Sunday, December 7, 2014

Time is flying!

This past month has brought much joy and excitement to my position as Arts and Community Engagement Coordinator.  The success of this position truly lies in the attitude that I bring to each task as well as the mindset I use to reflect.

Over and over I am amazed at how fast time is flying in this position.  I no more than blink and we have finished another week.  I truly cannot believe that I have been in this position for 6 months now.  I stated early on that no two days had been the same.   That is still true.  As I reflect on the past month I am reminded of the value of this position.

In early November, after sitting in several MS Exploratory review meetings with other Program Coordinators, MS Principals and LEAD team, we began the process of developing Middle School Exploratory classes which will be driven by student choice.  While a daunting task, it has proven to be a task in which I have grown as a professional in many ways.  After learning about the benefits of Project Based Learning we set out to formulate new classes based on the PBL model/framework.  Once tasked with writing the framework of the classes, we set out to look at redesign of the classsrooms and input from the educators on the frontline.  After many discussions, the guiding questions and course descriptions were written.  The conversations have been rich and fierce for the benefit of our kids.  Our educators are excited to begin the process of learning about PBL and student choice.  I was also fortunate enough to be able to develop and submit my first budget this year, based on the review of these middle school exploratory classes.  I cannot wait to begin PBL training and continue course refinement with our educators.

Mid-November, I was able to head to Ames, Iowa to support our educators as they had several students involved in the annual All-State Festival.  The opportunity to meet and connect with several educators inside and outside of Iowa was incredibly rewarding.  Discussions revolved around "unwrapping our new national standards", authentic student assessment, assessment in the instrumental and vocal ensemble through authentic individual/group recording during rehearsal and embedding "common core" language in our curriculum process.  The information gained will be very beneficial for me to bring back to the teams as we continue to unwrap and work on writing formative and summative assessments this year.

This past week, I facilitated two days of professional development.  On Wednesday, our Middle School Art educators came together to work.  We spent a couple of hours looking at and discussing the benefits of Project Based Learning and Teaching for Artistic Behavior- TAB.  We watched a few video clips and discussed and read a few articles regarding TAB - Choice Art.  We also worked together as a PLC to look at first quarter data and discuss the needs shown through that process.  On Friday, I saw our elementary PE educators as a group for the first time.  While they have been standards based assessing for a few years, we looked at first quarter data and decided something needed to be done.  With that, our PE educators began unwrapping the 2013 SHAPE standards.  Much discussion and reflection happened throughout the day.  It was exciting to hear the educators share out their reflections at the end of the day.  Many shared that we need to unwrap the standards and decided how we can more accurately reflect to our students and parents what we are truly doing in the classroom.

I have for many years looked at all of my work through the lens of  "what is best for kids".  The more discussions I have, the more people I meet, the more I am reminded that it is always our attitude that shapes our decisions.  We must bring forth the attitude that our kids are #1 and keep them at the forefront of every discussion we have.  It really is about the attitude you bring to life!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Embarking on a Journey

Wow!  This picture sums up the past month very well.  Being in a newly created position to advance student achievement I have found myself at a crossroad a few times this past month.  Do I take that single step or do I sit back and soak in what is going on so that I can take that single step.

Taking that step forward has provided many opportunities to help advance student based decisions and ultimately student achievement.  As a program coordinator I am often asked this question:  What do you do everyday?  My response has been "No two days have been the same, no two hours have been the same...what an incredible journey for impacting students."

Reflecting on the many powerful steps in this journey - a few highlights from the past month.
  • Met with another program coordinator to design a project for our educators and students.
  • Met with program coordinators and lead team to discuss student based choices and exploratory class design at the middle school level.
  • Attended two cadres:  Elementary and Middle School.  Powerful days sitting with Building Leadership Teams and Administrators talking about the here and now and the future of education.
  • Worked and traveled with a team and administration from our A+ school to visit Eugene Field, an A+ school in Sioux Falls.
  • Prepared for 5 different full-day professional development sessions with our art, music and pe educators.  All three content areas are unwrapping their new national standards as part of their curriculum review process.  The discussions that have happened around the unwrapping of these standards and moving our students forward have been incredibly rich and rewarding.  Helping to facilitate those discussions has been very powerful in my learning process.  Educators have left empowered and excited about the work ahead.
  • Met with activities directors to visit about ways to make sure we are offering our students as many possibilities as possible to be involved in their schools activities.
  • Coaching - the opportunity to coach and work with educators to advance student achievement has opened the door to more opportunities with those educators.
At one point in my career, I had an administrator say - "you are flying at the 30,000 foot level and I am flying at the 90,000 foot level".  Through this work and journey I have realized one thing:  there is great work being done and even more that we can do collectively for students.  I never really understood that flying statement until school started this fall.  I certainly understand it now.   I have been fortunate to travel these miles through a completely different lens.

In closing - this is a unique journey for our district.  One that I am proud to be a part of!  The next step is waiting.....

Sunday, September 28, 2014


This week was an exciting week as I started meeting with and coaching educators.  The opportunity to have rich conversations revolving around best practice in the classroom and seeing it through are second to none.  I am incredibly excited about coaching and working with educators in Music, Art, PE and Health this year as part of the TLC grant.

Coaching this week included the following:
  • Discussion, observation and further discussion revolving around transitions in the classroom.
  • Discussion led to solutions for performance based formative assessment grading vs. behavior grading.
  • Helped an educator to better understand the new grading program Infinite Campus.  While working on this the discussion turned to standards based grading and placing the responsibility for learning on the students.  This will open up opportunities for the educator to work 1:1 with students.
  • Model Taught a lesson on a syncopated rhythm pattern which turned into rich discussion regarding teaching strategies and student engagement.

With the discussion and model teaching that I did this past week, I created a form and sent out to all PE, Art, and Music educators in our district K-12.  I am so excited about the opportunity to help our educators grow and reflect on their craft. 

Community Engagement: Music Ed Summit

 On Monday, September 22, 6 elementary music educators from the Sioux City School District, myself and 3 representatives from local districts, met with Ryan Haskins, and board members of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra for the first ever Music Ed Summit.  Discussion points included:  the state of music education, performing ensembles from the Sioux City Symphony in the schools, performances that our 4th and 6th grade students attend at the Orpheum, and opportunities for families from our schools to attend the symphony concerts due in part to the Gilchrest grant.  We are incredibly thankful for the partnership that we have with the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra for our students.  We look forward to strengthening that partnership.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Observing Programs: Great Things are Happening

What an honor to be able to go to each building and see the great things that our educators and students are doing in the Sioux City Community School District.  Every day when I am out in the schools, I am absolutely amazed!  Here are only a few snapshots of what I have been able to observe this fall.  I have witnessed amazing education going on in our schools.

This past week, I was sitting in an elementary art class.  As one of the children colored on their paper while learning about colors, another child said, "you can't color one color over the other".  The educator walked over and encouraged the child to explore further.  It was amazing to see the dialogue, inquiry and amazement as the child discovered the two colors made a third.  Thank you to the educator in the classroom that helped coach not only that child, but every child in the room.

Professional Development: Standards Based Grading and Unwrapping the Standards

Over the past week I have enjoyed working with the Middle School Art, Music and PE educators in our district.  Each content area met for a full day this past week to better understand Standards Based Grading and to begin "Unwrapping" our new National Core Arts Standards, National PE Standards and aligning with the Iowa Core.  The discussions have been very rich revolving around student achievement and the whole child.   While "Unwrapping" our new standards we had some very candid discussions regarding the focus on students creating, guiding and applying their learning.  I cannot wait to continue these discussions over the course of this year!

MS Art Educators understanding the "Unwrapping" Process

Community Engagement: Partnership with the Sioux City Symphony

This past week we welcomed the String Quartet into three of our buildings and throughout the next couple of weeks they will have played for all of our 3-5th grade students in all of our elementary buildings.

What a fantastic way for our students to have a live performance brought to them.  This opportunity to connect with live musicians and music they have been studying in music class is second to none!  Here is a link to the segment KMEG did on our great partnership -

I look forward to continuing our partnership and providing our kids an opportunity to hear and experience live music.

Sioux City Symphony String Quartet Playing for Sioux City Students.

Arts and Community Engagement Program Coordinator Vision

What an incredible journey!  When I began this position, I was tasked with creating a vision of how I would provide key leadership and support to educators, principals and central office staff along with coordinating activities and engaging our community.   Through this position I am so fortunate to work with educators in the areas of Art, Music, Physical Education and Health, administrators, and members of our community.


As part of the Iowa Teacher Leadership Grant, the Sioux City Community School District was one of the first schools awarded this grant.  I am excited to share the work of my leadership position, Arts and Community Engagement Program Coordinator, through this blog.