:

• Provide opportunities for BIPOC educators to connect with each other

• Offer similar professional development on at least a yearly basis that is designed to center the identities and experiences of BIPOC educators

• Offer avenues to openly share the discomfort BIPOC educators face as a minoritized population in their school environments

I have been in education/librarianship for 16 years, and I have never felt more connected, empowered, and inspired than I had after leaving THIS workshop.”
(Anonymous, Workshop Participant, Feb 2023).

Affinity Spaces (cont.)

• Provide avenues to develop professional skills and other leadership opportunities

• Leadership needs to be explicit in their efforts to see, hear and affirm the voices of their BIPOC educators.


Trust, Ed. “Educator Diversity State Profile: Illinois.” The Education Trust, 31 Oct. 2022, resource/educator-diversity-stateprofile-illinois/.


“Demographics.” ILLINOIS, https://www.

Fitzgerald, Dylan. “If You Listen, We Will Stay: Why Teachers of Color Leave and How to Disrupt Teacher Turnover.” Teach PlusLeadership Opportunity, 2 Sept. 2022, disruptteacherturnover/.

Illinois State Board of Education, ISBE‘s Strategic Plan. https://www.isbe. net/Documents/ISBE-StrategicPlan.pdf.

ASCD, The Support Black Teachers Need Now. el/articles/the-support-blackteachers-need-now.

Trust, Ed. “5 Things to Advance Equity in Access to Strong and Diverse Educators.” The Education Trust, 17 Nov. 2022, resource/5-things-to-advance-

Znewirth. “Illinois Affinity Groups.” Teach Plus - Leadership Opportunity, 21 Feb. 2023,

Jennifer Rowe, Ed.D., is the Director of Equity and Belonging for Lyons Township School District #204. Jennifer has been an educator for 24 years, where she has held positions as an English teacher, Dean of Students and also at the university level as a Student Teacher Supervisor. In this season of her work, she is most interested in finding ways to foster a sense of belonging in schools and to cultivate teaching spaces that are welcoming to more diverse voices in order to ensure that they thrive in the profession she loves.


Agronomic STEM: Soil Science & School Gardens

The original lesson plan behind this article was written as part of the IMSA Fusion “Out of the Silo: Agronomic STEM” by Karen Togliatti, Patrick Young, and Lindsey Herlehy. These individuals served as curriculum writers and professional development specialists for the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy when the original lesson was created. The full lesson plan and students pages can be found at: https://

School gardens can provide both needed social and emotional benefits as well as an opportunity for students to see science in action. The ability to see a plant grown from seed to maturation allows students to apply a practical understanding to that which is so often only read about and observed through illustrations. The inquiry-based nature of this outdoor lab promotes students to question “why?” Why did this plant grow faster, stronger, and better than another? Why did this one grow quickly, but then not produce a flower or fruit? Why didn’t this plant grow at all? Why doesn’t the ground soak up all the rain? Why is the dirt that color? School gardens allow students to touch nature, dig around in the dirt, and make observations.

Angela Rowley

From early elementary, we learn that plants need soil, water, air, and sun to survive. As we “dig deeper,” students can explore the science behind soil texture and composition. Soil provides the structure and nutrients necessary to grow a thriving school garden as well as providing farmers the much-needed base for agriculture. Containing air, water, organic and inorganic material, the soil is considered one of the most important mineral resources for both the garden and an entire nation. According to the United States Geological Survey, entire civilizations have prospered or declined based on the productivity of the soils in their regions.

Soil composition is an important factor when creating a school garden because it affects the ability of plants to grow and thrive. Soil texture determines the availability of water in the soil, its permeability (ability to transmit fluid through pores), bulk density (weight per volume), and infiltration rates (how fast water can enter the soil). The three major particles—sand, silt, and clay— create different soil textures. Sand constitutes the largest of the particles and increases the permeability of the soil and the ability of water to move through the soil. However, it does not retain water or other nutrients well. Silt, on the other hand, has the ability to pull water up from a water table due to its

high capillary action. Clay is the smallest of the three particles and has a very high water-holding capacity. Clay is also the particle that contributes the most to the nutrient movement between the soil and the plant’s roots. However, clay soils can be very difficult to work with, and their water-holding ability can make it difficult for a plant’s roots to penetrate into the clay soil. A combination of the three particles in relatively equal proportions is referred to as loam soil. This type of soil incorporates the best properties of all three components while minimizing the negative aspects of each individual component. Loamy soils often drain well, yet retain moisture and are nutrientrich. Soil texture is often considered a “permanent” characteristic of soil that is hard to change. However, adding organic material to the soil can improve its texture. Compost, leaf mold, humus, and decaying crop plant waste can add organic material to the soil.

The chemical composition of soil also plays a major role in its productivity of the soil. Soil pH is a measure of the acidity of soil. Most minerals and other nutrients are more soluble in acidic soils than in soils that are more neutral or alkaline. However, soils that are too acidic can also pose problems ranging from poor nutrient uptake to increased soil toxicity to such metals as aluminum and manganese. For soils that are too

Agronomic STEM (cont.)

acidic, lime can be added to increase the pH level. Soil macronutrients are essential to maximizing the yield of crop plants. Macronutrients are nutrients that are essential to maintaining the proper functioning and overall health and are

soils that are deficient in one or more of the nutrients need supplementation through fertilization. Other management practices that contribute to soil fertility include crop rotation, tillage, water management, and insect/weed control.

required in larger amounts than other nutrients. In soil, the macronutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which are often referred to in soil science as NPK. Other important nutrients in soil include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. Iron, manganese, zinc, copper and boron are very important as well, but are needed in much smaller quantities.

Nutrient management is important for healthy plant growth. Fertilizer is often used to create a healthier balance of nutrients in the soil. Determining the amounts of NPK in a sample of soil is essential in managing fertilizer application location, times, and rates. Soils that are high in essential macronutrients need little or no additional supplementation. However,

Through this lesson, students will assume the role of a soil scientist. In the first activity, students will explore the properties of the three main components of soil: sand, silt, and clay. Then students will analyze local soil samples to determine the soil’s texture and its ability to grow various plants. Students will debate which characteristics of the inorganic components of soil are best suited to grow their gardens and if any additional materials should be added to the garden’s soil. In the second activity, students will explore the chemical composition of their soil. Students will use the soil sample to test the acidity of the soil as well as the amount of the macronutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that are present in the sample. Students will determine the current suitability of the soil for

Exploring the concept of soil science goes well beyond school gardens. Soil science is an important component in agricultural science, environmental studies, food science, geology, forestry, wildlife, and fisheries.

Agronomic STEM (cont.)

producing various plants and suggest any additional fertilizer or nutrients be added. At the end of this lesson, students will be able to analyze a soil sample in their school garden and suggest what changes or improvements should be made to the soil to improve its ability to create a great garden.

Exploring the concept of soil science goes well beyond school gardens. Soil science is an important component in agricultural science, environmental studies, food science, geology, forestry, wildlife, and fisheries. Careers related to soil science include but are not limited to Agro geologist, Agronomist, Environmental Engineer, Hydrologist, Range Conservationist, Soil Chemist, and Research Scientist. An early handson exploration of soil science through a school garden, can “plant a seed” and “grow” students into a variety of future opportunities.

life. Madison, WI: Soil Science Society of America.

Natural Resources Conservation Service. (n.d.). wps/portal/nrcs/main/il/soils/ US Soil Fertility Study. (n.d.). http://www.

What’s in My Soil? (2019, April). United States Geological Survey https://


Fernandez, F. G., & Hoeft, R. G. (2009). Illinois agronomy handbook: 24th edition. http://extension. handbook/pdfs/chapter08.pdf

Lindbo, D. L., Kozlowski, D. A., & Robinson, C. (2012). Know soil, know

Dr. Angela Rowley is the Director of State and Federal Educator Outreach. She leads a team of curriculum writers and professional development specialists at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. She holds a Doctorate in Educational Leadership, a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. Dr. Rowley has worked for 26 years as a teacher, principal, district leader, and curriculum administrator.


Planting Seeds, Growing Minds: Sustainable Gardens for Schools


Sustainable Gardens for Schools offers a unique turn-key, holistic program for students that teaches hydroponic gardening, and promotes sustainability and healthy lifestyles—both physical and emotional. Our school program was designed to support teachers; and we believe that we can make a lasting positive impact on students, school systems, families, and communities across Illinois.

We connect students who have faced isolation for far too long with other schools and students in their city or elsewhere around the state. Together students will learn and work with one another to help address the urgent problem of hunger in their community or in their surrounding area(s). Schools will compete and unite as they embark on creating sustainable gardens within their school(s). As we expand to add additional sites across Illinois, we will also connect those areas and their school systems and students. We will host friendly city-to-city competitions and learn about different cultures and their foods and recipes from around the state, country, and from other countries and cultures as well because we offer a sustainable garden system throughout the world.

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How It Works

Sustainable Gardens for Schools is educational and fun, as we bring the farm of the future into the classroom (Farm to Classroom). We designed the program to scale and to assure consistency and continuity while making every aspect easy for teachers. Our eight (8) week foundational course covers: hydroponic farming systems; environmental science; Social and Emotional Learning (SEL); and connections between diet, health, and wellness. The continued experience for students includes cycles of planting; nutrient application; plant harvesting and replacement; maintenance of plants and equipment; and troubleshooting.

Teacher support includes weekly studentfacing video lessons in which we take over the classroom, accompanied by teacher-facing videos that give an overview of each lesson, as well as guides that include interactive digital and printable worksheets.

Teachers also benefit from our How-To series, including:

• Creating a job sign-up and rotation program for the students;

• Storing, managing, maintaining, and administering supplies, materials and tools;

• Project Based Learning examples with specifics;

• Growing, harvesting and troubleshooting;

• Simple menus and tastings from the garden.

Our website also supports teachers, including:

• Email notifications of reminders for garden tasks, maintenance items, planting & harvest milestones;

• Plant journal that can be easily uploaded with weekly student planting and growing data, photos, videos that can be shared with staff and parents;

• Plant journal tracking with updates on harvest totals, their growth rates, and other metrics, as well as tracking harvested produce provided to the cafeteria and/or donated to local food banks;

• Regular Zoom teacher support sessions that can be attended live or recorded that can be accessed and viewed at any time;

• Online community forum and blogs;

• Robust resources including links, additional Project Based Learning ideas, videos that showcase Sustainable Agriculture from around the world, including interesting new commercial initiatives.


We use a modular system for the curriculum so that the many aspects of Sustainable Agriculture (Ag) including seeds, growing, harvesting, maintaining, and troubleshooting are a consistent part of the core teaching package. We then provide pick-and-play curriculum modules suited for the various lower and middle school students, as well as continuing education materials as the students progress from learning to farming.

The course curriculum focuses on grades K-8, broken into grade-level clusters. For the upper school students, we will be implementing our Apprentice program, which our experienced non-profit team member will administer. They

are an Illinois-based organization out of Highland Park, run by both Illinois teachers and administrators.

At a minimum, the Apprentices will be completing the Sustainable Ag modules. The volunteers can earn Community Service hours with a choice of two different options:

• Assist the Lower & Middle School teachers and students with the administration, management, data collection, student uploads and troubleshooting for the course and student gardens;

• Coordinate and administer the city-wide food bank and donation


program, including securing locations, marketing, tracking quantities, scheduling volunteers, organizing periodic family and community events, and other administrative tasks.

We will be supporting an upper school led food bank program for the students to play a strong leadership role in feeding the hungry throughout

the Sustainable Garden Feed the Hungry program. This will provide our participant Apprentices with a unique and positive community service story to tell with their college admissions applications.


We endeavored to connect the dots to bring many great ideas and existing initiatives together when we designed

their community, using produce that their fellow students will grow. This is especially timely and urgent, as the sudden end of the emergency additional benefits granted during the pandemic for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been characterized as a “hunger cliff” for the millions that are affected. This is a great way to raise awareness, and let students take pride in leading an effort to help their fellow citizens while learning about food security.

We will provide participating students with teacher and administrator recommendations for their college applications that highlight their activities, as well as specific achievements from

our Sustainable School program. This led us to start with a Sustainable Agriculture based garden program, and then include the various positive healthy diet, lifestyles, therapeutic benefits and tools, and core sustainability messages.

Our approach will help level the playing field between those communities and schools in need, and those that are fortunate to have extensive resources available. We feature Sustainable Agriculture using soilless systems (just air and water) and focus on the challenge of feeding a growing world population with diminishing potable water and tillable land. We highlight the connection of plant-based diets to health and wellness, as well as Mindfulness tools

This is a great way to raise awareness, and let students take pride in leading an effort to help their fellow citizens while learning about food security.

and techniques, this benefits students in every aspect throughout Illinois and around the country.

We also want to help shape an optimistic and sustainable future by providing personal healthy lifestyle tools, introducing environmentally friendly food-related vocational options, including examples of associated creative solutions, and providing simple but effective therapeutic techniques that can be both effective and fun!

The students of today will help to define our future. It is important for us to nourish their bodies and minds with as much healthy information as we can, and to help them shape a sustainable and healthy world for all.

Marc Wigler began teaching kindergarten in Chicago in 1994. In 2000, Mr. Wigler was hired by Success for All to become a national trainer, where he taught teachers, administrators, and district-level personnel how to teach reading. He then went back to the classroom to create a model classroom for the State of Illinois for other schools to model his work successfully.

Marc has presented both locally and nationally on the importance of labormanagement collaborative efforts to bring about school reform and was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education three times for helping to turn around a school district in need of repair.

Additionally, Marc worked as a Program Improvement Specialist in the Office of Early Childhood Education under the direction of Dr. Barbara Bowman, founder of the Erikson Institute. He taught special education before retiring from Chicago public schools in 2016 and becoming a fulltime educational consultant.


Upcoming Events

Spring into Classroom Success with Greg’s Best Classroom Hacks with Greg Smedley-Warren

July 12 | 9:00am - 3:00pm

IEA Springfield | In-person, live streaming OR recorded on-demand

Join IL ASCD and Greg Smedley-Warren for a full-day workshop covering four timely and relevant topics: engagement, classroom management, morning meeting and small group instruction.


New Teacher Orientation with Judy Kmak

July 18, 20, August 1, 3, 8, 10 10:00am - 12:00pm

6 Virtual sessions, live or on-demand

During this 6-session course, we will review topics that are important to all new teachers. You will have opportunities to discuss how to implement the ideas and strategies in your classroom to make learning work for you and your students.


Mental Fitness with Robin Bruebach

July 26 | 10:00am - 1:00pm

NIU Naperville

Mental fitness keeps our brains healthy, supports our ability to handle stress, and helps us to better understand how we think and respond to situations and people. Mental fitness helps us to thrive, not just survive.


Smekens Literacy and Assessment Prep Summer Workshops

July 31 - August 4 | 8:00am -3:30pm

Live Virtual

27 28 29 3 4 5

5 Virtual-Interactive workshops on testing, writing and literacy. Pick and choose the right fit for you.


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“To build the capacity of educational leaders to enhance the quality of teaching and learning”


President—Belinda Veillon (Nippersink 2 & Richmond Burton CHSD 157)

President-Elect—Scott England (University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES))

Past-President—Akemi Sessler (Arlington Heights SD 25)

Treasurer—Amy Warke (Bowling Brook High School)

Media Director—Debbie Poffinbarger (North Mac CUSD #34)

Secretary—Amy MacCrindle (Huntley 158)


Membership and Partnerships

Denise Makowski (Chicago)

Andrew Lobdell (Lena-Winslow SD 202)

Communications and Publications

Joe Mullikin (Meridian CUSD 223)

Jeff Prickett (McHenry High School District 156)

Advocacy and Influence

Richard Lange (National Louis University)

Brenda Mendoza (West Aurora SD 129)

Program Development

Bev Taylor (Oak Brook)

Terry Mootz (Crystal Lake)

Sarah Cacciatore (Mundelein School District #75)

Dee Ann Schnautz (SIU Carbondale)

Doug Wood (Springfield)

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