The Magic of Beginnings

by Dria Setter, Professional Development Specialist

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” Meister Eckhart

My beginning with the Institute for Personalized Learning coincided with the beginning of 2019, and I couldn’t be more excited to start “something new”.  I have spent the last 19 years in the world of education, and have had the privilege of working with a variety of different students, from elementary students to graduate students.  I was fortunate enough to work in the Pewaukee School District for 18 years in a variety of different roles, including teaching 5th and 6th grade, working as a talented and gifted resource teacher, and most recently, as a learning coach, with a focus on technology integration.  As a practitioner, I looked for opportunities to grow with every one of my teaching assignments. While I enjoyed the curiosities of five year olds and the jokes of sixth graders, I found my passion rests with the work I have done with teachers. There is nothing better than witnessing teachers finding their “a-ha” moment, one that will help transform their practice and make a great impact on their students.  It truly is magical.

Personalized learning was definitely an “a-ha” moment for me.  Interestingly, my first foray into personalized learning came through the use of technology.  As a 1:1 classroom, laptops were my entry point into my personalized learning journey. Here was a way to personalize assignments and allow students to make their own choices about learning resources.  It opened so many doors for my learners. I soon discovered that while technology can definitely assist in the personalized learning journey, it is not the end all and be all. Personalized learning can happen anytime and anywhere, as long as the educator and learners are invested.  It is all about creating student-centered environments and student-led learning.

Personalized learning is a journey – there is no easy formula to make it happen.  There are so many avenues to explore and so many paths to take. Which direction do you turn?  Where do you start? In the end, as practitioners, we need to give our learners purpose and help them understand there is value to their learning.  We need to prepare them to be successful in any learning situation. We need to share tools with our learners to help them set their own goals and create their own path to reach those goals.  We need to support our learners by empowering them to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning.

As I’ve spent my first few weeks at the Institute, it has been so wonderful to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who have a common goal.  I’m excited to work with other teachers, near and far, as they begin or continue their personalized learning journey. I hope I can help them uncover their “ah-ha” moment. I want teachers to be comfortable with developing their students into learners.  I’m looking forward to working together to find the best ways to build their students into POWERful learners.