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Embracing and Enacting

Welcome to Nebraska’s NAESP PreK-3 Leadership Academy blog! We will be bringing you updates and perspectives from the advisors who are leading the 20 members of cohort 2 through the leadership academy coursework. We checked in with advisor Tiffany Shonerd, Children Services Director at Blue Valley Community Action Partnership, to see how her group is coming on their capstone projects.

 

Within the Leadership Academy, participants spend time engaging with competencies that support their growth and development as a leader of a PreK-3rd grade space. After an initial overview of each of the competencies, cohort participants choose a competency that they would like to learn more about it. Provide a brief overview of the competency your group has chosen for their focus.

The great part of being an educator is having the love of learning. We want to learn for our growth, but also the development of others that we are teaching. My group is excited to have their capstone revolve around Competency 3: Embracing and Enacting a PreK-3rd Grade Vision in the Leading Learning Communities: A Principal’s Guide to Early Learning and the Early Grades book. This competency encourages a deeper look from school leaders on how to align vision, culture, and curriculum from within the early years and beyond. Each participant encapsulates their school or district vision and how they want to make it stronger for the individual learners.

 

How is your group learning in action through this process?

The assignments allow for more information through the resources given along with reflection and expert responses from the peers. For example, one participant advised on early learning workshops for the community’s early childhood workforce as a way to align the vision as a community.  Another participant just started ReadyRosie,  and a peer commented on how it has worked for her, so the comradery of the leaders is present and helpful with the project and just the job in general.

 

To demonstrate learning, cohort participants engage in a capstone project that directly relates to their competency and a problem of practice within their school/community. What capstone projects are the members of your group working on?

  • Vertical alignment of math curriculum while using knowledge of child development as a guide to provide PD in this area for all teachers
  • Alignment of the K-2 practices in English Language Arts to build a stronger primary system.
  • The principal will engage in a once-a-month PK-3 PLC to help improve students and teacher outcomes in the areas such as SEL, DAP, behaviors, and other academics.
  • Providing support to all teachers in understanding child development by using the child development continuum, looking specifically at the culture.
  • Incorporating play based learning centers in the early learning classrooms to help decrease behaviors and increase student mastery of standards.

 

Describe how the capstone projects are expanding upon the learning from the course

Each individual participating in this course is taking different pieces of the learning opportunities that are embedded in this course and putting them to work.  For instance, one participant has dove into curriculum alignment across a few lower grades in the PreK-3 grade classrooms. Her vision, along with the buy-in of her teachers, will create an understanding of each level of learning so there isn’t a repeat of learning in each grade and there isn’t an assumption on the next level teacher that something has been taught in the previous grade. This is specifically a reflective capstone assignment in lesson 4.  Another participant dug deeper into how to incorporate STEM projects as a way to enhance her capstone project of play-based learning. The combination of the reflective questions and responses from the peers incorporates critical thinking along with support.

 

Apply to be a part of Cohort 3!

We are currently accepting applications for members and advisors to participate in Cohort 3. Learn more and apply by March 25th.

 



Bridging the Gap

Welcome to Nebraska’s NAESP PreK-3 Leadership Academy blog! We will be bringing you updates and perspectives from the advisors who are leading the 25 members of cohort 2 through the leadership academy coursework. This month we are featuring Andy DeFreece, Director of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at Millard Public Schools in Omaha.

 

Why did you want to be part of the Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy?

At Millard Public Schools we’ve worked really hard to align our early childhood and early elementary efforts. I work closely with principals and it has been my experience that they often feel very prepared to lead K-5 efforts but less confident in leading birth through preschool initiatives. Early childhood efforts are often complex because they originate from multiple funding sources, which can make learning how to articulate and focus our programs a challenge. This program was appealing to me because it provides new insights into all of these areas.

 

What communities are represented in your group?

 

In the past month which topic has caused the most discussion among the group?

In the past month we’ve been focusing on shared leadership and building the professional capacity of our teacher teams. Professional learning communities aren’t just for K-5 staff members. We can bridge the gap between Pre-K and K-3 and improve outcomes for children through aligned learning, a focus on effective instruction, and meaningful collaboration.

 

What big ideas resonated with the group most?

I would say the two big ideas which have resonated with our group the most have been understanding child development and its implications for high-quality instruction and the importance of developing and fostering partnerships with families and our communities.

 

What are you most looking forward to gaining through the Pre-K-3 Leadership Academy?

I find the new learning and networking with colleagues throughout the state to be the most rewarding part of the leadership academy. The content is really high quality and engaging — but listening to the reflections and great thinking of my peers brings it all together for me. I get new ideas each week and am always inspired by the members of my group.



Learning & Leading

Welcome to Nebraska’s NAESP PreK-3 Leadership Academy blog! We will be bringing you updates and perspectives from the advisors who are leading the 25 members of cohort 2 through the leadership academy coursework. This month we are featuring Kim Flanders, Principal at McDonald Elementary in North Platte.

 

Why did you want to be a part of the Leadership Academy?

Before becoming an elementary principal 10 years ago, I served as an elementary teacher in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade and was also an instructional coach for North Platte Public Schools. We know that positive, high quality early childhood experiences provide the best opportunity to prepare children for success in school and life. With a strong focus upon the development of a child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs — we have a moral imperative to ensure that the adults in their lives have the knowledge, understanding and fortitude to carry out this mission.  As a previous cohort member, it’s an honor to not only continue to build my capacity around best early childhood practices, but also help my fellow colleagues along the way. Together we can improve early childhood programming in our school districts.

 

Which communities/school districts are represented in your group?

 

What big ideas resonated with the group most?

Some of the big ideas that have resonated the most during our discussions include: family engagement, transitions, play based learning experiences, and trauma-informed practices.

 

What are you most looking forward to gaining through the PreK-3 Leadership Academy?

I am looking forward to building my capacity in early childhood while learning and leading alongside members of my cohort.



Shaping The Future

Welcome to Nebraska’s NAESP PreK-3 Leadership Academy blog! We will be bringing you updates and perspectives from the advisors who are leading the 25 members of cohort 2 through the leadership academy coursework. This month we are featuring Jason Hippen, Director of Student Services for Nebraska City Public Schools.

 

Why did you want to be a part of the Leadership Academy?

I began my career as an elementary resource teacher for District 145 at Eagle Elementary School. I taught for nine years before earning my first administrative position as Principal/Student Services Director at Jefferson Elementary School in Fairbury. I served in that position for three years before taking on my current role. I will be entering my 10th year with Nebraska City Public Schools, and I want to pass on what I have learned to help someone else. I love being a part of a team and working together to come up with solutions. Through the academy, I can make connections with other educators — which will also help me in the future.

 

Which communities/school districts are represented in your group?

 

What big ideas resonated with the group most?

  • The importance of early childhood education
  • We have a great opportunity to work with young students and begin to shape their future
  • Communication and connectivity makes a difference

 

What are you most looking forward to gaining through the leadership academy?

I hope to learn about new ideas, strategies and programs that can impact student success, as well as having the opportunity to collaborate with other Nebraska educators.



Embracing Early Childhood

Welcome to Nebraska’s NAESP PreK-3 Leadership Academy blog! We will be bringing you updates and perspectives from the advisors who are leading the 25 members of cohort 2 through the leadership academy coursework. This month we are featuring Amy Kroll, Director of School Improvement and Special Education at Weeping Water Public Schools.

Why did you want to be a part of the leadership academy?

I was asked by Melody Hobson to consider being an advisor for the first cohort — I jumped at the chance. I enjoyed it so much and was thrilled to be asked again. I didn’t have a background in early childhood when I accepted the position of special education director in Auburn 9 years ago. Part of that position was managing the early childhood/PreK programs. I learned everything on the job and was able to successfully expand PreK, start a Sixpence and Childcare Partnership Grant. I give credit to the fantastic early childhood staff I was blessed with. Since I am somewhat new to early childhood, I thought that my perspective was one that others could understand. You don’t need years of early childhood experience to lead successful programs — embracing early childhood can happen regardless of educational experience and background.

 

Which communities/school districts are represented in your group?

 

In the past month, what topic has caused the most discussion among the group?

How to engage colleagues (other administrators), teachers, families, and community members in supporting early childhood initiatives in their communities and emphasizing that play-based learning is learning.

 

What big ideas resonated with the group most?

Highly trained staff and strong administrative leadership is essential in the development of high-quality PreK-3 programs.

 

What are you most looking forward to gaining through the leadership academy?

I love learning from others and having conversations about real-life situations we are all facing. It’s fun to problem solve with a team!  I also love reading about the latest research that supports our efforts in schools.