SRQ Magazine | In Conversation on Trends in Education, September 2022

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SEPTEMBER 2022 EDITION ENGAGING READERS THROUGH STORYTELLING. IN CONVERSATION WITH LEADERS IN EDUCATION ON TRANSFORMATION IN SCHOOLS INTERVIEW BY WES ROBERTS | EDITED BY BARBIE HEIT JOSEPH STOKES, HEAD OF SCHOOL SARASOTA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL KAREN A. HOLBROOK, PHD, REGIONAL CHANCELLOR UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA, SARASOTA-MANATEE CAMPUS MARIA EVA CHAFFIN, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR SEEDS OF LIFE MONTESSORI TANYA RYSKIND, HEAD OF SCHOOL NEWGATE MONTESSORI SCHOOL CHUCK FRADLEY, PHD PRINCIPAL ROWLETT ACADEMY

Of course, the pandemic may have temporarily overshadowed other concerns, but there are many other challenges that still loom large in the lives of our smallest and most vulnerable. Whether it’s worrying information about the effects of social media, the seemingly unavoidable intrusion of politics in all parts of our lives, the changing dynamics in pedagogic thinking, the growing awareness that kids’ professional futures are ever harder to predict, or any of the myriad of concerns that parents have today, our guests were able to answer SRQ ’s questions with honesty and empathy.

InConversation

A child entering kindergarten in 2022 has spent half their life under the specter of Covid-19, lockdowns, “masks required” signs, social dis tancing, and all the other choices our society has made to manage the pandemic. It’s hard to overstate the long ripple effect of this experience on these kids. In Sarasota and Bradenton, we are fortunate to have incredible school directors who are tackling these challenges head-on.

We are fortunate to know that our future, in the form of our chil dren, is in fantastic hands going forward. And at SRQ, we are glad to bring these and other important questions to the fore with our guests. In this edition of SRQ ’s In-Conversation program, we engage local heads of schools with expertise and exposure ranging from early edu cations, though primary and secondary, and including degree-seekers. Our guests discuss how their institutions are adapting to help kids (and adults) improve themselves with solid education achievements, while also bearing in mind the mental well-being and personal sense of purpose that are necessary foundations for a rewarding life. We hope you enjoy the conversation, and are given the same feeling of hopeful optimism that we received, knowing the quality of profes sional that are working to make our kids futures brighter.

Maria Eva Chaffin is the founder, owner, and director of Seeds of Life Montessori Academy, an inclusive school serving children from 18 months to 12 years old. Originally from Venezuela, she holds two mas ter’s degrees in education and is currently completing her doc toral research on special needs and Montessori. Her extensive teaching experience includes over 23 years working with neurodiverse children. She is a published co-author on the subject and has been invited to present at Montessori events around the country and host regular teacher education web sessions to help teachers and administrators around the world deliver the best Montessori experience possible. First and foremost, she loves being a Montessori educator and her passion for all children is endless. After years of experi ence teaching children, adults and those with special needs, she remains convinced that the Montessori Method is the best way for children to learn.

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— Tanya Ryskind

ABOUT SEEDSFOUNDERMARIAPARTICIPANTSTHEEVACHAFFIN,ANDDIRECTOR,OFLIFEMONTESSORI

“Our goal is not only education, but to better the world that we’re in for today’s children, as well as the future.”

DR. CHUCK FRADLEY, PRINCIPAL ROWLETT ACADEMY Dr. Fradley has almost 30 years of educational experience. He has held several leadership roles in Manatee County Schools. Currently, he is the Principal of Rowlett Elementary Academy, a public charter school, since 2018. His wife of 31 years, Katie, is also a local educator and they have one son, Henry.

SRQ MAGAZINE LEADERS IN EDUCATION :: SEPTEMBER 2022 IN CONVERSATION K-5 academy, honestly it’s about building that strong foundation for kids, working on that whole child. Our kids are all learning how to be learners at this stage of the game. So leadership is a huge part of our school. We’re a 7 Habits school–7 Habits of Highly Effective People from the Covey Organization. And we’re a recognized Lighthouse School. Leadership and involving students in decision-making and taking active roles in the classroom, kind of putting them out of their comfort zone, because that builds confidence. The arts are super important for our kids. They receive many different arts opportunities, strings, drama, dance on top of what they would get in a typical elementary school. Not necessarily because we want them to be dancers or violinists, but it’s because we’re giving them that opportunity to try something new, have people see them try something new, succeed or fail, practice, get better if they want, move on to something if that’s not their love or your desire. But at the end of the day, when my 10, 11-year-olds leave me and go on to middle school, they have that confidence to be their own person, know what’s right, know what’s wrong, and kind of know what they want. Social interaction took a hit with the pandemic. So the more opportunities we can give our kids to be socially successful is important. The academics are going to come, but we really have to build on that foundation because we can’t plan on what the world’s going to be in 10 years. So I think our job here is to just give them that strong foundation where they can be confident leaders and make the best decision with what’s WAS ROWLETT FOUNDED AROUND THE 7 HABITS AND LIGHTHOUSE PHILOS OPHIES? WERE THOSE IN PLACE FROM DAY ONE, OR HAVE THEY EVOLVED? FRADLEY: Rowlett has a very interesting background. The school actually opened in 2000 as a public charter school in Manatee County. The magnet draw was communication and arts, and the leadership at that point in time brought in the 7 Habits philosophy for our kids. Over the course of the years, it just got super strong. And then in 2014, the Manatee County School District was looking at making all their schools offer the same programs, which would’ve really hurt the programs that Rowlett offered. That’s why we became a charter school– to continue to offer those programs. And hence, that’s where the Lighthouse School designation came Everythrough.day,our kids get 30 minutes of what we call lead time, deal time, drop everything and lead. They work on different projects that make the community better or the school better. I get petitions all the time to do different things, so our kids are showing leadership in lots of ways. But yes, it’s actually been since the school was a normal district school, and we’ve just been able to continue to fund it since we’ve gone charter. We had the autonomy to do so. As a district school, you had to do what you were told to do. As a charter school, I control where our resources go, and that’s very important to us.

CHAFFIN: The set of principles for Seed of Life is important. Kids are connecting, engaging, and belonging in an environment where they feel safe, they trust, and they are part of the community.

Tanya has worked with the Montessori Foundation for many years and is an interna tionally admired leader in the Montessori school community. Tanya brings a broad set of experiences and skills from her years in both the legal and educational fields. Most impor tantly, Tanya has experience as a Montessori teacher trainer, an International Montessori consultant, motivational speaker, author and frequent presenter at Montessori confer ences around the world. She currently serves on the board of the majoringNewofprograms.SheMontessoriofUnitedtheTeacherAccreditationMontessoriCouncilforEducation(MACTE),agencyrecognizedbytheStatesDepartmentEducationtoaccreditTeacherEducationholdsaBachelorArtsfromtheUniversityofHampshire,cumlaude,inSocialServices, “I’m very happy to say that we may have different names for the things that are important in our creed, but I think we all have a creed that is trying to produce citizens that are an advantage for the community, for the churches they come from, from the families that they serve.”

HOW DOES HAVING A SET OF PRINCIPLES BENEFIT THE STUDENTS AT YOUR SCHOOL?

STOKES: In our mission state ment as might be expected, it would embody our savior as part of being a Christian school. So we talk about the love of Christ, we talk about learning about the scriptures, but one of the things that’s most important is that we serve. And so I think we find the service piece historically at this school has led to everything from environmental things to service projects in the community to mission trips. I’d like to say that for Dr. Holbrook, I have seen the impact that USF branches had with local employment. And even though we have dual enrollment, not at her school, we know what she was saying about dual enrollment and that’s part of a service connection. I think because some of our students are looking at what they’re going to do with their careers, even as juniors in high school. And so the more that we can help students develop their

TANYA RYSKIND, HEAD OF SCHOOL, MONTESSORINEWGATESCHOOL

Dr. Holbrook is regional chancellor at USF SarasotaManatee campus. She has served as president, The Ohio State University; interim president, AeronauticalEmbry-RiddleUniversity;SVP for academic affairs and provost, University of Georgia; VP of research and dean of the gradu ate school, University of Florida; and serves on numerous advi soryboards in education and health-related fields.

KAREN A. HOLBROOK, PHD, REGIONAL MANATEEFLORIDAUNIVERSITYCHANCELLOR,OFSOUTHSARASOTA-CAMPUS

— Joseph Stokes

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Tanya (continued)Ryskind

JOSEPH STOKES, HEAD OF SCHOOL, SARASOTA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL

“I find that it’s a fine line to walk. And as a school, we have to be careful because we can’t show our specific personal opinions on things, because then that becomes possibly an influencer, whether we want it to or not.” — Dr. Chuck Fradley

86 | SRQ MAGAZINE_ SEPT22 LIVE LOCAL IN CONVERSATION with an emphasis on counseling. Her minor was in Spanish. She went on to earn her Juris Doctorate from the University of New Hampshire School of Law. She holds Montessorielementarycertification from both the American Montessori Society and the International Montessori Council. Tanya’s continuing studies include Neuroscience and Learning through Harvard University, Oceanography and Meteorology at the State University of New York, Brockport.

Mr. Joseph Stokes has made education his life’s work with over 45 years of experience in both the public and private sectors. Throughout his impressive career, Mr. Stokes has served as a district administrator, school principal and classroom teacher. Mr. Stokes is now serving as the Head of School at Sarasota Christian School.

FRADLEY: We’re looking at two and a half years of impact with the pandemic. I feel very fortunate in Florida that we opened up the way that we did. My school was ready to go with instruction because we kind of saw the writing on the wall, and so we went straight to virtual and were ready to rock and roll. And then the next year, the majority of our kids came back to school. I’d say maybe a third stayed home. But even the kids that came back, we still didn’t let them work together. There were no partnerships, no group work. At best, they may have co-au thored something on Google Classroom. So even kids that came to school are still in the same situation where they didn’t have the same opportunities. So whether they’re learning from home or learning from school during a pandemic, socially, it’s pretty much the same.

— Dr. Karen A. Holbrook

HOLBROOK: There are so many resources that are available to students. There are still students who are experiencing the difficulties of COVID and all the challenges that are there. have counseling centers and we have advisors and you don’t have to make an appointment. You can stop in and there will always be an advisor ready there for you.”

I think kids today have a lack of knowing how to play. When they go to a play ground, they’re looking for the teacher to direct that play time, they don’t know how to interact with each other. Of course, we’re getting kids after COVID, who were locked for so long that they are looking for help in building relationships.

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IN CONVERSATION WHAT ARE WE SEEING IN YOUNGER PEOPLE AFTER THE EVENTS OF THE LAST TWO YEARS IN TERMS OF THEIR EXPERIENCEE, WHAT IT’S DONE TO THEIR SKILL SETS AND WELLNESS AND WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT GOING CHAFFIN:FORWARD?

HOLBROOK: I think somehow we need to get children involved in learning to teach. And we’re hoping to do that in the dual en rollment program but it doesn’t seem to be an exciting career. How do we get youngsters to say, “this is what I want to do”? How do we get the teachers to see this as such an important career that it is? I don’t know. I think we certainly are starting to pay them better. The legislature did a better job of paying teachers to keep them in their career. But I think teachers now in some schools are expected to be the mother, the father, the disciplinarian, and they really serve the students in so many more ways than are expected. They serve the student in so many more ways than just providing the educational experience for them.

STOKES: The teacher shortage is not a new thing. If you just went by the numbers of baby boomers who were retiring and the number of replacements that were coming– it was not an equal number. Pay has been an issue for a long time, as well as the lack of autonomy when the profession became more publicized at the state and federal level with less control at the local level. Deci sions at schools became more mandated and structured like competency testing. What will bring them back? I think it’s to remove some of the things that created the shortage in the first place.

“The Impact of social media right now, and kids having the ability at the tip of their fingers to have information in minutes, in seconds of what is going on around the world, what is going on in their community is big.” — Maria Eva Chaffin

90 | SRQ MAGAZINE_ SEPT22 LIVE LOCAL IN CONVERSATION LET’S TALK ABOUT THE TEACHER SHORTAGE.

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