Johnson City Schools administrators, instructional coaches, remote teachers and technology teacher leaders were treated to a lesson about 21st century teaching last week, as renowned educator and author Weston Kieschnick reiterated the importance of using technology effectively in the classroom.
Three sessions allowed teachers to gather in the Science Hill auditorium with proper social distancing and masks, as Kieschnick, author of Bold School and Breaking Bold, emphasized the importance of blending technology with strong teaching strategies to provide the best learning environment for students.
“It isn’t about throwing technology tool after technology tool at students. It’s about dialing into rigorous and relative outcomes and using really highly effective instructional strategies,” Kieschnick said. “We want to make sure that technology supports the wisdom of wonderful teachers, not replaces them. Technology has the ability to magnify the practices of great teaching better than they’ve been before.”
Kieschnick visited Johnson City Schools as part of the district’s goal to offer strong professional development to its instructors. Normally, the district sends teachers to conferences in order to build on their effective teaching practices, but COVID-19 eliminated that opportunity.
“We are very fortunate that our Board and Superintendents have invested in high-quality professional development in technology for our teachers over the past few years alongside the investment in devices,” said Dr. David Timbs, Supervisor of Secondary and Instructional Technology. “By rethinking what we could do this year to keep our professional conversations about blended learning going, Weston’s partnership with our district has been a perfect fit. It will keep the momentum moving with our work even in the midst of fully virtual learning, hybrid learning, and in-person learning.”
Science Hill math teacher and teacher leader Lance Arnold, who is teaching Algebra and Geometry online to freshmen and sophomores, said hearing the presentation was reinvigorating.
“His speech was extremely motivational for me,” Arnold said. “Weston has helped remind us of the purpose and passion of why we got in this profession. He reminded us to stay true to our original intention, which is teaching children.”
Jordan Dison, also a teacher leader, is a second-grade remote teacher for students from Woodland and Fairmont and noted that it was a pleasure to hear from Kieschnick.
“I’m constantly encouraged when I hear speakers because I know that we are doing things right in Johnson City,” Dison said. “Our system reaching out to someone like Weston is huge. I’ve had the opportunity to hear him before, but the timing of this opportunity, especially for the remote teachers and the tech leaders, is magnificent.”
Kieschnick spoke with teachers about the five commandments of distance learning, highlighting important factors including setting boundaries for work and personal time and clear communication with families. He also encouraged the room of teachers to breathe.
“It will never be more challenging than it is right now,” Kieschnick noted.
Hearing those words from an established educator was exactly what teachers and administrators needed to hear, according to Science Hill English teacher Jamie White.
“Having Weston here reinforced that what Johnson City Schools and remote teachers are doing has sound pedagogical practice and that we are on the right track as we move forward to the future of virtual schooling,” White said.