On this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast we’re talking with Summer Stephens and Nate Waite about district change in Churchill County School District.

Summer Stephens is a longtime educator and superintendent and has successfully implemented systems of blended and online learning, voice and choice, self-paced learning, project-based learning, and design thinking. A specific focus of her work has included bridging the gap between courses traditionally identified as core and CTE, working to ensure that systems have opportunities and pathways for all students to engage in future-ready work.

Nate has a background in the classroom and in edtech and is now the Innovation and Professional Learning Facilitator for the region, although he spends the bulk of his time at Churchill SD, where has been for the last 24 years.

Let’s listen in as Summer and Nate talk with Tom about district change, professional learning models and how they each continue their own learning.

When Summer Stephens joined Churchill County School District, after spending time as a teacher in Nebraska and Wyoming, she observed that “they had the bones. Lots of career pathway programs, was able to see some 1:1 technologies and google.” But there was still a lot of work to be done.

One of the early adoptions upon her arrival was the implementation of the profile of a learner. Created by the new team in conjunction with the district strategy planning team, this profile helps to ensure that all learners are life-ready. “We needed a common language, a common understanding — when we said critical thinker what were we thinking? When we said inspired innovator what were we thinking? There’s really only one spot in the document that talks about academics,” she said.

Nate added, “[We included Global Citizen because] We wanted all students to think outside of themselves.”

Another key addition was the ChurchillCSD Instructional Model. This enabled the team find out what was at the core of what they were really doing: “the middle space and the big dream.” This “big dream” is to actually be learner-driven rather than just learner-centered.

One key principle of this district is that the faculty and leadership model learning for the students. The hold them to a similar set of principles and standards for growth and learning.

Nate and Summer are both naturally curious and keep learning through networking and trying to be a part of as many conversations as possible. Nate also often asks himself the question “how would I modify this?” to ensure that he stays sharp, agile, and curious.

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