Forging a Path Forward – Together

by Paula Hough, Manhattan-Ogden USD 383

Logo of USD383With 6500 students, USD 383 is large enough to provide a broad array of challenging educational and extracurricular programs, yet small enough to sustain strong relationships between students and caring adults. Amidst construction projects, grade level reconfiguration, new technology, and other changes, we always focus on teachers and professional learning for student success and effective classrooms. Continuous improvement of instructional programs and student learning is our priority. During COVID-19, so many of our district’s initiatives and goals were forced to pause. We were all in survival mode and the stress of teaching and learning in new ways was pushing our educators close to the edge. One thing that has continued to be a priority, though, is our partnership with the Institute for Personalized Learning. We have grown, adjusted and kept moving forward! 

Our I4PL Professional Development Specialists have creatively supported us as we learn how to exist in this new world of education. Between facilitating virtual professional development sessions, conducting hybrid book study events, and coaching opportunities, we have continued to work toward implementing personalized learning across all our learning environments. 

dog watching laptop
George likes online learning too!

In the fall of 2020, we started down the path of a virtual collaboration focusing on blended learning, which was relevant and timely for all educators as they tackled remote or hybrid teaching for the first time. After the success of the virtual collaboration during fall semester, we dove into another session in the spring of 2021. In the true spirit of personalized learning, we offered the option of a district-wide cohort focused on curiosity driven learning, while also providing individual and small group opportunities to work through self-paced cohorts. This was an ideal way to bring personalized learning to life and highlighted exactly how choice and voice play a key role in engagement and passion about learning. The passion for learning continues this year and we are preparing for our second book study focused on the book Launch, by Spencer and Juliani. 

Below are some comments from cohort participants. As a district administrator, I wanted to continue our work with Personalized Learning, as it is an identified goal in our strategic framework, but I was uncertain about whether this would be asking too much of our educators or putting more on their already full plates. They assuaged my uncertainty, however, and wanted this partnership to continue, and as a result, their skills were refined and enhanced. 

“Through the cohort this last semester I’ve been challenged to take a look at my teaching strategies and adapt them to better fit the needs and interests of my students. This opportunity has also allowed me to make instructional decisions that made our ELA lessons the most effective they can be for students whether they are at home or school. This included utilizing choices in delivery method or content creation as well as offering differentiated assignments to help meet students where they were.” – Middle School ELA Educator 

“The Personalized Learning cohort has given me concrete tools with which to engage my students by giving them choice according to their interests, not mine. I am also now more aware of technological tools I can use to pace my STEM lessons appropriately for students of all abilities.” – Elementary STEM Educator 

“Participating in this group has helped me be a better educator. I have gained knowledge about how to give students options in their learning to pick activities that fit them as learners. Each student can take the path that is best for them. I learned how to do this through Canvas and how to help students find out what works best by giving them learning inventories to find their path themselves.” – Middle School Science Educator 

Paula HoughDr. Paula Hough is the Executive Director of Teaching and Learning in the Manhattan-Ogden district in Manhattan, Kansas. Paula has taught in a variety of classrooms, worked as a district based instructional coach, served at the state level as an MTSS coach, and in curriculum roles at the district level. As a life-long learner, the partnership with I4PL has allowed her to continue to explore new strategies and ways of approaching change implementation. When not working, Paula enjoys spending time with her siblings, nieces and nephews, and, of course, her dog, George.