Leadership Pathways – a Road to Professional Growth

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Melissa is an 8th grade US History teacher at Gorzycki Middle School.  She serves as her campus Campus Innovation Connector and Social Studies department chair. Melissa loves integrating technology to help bring the past to life. In her free time, she likes hanging out with her dachshunds, traveling, and attending concerts. She has seen the Eagles over 100 times and is a two day Jeopardy champ.

Austin ISD offers several opportunities for teachers to participate in professional growth activities that are part of the Professional Pathways for Teachers (PPfT) compensation program. As my campus’ CIC, it seemed natural that I complete my first pathway in the area of Transformative Technology. I’ve written before about how that professional learning experience enriched my teaching and allowed me to provide more engaging, personalized and relevant learning experiences for my students. That learning has also been extremely useful as we switched to virtual learning last fall and are now doing a hybrid model.

For my second pathway, I chose the Advanced Academics in order to gain a better understanding of my advanced and GT learners. I’m at the end of micro-credential three and as I’ve completed my learning, I’ve found some similarities and connections that I didn’t expect between the two pathways.  Probably the most surprising has been through what I’ve learned about the teaching of empathy. 

In Advance Academics MC3, we did some learning about helping students approach global situations and problems from a place of empathy. We were required to have students engage in an activity where they used empathetic skills and then reflected on them. As I reflected on the experience, I saw the connection between this and designing personalized learning experiences. As the teacher, I must approach any activity from a place of empathy to make sure it matches the needs of my students, but in a classroom where personalized learning is taking place, empathy is a key skill. Students will notice that some students take longer at tasks, or work harder, or spend more time working directly with the teacher. To create a safe learning environment, empathy will certainly be key.

In the technology pathway, we also learned about allowing students to follow their interests and passions and to give them voice and choice. I see how this lends itself especially to the areas of global problem solving and leadership. Giving students freedom to solve problems of their own choosing can be incredibly powerful. Granted, we are in a difficult position with the limitations of virtual school, but I am excited to take what I’ve learned in both of these pathways and take the limited advocacy project I implemented this year and expand it by giving students even more voice and choice next year.

Finally, everything in these pathways is tied together with the Powerskills. These pathways have been designed so that students are always communicating and collaborating (as they work together and share their work), creating (designing social media campaigns and one pagers), critical thinking (working their way through a problem solving sequence or through an inquiry lesson in social studies), connection (advocating for their issues, sharing their learning with the community) and cultural proficiency (using empathy to understand the experiences of all Americans).

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