By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, May 26, 2022
The communications team at Public Impact had the pleasure of visiting several districts this spring, for the first time since Covid hit, to interview Opportunity Culture educators and document their great work! We heard about their challenges and successes—what we learn in these interviews informs the guidance and support Public Impact provides to districts—and their opinions of Opportunity Culture roles and implementation.
Watch for stories and video clips highlighting specifics of their implementation and leadership and instructional practices in future months, but for now, here are a few of their thoughts to send us into summer:
Julie Shields, principal and Opportunity Culture Fellow, Hertford County Public Schools (HCPS): “With Opportunity Culture with me, and this is a word that was used constantly, it is a game-changer. It changed everything we did, how we looked at everything. I would say, if you want your teachers to grow, which initially will increase student growth beyond anything we’ve ever seen before, this is the tool.”
Audriana Munoz, teacher resident, Ector County Independent School District (ECISD): As a paid, yearlong teacher resident, “you learn so much and…you have the reassurance that what you are doing is making a difference, and so you are able to provide for your family or for yourself while also making a difference in children’s lives… [When you begin your first year as a licensed teacher,] you are kind-of already a second-year teacher—you already know what to expect; you’ve been there the whole year and you have great plans and ideas on what you can do already.”
Scott Muri, superintendent, ECISD: “Statistically, in the United States, 60 percent of teachers teach within 25 miles of the high school from which they graduated. And so, what that says to us locally is our future teachers are our students today—they are sitting in our classrooms—and we have to generate a healthy pipeline and then develop those students today into teachers tomorrow. Once again, Opportunity Culture allows us to locate those kids, if you will, at the high school level and then begin as they enter college to create residency programs. So our teacher residents that are in college right now have an opportunity to learn from our very best teachers, so [multi-classroom leaders] are shepherding and guiding and molding and shaping those teachers-to-be. That’s been a nice addition for us, to think about the residency piece and embedding that into our Opportunity Culture designs.”
Kylie Hankinson, multi-classroom leader (MCL), Midland Independent School District (MISD), on having a reach associate (RA) whose time is focused on small-group tutoring: “She adds so much value to our team… She pulls groups for us all day long based on student need… The data says it all—these kids are growing.”
Gabby McIntyre, MCL, MISD, also on having RAs whose time is focused on pulling small groups for tutoring throughout the day: “The reason we use our RA to service all kids is because kids have different needs. You might think, like, this kid is high-achieving, but they still have a need or a deficit somewhere, and we want to make sure that those kids are growing. We don’t want any kids to stay stagnant, we really want all kids to be making growth, and we want to be able to show that all kids can make progress—it doesn’t matter if they came to us high, we want them to leave high, not, you know, just getting by, and if they’re low, we want to close as much gaps as possible… I just feel like we’ve been very blessed with our RA. They just are driven, and they want to do what’s best for kids.”
Kermethia Abernathy, reach associate, HCPS: “I think that Opportunity Culture has been great. I’m glad that it came to Hertford County—it has been so successful, and I feel like during Covid, despite that’s when we first [implemented Opportunity Culture], it was so helpful, because it gave me the confidence to talk to my teachers about reaching out to families, trying to help those kids. I don’t know if I would have done that if it wasn’t for Opportunity Culture, but because I started having that close-knit relationships with my colleagues, it…helped me step out and help kids and reach kids more.”
Christin Reeves, principal and Opportunity Culture Fellow, MISD: “Our teachers feel very supported, very heard, very treated as professionals, and we have very much a culture of ‘we’re all in this together,’ where we want our kids to keep growing, and we as professionals have to continue to grow and learn and try new and different things. I know the collaboration that we are able to put in place through our Opportunity Culture system, with our MCLs and reach associates being able to support so many of our teachers…has really made such a difference.”
Holly Mathias, team reach teacher, HCPS: “Not only are we building relationships with our colleagues, we have to focus on our students, and just let them know that they’re loved, and they’re here and we’re glad they’re here! And we’re going to get them where they need to be, and I’m very thankful for Opportunity Culture to come in and help us strengthen our relationships to help our students grow.”
Micah Arrott, principal, ECISD: “I really just think that being able to extend quality teaching, great Tier I instruction, great teachers—all of the kids deserve to have that, and that is what the vision has always been, and Opportunity Culture—without it, I don’t think we would be where we are.”
Many thanks to these and all the other educators who gave us their time and thoughts!