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We are happy to recognize donations in honor or memory of a teacher, family member, friend, or colleague. Simply note the name of the honoree on our online giving form and list the name and address for the gift notification (your gift amount will not be shared with the recipient).
Since the late 1970’s education reformers have pointed to value of thriving professional learning communities. In the last three decades, educational researchers have thoroughly documented the critical role these collaborative groups play in implementing real change throughout a school and school system. In practice the idea is simple: identify individuals who have a shared interest and similar, yet different expertise, and develop a forum for them to share their insights so that the group as a whole can glean the unique value each individual offers.
With the emergence of personalized technologies and their increasingly common presence in classrooms over the last 5 to ten years, it has become clear that providing students and teachers with access to technology is only the first step in productive 21st century classrooms. As technology’s pervasive role in the classroom continues to evolve, teachers are desperate to stay up with best practices for leveraging its amazing capabilities. To support teachers in this pursuit, PEF, with support from the Community Foundation, started iPLC—a year-long cohort comprised of K-12 teachers from across Hamilton County strategically designed to identify, refine, and share innovative and effective uses of instructional technology. This year, based on feedback from previous cohorts and members of the community, we are excited to announce that we will be offering the iPLC experience along with a new option iPLC Genius—designed for our most tech-savvy teachers with a desire to lead and serve as a point of contact for others who are looking to develop their capacity to effectively leverage new technologies.
While many of our supporters have generously placed substantial investments in classroom technology in public schools across Hamilton County, we want to ensure that teachers have access to training on how to use those technologies for an improved student experience, and we hope to provide teachers an opportunity to share discoveries they have made along their journey. Hamilton County has some of the best teachers in the country. iPLC and iPLC Genius offer those teachers a chance to be heard and to help ensure that every student has access to a quality education.
— Michael Stone, STEM Director of Innovative Learning
After a competitive application process, 19 educators were selected to join PEF’s inaugural cohort of Policy Fellows. With the support of the Benwood Foundation, this group of teachers, coaches and counselors will spend the next 16 months exploring education and public policy. They will study the challenges that face our community and our students, meeting with elected leaders, and, ultimately, use their knowledge and experience to advocate for their students and for public education.
“We’re very excited to launch this new program, nearly two years in the making,” said Dan Challener, President of the Public Education Foundation. “The voice of actual teachers is so often missing in the crafting of public policy, especially education policy. These nineteen extraordinary teachers—from schools all across Hamilton County—are experts in their field—who better to advocate for children and public schools?”
During their first meeting, Policy Fellows joined the community for a talk by Amanda Ripley, journalist and author of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got that Way, as part of the Chattanooga 2.0 series inspiring conversations and ideas about our education system. Fellows then engaged in a private conversation with Ms. Ripley, asking questions about how policies in other nations strengthen schools. Fellows came together again in May to learn about the history of change in Chattanooga and Hamilton County, from integration to Gig City, with Ken Hays, CEO of the Enterprise Center, Edna Varner, former Principal of the Howard School, and Bill Kennedy, Vice President of Leading and Learning at PEF. In the months to come, the Fellows will have opportunities to meet with community leaders, as well as elected officials from the city, county, and state.
Contact PEF’s Geoff Millener at email@example.com or 423-648-4448 for more information about Policy Fellows.
Heard of coding, but still intimidated? Curious but not sure where to start? Next week is your chance to jump in and learn.
The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics.
PEF’s Geoff Millener leads an initiative called Dev Dev (Developing Developers) which, in partnership with the Hamilton County Department of Education, brings schools, companies and organizations together to help promote technology and digital literacy. Geoff explains, “We want more young people to not only use technology effectively, but also understand how applications and web tools are developed. The Hour of Code is a great introduction to the opportunities out there for students interested in programming.”
Several area schools are participating, including Clifton Hills, Bess T. Shepherd, and Battle Academy. Geoff was joined by Clifton Hills media specialist and Teacherpreneur Cristol Kapp on WDEF’s “This Morning” to share more about the importance of coding skills and digital literacy.
For more on local Hour of Code experiences, email Geoff Millener.
Community invited to Pitch Night to hear teachers share their visions for transforming education
After a competitive application process, 21 teacher teams from Hamilton County public schools will participate in an intensive 48-Hour Launch weekend as participants in the second cohort of the Teacherpreneur Incubator through PEF.
The Teacherpreneur Incubator is a unique leadership initiative which offers teachers support, time and space to incubate big ideas and execute them in the best interests of their students and their profession. PEF and the Hamilton County Department of Education are collaborating with the Benwood Foundation, Footprint Foundation, and CO.LAB on this innovative approach to engaging and empowering area teachers.
In May, HCDE teachers submitted more than 60 proposals to the Teacherpreneur Incubator. Those proposals were narrowed to 21 teams who will enter the Teacherpreneur 48-Hour Launch, based on the CO.LAB model where educators will receive feedback, support, and encouragement from mentors and community members throughout the weekend.
On Sunday, August 2 from 4:00-6:00 p.m., the Launch culminates with educators pitching their ideas to a panel of judges at Granfalloon, 400 E. Main Street. Pitches will be chosen to receive funding and on-going support to take ideas from concept to classroom. The community is invited to attend – please reserve tickets below:
Keri Randolph, PEF Vice President of Learning says, “Last year’s Pitch Night was incredible. It was a great opportunity for the community to hear innovative ideas directly from our teachers. Educators have creative, entrepreneurial solutions to classroom, school and community challenges, and Teacherpreneur is a way to invest in them as professionals by helping those ideas come to life.”
This year’s diverse Teacherpreneur proposals include:
– A professional audio recording studio for high school students in downtown Chattanooga
– Bridging physical activity and learning by retrofitting classroom furniture
– An on-demand app for students to access guidance counselors and personalize their interactions
– Student-created 360 degree virtual field trips to be used by participants worldwide
Contact PEF’s Keri Randolph at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-648-2426 for more information.
East Lake Elementary teacher Jill Blackmon was named a WDEF News 12 Golden Apple Award winner for starting an after-school STEM program after she won a Junior League of Chattanooga Mini-Grant. Learn more about why Ms. Blackmon is a teacher in the clip below:
She’s also a former Project Inspire Tennessee clinical instructor for math & science teaching residents. East Lake Elementary won a $50,000 grant from the Leonore Annenberg School Fund for Children last summer to purchase almost 200 Chromebooks for students, some of which you can see in the video. Congratulations to Ms. Blackmon – we’re inspired by the great STEM work happening at East Lake Elementary!
Learn more about the creative, problem-based, hands-on learning happening in our region from the Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub.
Did you know PEF’s Vice President of College and Career Success, Stacy Lightfoot, organized the TN GEAR UP Youth Summit? Building on years of experience working with high school students, this conference focused on eight graders and their options for college. See Stacy at about 1:30 in the video below.
Have you ever wanted to travel in time? Most of us have wished at one time or another that we could change the past. I can’t offer you that. But you do have the opportunity to change the future.
Right now, the future of our community is sitting in a classroom learning to read, how to count to one hundred, or how cells divide. They are learning what they love, what they are good at, and who they want to be. And you can be a part of that. We have a chance to guide tomorrow’s leaders, and to make a choice about what we want our future to look like.
You may not know it, but you have something special that you can contribute. There are a multitude of opportunities to volunteer in schools. You can volunteer as a tutor, a mentor, or a classroom assistant. Help a child learn to read, or help with their math homework. Encourage them to apply for college and help them apply for financial aid. You can help to clean or paint an aging school building. You can volunteer for a fundraiser, or write grants. You can let a child shadow you at your job. You can find a way to inspire a child, and to make learning fun!
Schools are always looking for volunteers. Try contacting your neighborhood school and see what they need help with. You can volunteer on a regular basis, or for special projects and events. In addition to PEF, there are plenty of other organizations in Chattanooga that support education. You can contact one directly, or browse listings at ihelpchattanooga.org.
During National Volunteer Week, remember that you have an amazing opportunity before you. You can’t change the past, but you can help create a beautiful future. Thanks you for all you do!
-Meghan Greene, PEF Intern, UTC Public Administration and Nonprofit Management
Last week I watched an episode of PBS’s show Frontline titled “Dropout Nation.” This documentary shared the story of four high school students in crisis and the principals, teachers, and counselors who are committed to improving their chances of receiving a high school diploma. It also highlighted the Apollo 20 Program (partnership with Harvard University’s Education Innovation Laboratory), which is a program designed to improve the academic achievement of 20 “priority” schools in Houston. Apollo 20 is built around five tenets: effective principals and teachers, more instructional time, use of data to lead instruction, tutoring, and a culture of high expectations for everyone.
Watching this documentary was a reminder that educators must often look beyond test scores and absences to better understand what’s going on with our students. As we know, intellectual ability has very little to do with the increasing dropout rates. So why is this documentary important to PEF and what we do? Since the SOAR staff work with college students, it’s important that our efforts are focused on developing them as a “whole” student. If the GPAs and retention rates decreases, we must review the academics but not ignore life circumstances. The SOAR Peer Coaches are responsible for developing a relationship with the SOAR students and maintaining consistent communication (face-to-face, phone, text, email, and Facebook) to walk with them through their collegiate experience. As personal circumstances are shared, we have an opportunity to intervene and direct students to appropriate resources. So, I challenge all educators to take a step back and look at the full picture before we dismiss the future of our students.
– Michelle Caldwell, SOAR Coordinator
Watch this preview of “Dropout Nation”: