New Orleans

Learning from School Visits in New Orleans

by Jeff Fouquet, Leading Educators Fellow in Kansas City, Cohort 2012

Two weeks ago I traveled to New Orleans with the 2013 Leading Educator fellows from all around the Kansas City area. Although I had already experienced a School Visits Trip (SVT) to Chicago with my own cohort (2012), I knew seeing more schools and talking with more teachers would broaden my thinking about the possibilities for my own students and adult team. These goals were certainly accomplished, but I did not anticipate how many new partnerships this trip would introduce. 

Because of the generous levels of time, attention and guidance offered by our hosts in NOLA, I was able to identify specific, bite-size adjustments that would help my team immediately impact our students. Upon returning, I partnered with the computer apps teacher in my building to develop a data tracker so we could provide specific feedback to students. By using measurable, timely data to encourage academic and behavioral growth, students can show students specific changes they can make to improve their levels of success. Additionally, this week my team will stop recognizing a “Student of the Week” to adopt “Weekly Shout-outs.” My school serves an at-risk population, so spreading the praise around strategically instead of highlighting the success of one student will result in higher levels of student investment and build a stronger sense of community.

As exciting as these changes are, the best part of the SVTs was getting to work with other teacher-leaders as they tried to address their teams’ needs. As a second-year fellow, it felt good sharing some of the resources and strategies my Leading Educators coach, Tara Tamburello, had showed me to gain ground in similar situations. And, in kind, all the teacher-leaders I met were able to lend their perspectives to my mission to increase student investment.

I feel like I’ve written so much, yet I haven’t even mentioned the amazing educators and reformers who joined us from as far afield as England! We had guests from organizations both peripheral and essential to education who came to NOLA hoping to leverage what they learned in ways that might immediately impact the students they serve.

I sincerely thank Leading Educators, Kansas City Cohort 2013, and the teachers, students and schools of NOLA for creating such a transformative opportunity for personal and professional growth; I met so many amazing teachers and people. My team and my students are grateful for the changes this experience has inspired -  and I’m already look forward to next year’s trip!

Studying Teacher-Leadership with Leading Educators in Houston

Two principals from London joined the Greater New Orleans Fellowship's School Visits Trip (SVT) to Houston this fall. 

by Beth Kobel, Vice Principal, Preston Manor School, London, UK

This year I have had the opportunity to visit inner city American schools to gather good practice happening in effective schools. Our time in Houston allowed for an opportunity to join a Leading Educators School Visits Trip (SVT) designed for their Fellows. The experience was fantastic! From the very beginning, it was clear that this was going to be a highly organized and effective three days.

At each of the schools visited, we were able to experience a variety of events including: lesson observations, meetings with teaching staff and administration, learning about their induction programs and staff development opportunities, interviewing panels of students, observing student government classes, and visiting spirit assemblies. Every school was very welcoming, highly organized, provided extensive information and answered any questions.

What was an especially valued added bonus, was visiting these schools with highly professional and enthusiastic middle leaders from New Orleans. Seeing the schools through their eyes and listening to their high level of conversation was a fantastic opportunity to learn so much about what we were observing in the context of culture.

Leading Educators has designed the SVT exceptionally well. At the end of each day their are structured opportunities to share good practice, review the evidence gathered to demonstrate various 'levers', as well as begin planning for how this practice might impact on their home schools.

There were so many practical examples to influence our practice on both individual and whole school levels. One thing that I will take away from this visit is the positive impact they are having by dedicating a significant amount of time and resources to staff development. In every school the commitment to making this a priority was evident in its culture, consistency, structure and timetable. Thank you for this opportunity - It really was inspiring!

Teacher-Leaders in Ireland: Lessons on Student Leadership

Recently two of our Fellowship alumnae and our Executive Director from the Greater New Orleans region visited Ireland, touring schools and meeting with members of the N. Ireland DOE to learn about their system and the avenues for teacher-leadership. The trip was a reciprocal visit after several Irish and British teacher-leaders visited New Orleans last year as part of an exchange program facilitated by the British Counsil.

Last week, Alumna Meghan Mekita wrote some of her key observations about adult leadership in the schools she visited. Today, she follows up with this post on student leadership.

by Meghan Mekita, Leading Educators Fellow in New Orleans, Cohort 2012

While the high schools we visited taught us about adult leadership, the primary schools taught us about student leadership. At Victoria College in Belfast, students have taken over many of the jobs that adults do in our schools. Older children apply to be mentors to pre-schoolers and kindergartners. During lunch, the mentors cut food for the younger children and teach them how to sit and use their utensils properly. At recess, the older children organize games and teach younger children how to play nice.

What really made our hearts melt, though, was the idea of the ‘friendship stop’. Somewhere on the blacktop there was a stop sign that designated the location where any student could stand if they needed help finding a playmate. The older mentors would swing by, scoop them up, deliver them to a kind group of their peers, and set everyone up with a new game or activity.

Student leadership didn’t stop on the playground. Students as young as 5 were on the student council, working on environmental initiatives and fundraising for causes that they had chosen as a class. Almost every student was on a committee, allowing them to build public speaking and leadership skills from a very young age. In the older grades, these roles were expanded. A group of seniors in the attached high school applied and were selected to become prefects. As prefects, they handled duties, such as correcting uniform infractions, which teachers are normally tasked with. Our visit to Victoria College made us question our current expectations for student leadership, and start to think creatively about ways to build student leadership programs at our schools.

Shira, Julie and I felt lucky to have had this experience. We have developed relationships with several staff members at the schools we visited, and we hope that the foundation has been laid for us to continue asking questions about how their schools began the programs that we saw as well-oiled machines.

Teacher-Leaders in Ireland: Lessons on Adult Culture

Recently two of our Fellowship alumnae and our Executive Director from the Greater New Orleans region visited Ireland, touring schools and meeting with members of the Northern Ireland Department of Education to learn about their system and the avenues for teacher-leadership. The trip was a reciprocal visit after several Irish and British teacher-leaders visited New Orleans last year as part of an exchange program facilitated by the British Council.

Alumna Meghan Mekita wrote some of her key observations about adult leadership in the schools she visited. Later this week, she will have a follow-up post on student leadership.

by Meghan Mekita, Leading Educators Fellow in New Orleans, Cohort 2012

Leading Educators teacher-leaders visiting a school in Ireland.

It has been one week since we returned from Belfast-just enough time to recover from jet lag and allow all that we learned to marinate a bit.

My greatest challenge in looking for best practices in Northern Ireland was reconciling the differences we in New Orleans have in terms of culture, race, and socioeconomic status. A school with 98% of students receiving free or reduced lunch was unheard of amongst the educators we spoke with. Belfast has had struggles aside from poverty, however.

Since “the troubles” ended about ten years ago, Northern Ireland is experiencing a heightened level of political correctness.

People are kind or at least cordial to one another, and discrimination is no longer institutionalized as it was, but no one seems to be talking about their differences either. The solution to the loyalist/nationalist or Protestant/Catholic divide was to separate children based on their religion. As a result, all public schools in Northern Ireland have a religious background. They are either Catholic, Protestant, or from a relatively new category called “integrated”. Students can still choose which school they wish to attend, until they reach age 11, when most students take a test to try to gain acceptance to a selective high school.

Most towns have one selective and one non-selective school.

We were definitely surprised to see prayer happen in almost every school we visited, but we also found many similarities between our system and the Irish system, and many practices to borrow.

Though we are working ourselves to the bone in New Orleans to establish schools that develop new and veteran teachers as much as possible, we are disadvantaged by the newness of our establishments. My most significant take-away was something I learned from Ian Collen at Ballyclare High School. Mr. Collen manages a staff development program that has the benefit of being 20 years in the making. His work is to direct new staff members along a pathway of mentorship, certification, career advancement, and intellectual discovery. All first year teachers spend three years in an adjustment period where they are mentored and monitored. After the three years are up, teachers are required to participate in content-based professional development through outside programs. Mr. Collen searches for teacher exchange programs, grants for teachers to travel abroad, and graduate degree programs that he can share with the staff.

My reflection is that in New Orleans, we need to develop plans within each charter network or school system to promote long-term teacher growth and longevity in the profession. Creating a map graphic of this plan and sharing it with new teachers would send the message that we value teaching as a profession and that our goal is to see teachers move through the system to positions of leadership.

Fellowship Application Opening Today!

We are excited to announce that the application for Fellowship Cohort 2014 will open today! The Fellowship is available to teacher-leaders in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C.

Interested educators apply this afternoon by clicking on on this link: 

The application process involves four steps:

Step 1: Online Application

Candidates begin their application for the Leading Educators Fellowship by completing an online application. 

Step 2: Principal Endorsement

An applicant's principal must support the application by submitting a Principal Endorsement online. The Principal Endorsement allows the school leader to describe the leadership role the candidate will play during the following school year and outlines program expectations.

Step 3: Classroom Observation

Based on the Online Application and Principal Endorsement, successful candidates are invited to participate in a 20 to 30 minute classroom observation. This snapshot provides insight into the candidate's instructional skill.

Step 4: Interview and Assessment Days

Candidates that move to the next step in the application process participate in an Interview and Assessment Day. This challenging experience stretches candidates’ leadership skills by engaging them in interviews, role plays, and simulations.

Deadlines and Important Dates 

Kansas City:
Priority I Deadline: Dec. 2
Priority II Deadline: Feb. 3
Final Deadline: March 24
Interviews: April 12 - 26
Final Notification Date: May 2

New Orleans & Baton Rouge:
Priority Deadline: Feb. 10
Final Deadline: March 31
Interviews: April 12 - 23
Final Notification Date: May 2

Washington D.C.:
Dates to be announced soon

Successful candidates will join a cohort of approximately 40 other teacher-leaders from their region, and will work closely with second-year Fellows as well. For more information, please click here to find more information on how to apply, the Fellowship curriculum, and who should apply.


New Orleans Teacher-Leaders Go National: The ECET2 Conference

Earlier this spring, Leading Educators took four Fellows to the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) Conference to share their experiences of teacher-leadership development with other educators from around the country. 

Our two Fellows from New Orleans were struck by the powerful work going on all over the US. In their own words: 

New Orleans Fellow Danielle Bienville reads to her first grade class.
"The most significant thing that I learned was that we are not alone! The educational challenges are real and there are like-minded people across this nation who are striving for the best for our children.  This conference also made me realize how much we do not collaborate in our city or our state.  There is so much competition that if it were not for LE, we would  all be on our own little charter islands.  We must collaborate because two heads are so much better than one and this battle cannot be won alone.
As I move into a new school and new role it will be vital for me to create new relationships and also hold onto old ones, connections between schools must be made, even if a true district does not exist. We can build great ideas together and share triumphs in order to optimize time and increase student achievement. We are ONE!"

-Bridget Burns, a Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Cohort 2011 

"I learned that many teachers and schools around the country are working towards perfecting planning and implementations around the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I had conversations around the many tools schools are using (i.e. the Literacy Design Collaborative) in order to get students to dig in deep with the texts and content they are studying. Additionally, the sheer collaboration and willingness to share resources, ideas, and tools was inspiring. Teachers around the country who are doing it well want to share with those who are further behind in the spirit of student achievement.
I will bring from the conference a deeper awareness of the CCSS and will be able to explain the reasoning for these standards. I feel I will also be able to advocate for training and resources for teachers around these instructional shifts because I have talked to and witnessed teachers implementing them successfully, specifically in the upper grades.
It was humbling to be surrounded by teachers who have been teaching 15, 20, and even 30 years, a landscape that is increasingly disappearing in New Orleans. These teachers are still perfecting their craft in front of students on a daily basis while they are also able to serve as teacher-leaders. They mentor by example to interns, student teachers, and other veteran teachers. They are tapped to lead professional developments and attend conferences such as ECET2. The experience reaffirmed that I don't need to step out of the classroom in order to lead."

—Danielle Bienville, a Master Teacher of First Grade in New Orleans Cohort 2011