What's the point of aiming at anything you know, with 100% certainty, you're going to hit? Learning - REAL learning - the kind that hurts a little before it feels better - comes from ideation and iteration. Those are fancy words for the process of creating ideas that seem ridiculous at first, then trying, and trying again to make them become reality. My TLI capstone was born from a collision of two projects:
When I was first hired as a TIS, I was struck by the awesome sauce that I saw being smothered over our entire district. Teachers, with very little training or extrinsic motivation, were iterating with interactive whiteboards, ideating with Promethean, and innovating with Google Apps, yet no one was showing the community that we were "getting their money's worth!" After our first TLI Face-to-Face meeting back in October of 2014, listening to myself complain about how "someone should" promote the TLI teachers' awesome ideas, I was slapped in the face with the realization that "I am someone, too!" When I was invited to the Google Teacher Academy that December, the issue was rubbed in my face with the idea of Moonshot thinking, and I was asked to set a goal, which, by then, was obvious:
Billings Public Schools is home to over 16,000 students and 3,500 staff members. As the largest school district in the state of Montana, Billings has the potential to set the tone for public education in our state. Even to this day in Billings, no position exists in which someone who works for the district deals with Public Relations or Communication on behalf of the district. My goal is to tackle the some of the roles of this position and create a “grass-roots” movement to chip away at the years negativity.
On May 4th, 2010. through partnership with a receptive school board, a "willing-to-listen" community, and a staff who was ready for positive change, our superintendent, Jack Copps (through his reputation as a popular community figure - and, as a fun fact, the Governor's step-father!)), was able to accomplish the near-impossible: Billings Public Schools passed its first General Fund mill levy since 2007. Granted $1.4 million, this General Fund Levy was dedicated for use as deficit reduction, maintenance and improvement funds for 22 local elementary schools, and the re-opening of Beartooth Elementary in Billings Heights. And then, thanks to a long-fought battle, the tireless pavement-pounding of Superintendent Terry Bouck, and a near-miracle, the voters of the elementary district were asked to approve a $1.2 million elementary technology levy, and on May 7, 2013, they said YES! Because of this, my friend, ally, and partner in crime, Shelly Stanton, and I were hired as Technology Integration specialists for Billings Public schools. As K-8 specialists, Shelly and I are able to have a district-wide view of the incredible feats PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS are pulling off in their everyday duties. They are impacting kids in ways that the voting public has and never could imagine, and I see part of my job as being the "someone" who tells the world their stories.
Through the inspiration of my peers (specifically Shelly and Ann Keith) in the Teacher Leadership Initiative, and spurred by the moonshot thinking of the Google Teacher Academy, I have decided that I AM one of the "someones" who might tackle the issues that I recognize when I say "someone should..." With the advantage of having a district-wide perspective, I am able to see that the "awesome" happening in my district not only should be shared, but needs to be shared.
And so, it's time for take off! Through the TLI and GTA forum, I intend to share a few of the hundreds of positive things that occur in Billings Public Schools on a daily basis! In the last year, I have successfully achieved not only a forum, but also the equipment and the backing to support and promote my peers and their educational "awesome sauce." My goal is to celebrate excellence in teaching, innovation in learning, and the positive outreach toward a supportive community.
To the moon!
I am a proud teacher in Billings Public Schools, home to over 16,000 students and 3,500 staff members. Students in Billings are creating and collaborating like never before thanks to the technology to which they have access, and their teachers are providing them with opportunities that will make them incredible community leaders one day soon!