Learner-center leaders lead with empathy, listening to stakeholders.

In Episode 45, we had a conversation with Joe Erpelding, Principal at Design39Campus in San Diego, CA, and two learners, Sydney Huber and Riya Anand.

Key Competency

Learner-center leaders lead with empathy, listening to stakeholders. As Principal of Design39Campus, Joe is constantly listening to stakeholders. This is a big part of the design process to empathize with stakeholders in supporting change. It is also critical in supporting correction when change does not go as planned.


What does teaching and learning look like at Design39Campus? Design39Campus is located within a public school district. The goal of Design39Campus is to create learners who are life-ready thought leaders elevating humanity and, thus, creating an impact for others.

We started by asking the learners what it was like to learn in this learning environment. They shared students get creative freedom, and can work wherever they choose – outside, office, collaborative spaces. Students work on impact projects and collaborate with many other organizations. After a certain period of time students choose Explorations and Deep Dives thus applying the core knowledge from content classes to areas of passion, specifically in science and engineering. This allows students the freedom to be curious about many topics.

Why did you choose Design39 Campus instead of your home school? Learners reflect they had the opportunity to see the evolution of the campus as it was being developed. They noticed the differences right away. Instead of the standard library and classrooms, there are collaborative spaces and outside workspaces. They utilize principles of design thinking, and the projects are different. Learners feel very free academically.

Joe has been principal for four years The initial principal was released for 2 years and 5 teachers were released for one year to investigate and research the possibilities of designing a school from the ground up. They visited other sites and employers. There were 17 different design process opportunities for parents to connect.

Joe shared he had to “re-route his whole firmware” about education. Joe doesn’t have an office and teaches a class two times a year to continue to understand what the design learning process looks like.

What is an Impact project? The teacher assigned a simple writing assignment that turned into an event. Students reached out to companies that they admired. Sydney shared about her work on a beach clean up in San Diego. She talked about the process of creating an event and how it moved quickly and easily. The organization sent $2000 worth of bracelets. Instead of selling the bracelets, Sydney gave the bracelet as a token of appreciation to the volunteers who helped with the clean up process. The team cleaned up about 40 pounds of trash at the beach.

Reeya shared her process for developing a NPFH application. She pitched the idea to every teacher so they could understand their perspective. The learners also had the opportunity to visit Disney for a leadership experience. In that experience, they learned about the 4Cs and how to apply them into their mission.

What is an impact project? Anything that can impact the community in a positive way. Examples include a clothing drive, canned food drive, etc. Basically it is your perspective on a problem and how you want to fix it. The projects are passion-driven. Sydney shared she is passionate about the environment and how it connects to her Oceans Impact project. Students need to think globally and act locally. It starts small.

What is the role of the LED – Learning Experience Designer – in the impact projects? A teacher is someone who is guiding students. He/she has to have the courage to let the students take the reins sometimes. “The LED is there to show me where to look, but not what to see. They don’t tell me what, when and how to do it. Instead they offer support and guide me.”

At the heart of their guiding principles at Design39Campus is design thinking. Design39Campus has 8 guiding principles. Creative confidence, growth mindset, collaboration, opportunity to connect globally and act locally, etc. Teachers may not integrate all 8 principles, but they are intentional about technology integration, planning for creation, etc. The principles are a structure to remember that learning is complex, and it allows teachers to be designers throughout the process.

The learners reflected on seeing the principles in action. Reeya reflected she really needed growth mindset when working on her robotics project. Having a growth mindset means you are willing to grow from mistakes. Sydney used a lot of guiding principles during her projects. She couldn’t get enough of working with her peers and teachers – collaboration. She also developed creative confidence to get up and talk about her project as a guest on another podcast. Guiding principles permeate the culture. Learners reflect on the principles as they complete projects and learning experiences.

The school created a schematic about the knowledge, skills, and dispositions, a dramatic piece of the evolution of Design39Campus. Without this, they may not be as successful in the learner-centered environment. Learners need the skills to avoid frustration when communicating their message. Without the dispositions, they could end up with apathy.

How is leadership different in a the learner-centered environment? Joe filled up 3-4 notebooks at the start of his principalship. He did a lot of listening The first year was not easy. One hundred and fifty kids left the school. Twelve teachers left, and Joe needed to hire more. The school wasn’t meeting the expectations, and he needed to learn more by listening. The context was what mattered. He had to give people grace to be good with what they were currently doing. He asked them, what is your 10% to move forward?

Leaders need to be vulnerable and bring teams together to have input. There is now a distributive leadership model, and making decisions was super complex. The team had to come to an agreement on decision-making and collaboration. This environment needs everyone to be invested. It’s a little messy but it is the best work you can do because you are doing it with others.

How do you enroll people in this movement? Joe reflects the best way to  enroll others is with tours and tours – both outside and inside the school. They called it Project Beep Beep! The team hopped on buses and toured other schools, resulting in ideation coming out of that space. Touring internally is also important, and the school hosts over 150 tours each year. They are now re-investing in parents. He asks them to notice. Before, we would have tour guides, but now we just ask parents to “tour in”. Ask any learner what they are working on and understand where they are in the journey.

Finally, think about your priorities. What is driving the system? Design39Campus is a learner-centered lab school. They want their learners to be life-ready thought leaders who are curious and inquisitive. It is not about GPA or how many AP courses. Instead, what is your impact?

There are 150 tours per year at Design39Campus to learn about what is going on at Design39Campus. With so many micro-successes and major successes, they need to develop a culture of sharing. They are touring each others building, taking Instructional walkthroughs, and connecting to learn from each other in the various campuses.

\What advice would you give to others who are making the shift to a learner-centered environment. First, you need adaptability. In Disney, the students learned Walt Disney was shut down so many times. Not everything will be perfect. You have to be willing to work through it as a leader and a learner. When working on impact projects, students experience productive struggle. Perseverance is always important to answer his/her question. Information has to be clear and not false. Sydney persevered through getting over her presentation challenges. She shared how she has grown out of her shell. Joe shares the learning environment is amplifying opportunities and providing grace to make mistakes is critical. As the principal, Joe realizes ultimately, you have to launch. If you wait, you are delaying the time you are going to make mistakes. Instead, shorten the time period, launch, iterate, and make it the next best version.

Connections to our Practice

  • Our high school is also a NPFH, and some of our learners have had the chance to participate.
  • Staff know their superpowers and how they can best support work. Our teachers and leaders have had a chance to uncover their superpowers.  Should we revisit and celebrate?
  • Do all of our learners have opportunities to impact locally and think globally?

Questions Based on Our Practice

  • Do our teachers show students where to go or what to see?
  • How does the role of teacher need to evolve?
  • Do our teachers, leaders, and learners have time to collaborate?
  • Do we link everything back to our Profile of a Graduate and Learning Beliefs?
  • Are we “rerouting our firmware”?

Next Steps for Us

  • We need to make some site visits and figure out how to take staff on a Project Beep Beep!
  • How can we tour each other’s buildings?

Episode 045: Design39Campus Interview with Joe Erpelding, Principal; Sydney Huber and Riya Anand, Learners

In this episode, we had a conversation with Joe Erpelding, Principal at Design39Campus in San Diego, CA, and two learners, Sydney Huber and Riya Anand. You may recall that we featured Design39Campus, a learner-centered lab school, on an earlier episode of the podcast. During our conversation, we learned about the eight guiding principles at the heart of the Design39Campus experience. Sydney and Riya provided us a glimpse into these guiding principles, sharing various learning experiences. Joe shared the kinds of leadership qualities necessary to lead a learner-centered environment including vulnerability and creating a culture of sharing.

The learning environment of Design39Campus provides an ideal environment for student-centered, flexible learning experiences. On a mission to “change the way we do schools,” Design39Campus provides a unique approach to personalized learning that is human-centered and empathy-fueled.

As a result of our conversation, we are thinking about this question:

  • What learner-centered aspects of Design39 Campus  might you apply in your school or district?


Bonus Episode 09 – Trailblazers Magazine – Interview with Anya Smith-Roman and Abigail Emerson

In this Bonus Episode of Shift Your Paradigm, we are speaking with Anya Smith-Roman and Abigail Emerson, founders of Trailblazers Magazine, a magazine driven and written by students about the education transformation movement.

Anya is a 2017 graduate of the Innovation Diploma and currently a second-year student at Georgia Institute for Technology studying to become a social entrepreneur with a major in Business and certificate in Social Psychology. Since high school, she has been striving to forward the Education Transformation Movement by networking with thought leaders around the world, speaking and coaching at education conferences, and being a pioneer of innovative learner-centered education practices. She is driven by the goal to have student voice at the forefront of the Education Transformation Movement. Anya dreams of a future where “school” consists of students working side-by-side with business leaders to design for pressing issues in the world.

Abigail is a creator looking for new ways to solve problems. She is an Innovations Diploma and Mount Vernon Presbyterian School 2018 graduate and freshman at NC State studying Industrial Design. Always keeping a positive outlook on situations, her favorite pastime is giving out high-fives and telling puns and jokes. Abigail strives to inspire and empower other students to believe that they can make a change now and don’t have to wait until they’re “older” and “wiser” to start.

Resources shared during our conversation

Learner-centered leaders know change permeates the whole system

In Episode 44 we spoke with Dr. Cory Steiner, superintendent in the Northern Cass School District in North Dakota. We learned about the audacious goals and vision, driven by their Profile of a Graduate, that are focused on creating a learner-centered school district. Northern Cass School District is a public school district located in Hunter, ND. It has 635 learners in grades PK-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 15 to 1.


Northern Cass has adopted audacious goals – including moving to a competency-based model by 2020. They offer big school opportunties in their small school system of 635 learners. They took  6-8 months to work with educators and learners on a 3-year transition which will eliminate grade levels, offer credit for learning beyond the day,  rethinking grading, and making sure kids move at a pace which works best for them.

Significant planning is in process to make this happen. They started several years ago with the Teacher Leadership Academy. Professional learning is a key compenent in this work. The District partnered with a local university to provide a masters degree aligned to the District’s vision. Administrators partnered with professors to teach courses related to District content. The school considered a school within a school model, but decided they wanted to do more for all learners.

Community engagement has been critical – using a personalized learning team (including learners) and a parent group. Engaging parents and community members in conversations around potential concerns (transcripts, credits, etc.) has helped build the vision and understanding while addressing various pieces.

Northern Cass recently developed a Portrait of a Graduate to guide this work- identifying eight areas (collaboration, communication, critical thinking, leadership, growth mindset, organization, accountability, and self-reflection.)  Every conversation focuses on how the work will support students being choice-ready to leave their school with the discreet skills and dispositions. Next year, the school will use the first 10 days at elementary and 6 days at the secondary level to directly teach the skills through activities designed to help students better understand the skills and ideas in the Portrait of a Graduate.  The POG is the guided pathway to getting to personalized learning.

Along the way, there have been high points and challenges. Cory shared about his Jaguar Academy – a school within a school – and how it really focused on pace.  Students quickly completed required courses and then moved to passion courses and internships. He reflected his kids are ready to own their own learning, and sometimes the adults need to get out of the way.  

The majority of the staff has embraced the idea of learner-centered, and believes they are doing the right things for their learners. Learner-centered is what is right, even though it is a heavy, heavy lift. Some educators have struggled with this change because the school district has to build its own system.  At times, there is stress because you have to build the system as you go and you don’t know what it will look like until you start doing it.  Also, there is always more work to do… revamp the curriculum, build in a learning management system, etc.  

Cory reflected on site visits to gain new ideas. While visiting and viewing these other learning environments, the educators could see what is possible. He knows Northern Cass’ learners are as capable as all other learners. He realized that the district has not given ownership to the learners. He realizes they have to do a better job of teaching the skills to the learners. While they have learned significantly from other districts such as Lindsay Unified and Harrisburg, Northern Cass has had to design its own original system.  Everyone’s context is different.  

Agency is at the core of this work. What does it look like in Northern Cass? How have the adults embraced the agency? Cory shared the teachers need to give up their control and know that it is going “to be ok.”  Controls such as tests, retests, etc. can be given up, and it will still be ok. Teachers are starting to let go some of those controls.

How have you as a superintendent reshaped the control? Cory has full trust that the people in the district will do what is right for their learners. He knows his staff truly care about the learners. The educators want their learners to have their best day every day. He trusts that teachers will work at a pace that works best for them. When teachers are not doing what it is needed, they may need more resources or time. Additionally, he has had to rethink his role in professional learning, reflecting on the best way to involve his own voice. Using teacher leaders for direct instruction on programs/initiatives and allowing time for professional conversation is often more important than leading the professional development.

Leaders need to be empathetic. We need to honor the work that our teachers do, and celebrate our successes. Leaders also need to focus on their why. What is your why and how does it drive your work every day and in every conversation? The why needs to become more than the a mission or vision.

Leaders need to find a medium area to let their runners run, and ensure every one makes an effort.

Leaders also need to be willing to fail. If you are going to try to do this work, you have to be willing to take the risks to do what is right for kids.  Don’t make excuses for doing what is right for kids.  People who are struggling in this system are people who don’t live in this system.

What advice would you give?  Stop waiting for things to be perfect before you start. Be willing to take small steps instead of waiting. Leaders also need to find a way to give up the excuse of not being able to afford it. Provide opportunities for teachers to see other people doing the work. When teachers believe it, they will do it. Let your runners go, and figure out what you need to do to support everybody else. The change permeates the whole system – teachers, leaders, clerical support, and parents.

To flip the system, we need to create agency throughout the entire system. Sometimes we may feel personal frustration, and we have to slow down and be empathetic. Trust and empathy are critical throughout the change process.  When we feel stress, it is important to have the conversation, be vulnerable and empathetic, and seek solutions.

Connections to our Practice

  • We have worked to build our Profile of a Graduate and learning beliefs.
  • We have provided two years to build a shared understanding – with runners and teachers who need more time.
  • We have developed a school-within-a-school model in our middle school.

Questions Based on Our Practice

  • Does everyone understand our why statement?
  • How do we surface parent concerns?
  • How do we create action groups which include diverse stakeholders including learners?
  • Do our adults have agency?
  • Are our adults able and willing to give up control?
  • How can we better understand how others feel?

Next Steps for Us

  • Talk with leadership team about venues for feedback. How can we truly partner with parents?
  • How can we organize some more site visits?

Episode 044: Northern Cass School District (ND) Interview with Dr. Cory Steiner

In this episode we are speaking with Dr. Cory Steiner, superintendent in the Northern Cass School District in North Dakota. We learned about the audacious goals and vision, driven by their Profile of a Graduate, that are focused on creating a learner-centered school district. Northern Cass School District is a public school district located in Hunter, ND. It has 635 learners in grades PK-12 with a student-teacher ratio of 15 to 1. As a result of recent legislation in the state of North Dakota, and thoughtful strategic planning, the entire Northern Cass School District will move to a competency-based education model by 2020. 

As a result of our conversation, here are two questions we are thinking about.

  1. What inspires you about the Northern Cass vision for 2020?
  2. What might be if your organization placed greater focus on agency and empathy, up and down the system?


Bonus Episode 08 – Advocacy for Learner-Centered Education – Interview with Joe Cirasuolo

In this  Bonus Episode, we are speaking with Joe Cirasuolo, former Executive Director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) about learner-centered education and the role of states.

In this episode, we talked about the following:

  1. Let’s start the conversation with a personal story about how you got connected to CAPSS and the work of developing these visionary resources for Connecticut.
  2. Let’s talk first about the white paper – A Look to the Future: Personalized Learning in Connecticut, in which you have four defined parts – creating the urgency for change, defining personalized learning, examining personalized learning elements, and identifying policies that hinder personalization.  We were fascinated by the policy barriers and suggestions. Can you share some of the ideas in that section with our listeners?
  3. In NextEd: Next Steps: A Vision and a Plan for Transforming Connecticut’s Education System, problems with Connecticut’s education are highlighted and  core recommendations for change are made. Share a few high-impact students-centered approaches which can be leveraged to transform education.
  4. For leaders who want to dig a little deeper into the core recommendations, they can review the Summary of Proposals white paper. Talk to us about the meaning behind this white paper.


Learner-centered leaders place the agency in the hands of the learner and transform their learning environments

In Episode 43, we learned about an innovative learning environment – North Star Teens in Hadley, MA. with Kenneth Danford and a 15 year old learner – Nolan Saito.

Key Competency

Learner-centered leaders place the agency in the hands of the learner and transform their learning environments.


Norh Star is not a school – instead it is a learning environment. Most teens do choose to go onto college after attending North Star.

Adults offer classes and students decide whether or not to attend. There is significant 1:1 time, and opportunities are provided for teens to control how they spend their time, while some classes may look like a typical school in which an adult is teaching in the front of the room. In addition to participating in North Star, many of the teens are homeschooled.  

Nolan reflected that a major difference between North Star and school is that students set their own pace. He can study what really interests him at the pace he needs to go in order to absorb what he needs to absorb. Nolan participates in tutorials to cover math, learn Spanish and cover science. He does school work online with Khan Academy and reads books to learn.  

For many of the North Star teens, their learning is fluid, and there is not a clear line between what counts for North Star and what counts for homeschool. Students under 16 are homeschooled.  The structure allows for pursuit of motivation and passion and complying with state requirements.

North Star has about 60 learners and serves local teens in western Massachusetts. There are other sites – Princeton, upstate NewYork, Leesberg VA, etc. – serving local teens through the Liberated Learners Network.

How does North Star represent a learner-centered environment? North Star was born out of shifting tables from requiring students to complete specific learning experiences to inviting students to participate in learning activities. Ken and his colleague wanted to get rid of the assignments which were created by the teachers and required of learners. Instead, they wanted to put the control in the hands of the learner.

North Star supports learners with all of their passions. For example, Nolan is a dancer who practices 3 hours a day. He has always gotten up early to practice violin before school. Attending a traditional school makes it difficult to pursue these passions.

Community and people who volunteer to teach at North Star are diverse. Nolan participates in a class on Tuesdays called Essential Shelter. It focuses on architectural history. He participates in a Monday class – Guitar, Spanish, making boats. Other classes include math, making bread, making lunch, and how to listen to classical music. North Star also has a band, a theater group, and even debate class. Nolan reflects that students can think about a class, and it will appear. Students participate in the classes only if they are interested. 

What are some leadership competencies which are needed to lead in this type of a learning environment? Ken first identifies the leader needs to treat the small program like a business. Funding, keeping the doors open, is a challenge.  This is true for other small non-profits. Leaders need to have a team ready to tackle the challenges of starting this small business. Don’t underestimate the seriousness and need of a team to start a small business.

Ken shares you have to be willing to take “no” for answer. You might create a class and students have no interest in participating. You have to be able to accept the “no, thank you!” If that is going to frustrate you, then this isn’t for you.

When Ken can suspend his judgement and agenda, the good stuff – respecting kids, watching them blossom and challenge themselves, make friends, etc happens! Ken’s job is to make sure North Star is a safe place for the learners. He is not in charge of making sure Nolan learns fractions or the periodic table.

No one gets turned away for financial reasons. Many families get a fee reduction if needed.  Ken then works with the team to raise that money through special events and fundraisers.

The biggest piece of advice Nolan offers to other learners or educators is to not be afraid of what you don’t know. Nolan has a cousin who was considering homeschooling, but he had reasons why this wouldn’t work for him. For example, he thought he wouldn’t be able to go to college. Nolan argues homeschooled learners can go to college. Fear of the unknown can hold people back from leaving school and broadening their mindset in a different learning environment. Short answer – Don’t be afraid!

Ken shared you need to trust yourself, and everything counts. Ken doesn’t propose everyone leave traditional school. Instead, he hopes that everyone knows they could leave traditional school, and North Star would be there to support them. He offers he attended traditional school, his kids attended traditional school, and many North Star siblings attend traditional school. If school is working, great. If it isn’t working for you, there is another way.

What is next for Nolan? He anticipates taking the GED test, and eventually attending college, although he is not sure when he will go to college. He has goals and knows he wants to stay connected to the arts in the future.

Learner-centered leaders release agency, transform their schools, and create new options!

Connections to our Practice

  • We have an online academy – which does allow students flexibility in terms of time for completing course work. Students could participate in athletics in the morning, and complete their online work in the afternoon. In this case, we are still controlling the content.

Questions Based on Our Practice

  • How do we listen to our learners and create opportunities based on their interests?
  • How often do we take no for an answer?
  • How can students earn credit for outside learning?

Next Steps for Us

  • Engage in conversation with the learners to talk about their learning experiences.

Episode 043: North Star Teens Interview with Kenneth Danford and Nolan Saito

In this episode, we are learning about an innovative learning environment, North Star Teens located in Hadley, MA, with Kenneth Danford and a 15 year old learner, Nolan Saito.

Ken Danford is Executive Director at North Star.He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio and attended public schools. His positive experiences as a student led him to become an idealistic public school teacher, first in Prince George’s  County, MD, and then in Amherst, MA. Having earned his teaching degree at Brown University under the auspices of the Coalition of Essential Schools, he planned a career in education reform from inside public schools. He became disillusioned with what he felt was too tight of a system, and decided to leave teaching school in a way that would support any interested students to leave with him. Since 1996, North Star has welcomed all inquiring families. Now there are about a dozen centers modeled after North Star in the Liberated Learners Network.

Nolan Saito, 15 years old, is a member of North Star. Nolan was five years old when his oldest brother joined North Star, and he has been around the community since that time. After spending two years at North Star, Nolan decided to attend a local charter school for middle school. This year he has chosen to re-join North Star to focus on his primary interests of ballet and violin. In his spare time, Nolan follows the European soccer leagues and is an avid fan of Juventus.

The learners at North Star are individuals moving forward in unique directions at a pace right for them. North Star is not a school. It does not offer diplomas, credits, or grades. Rather, North Star offers an alternative to school where teens learn in the way that suits them best. Most North Star members are between the ages of 13 and 19. North Star considers younger members on a case-by-case basis, and has been supporting teens to find and pursue their passions since 1996. Most North Star teens choose to go on to college and do so successfully.

As a result of the conversation, here are a couple of questions we are asking:

    1. What learner-centered aspects of North Star might you apply in your school or district?
    2. What might be in your learning environment if you shifted the paradigm to give learners the greatest level of agency?


Learner-centered leaders are open and responsive to feedback

In this episode, we learned about Nautilus School with leader Milissa McClaire Gary and a young learner Andrew (AJ) from the Nautilus school located in Chicago.

Key Competency

Learner-centered leaders are open and responsive to feedback.


When asked what teaching and learning looks like in Nautilus School, Milissa shared there was significant collaboration to get their learning space ready for the learners. The curriculum, activities, and experiences are designed to meet what learners need academically and socially.

AJ described his day which begins with morning meeting and Daily 5. He participates in yoga twice a week, STEM challenges, geometry, enjoys recess and lunch in the dining room. and ends the day with wrap-up. AJ shared he has been learning about electric cars and will share what he has learned through an Animoto video at the school’s portfolio night.

Milissa was working with teacher teams in Chicago Public Schools, and worked to bring Nautilus to life. Through the work, observing classrooms and reviewing neuroscience research (including executive functions and mindfulness), Melissa determined the need to create a new school since current systems are not set up to support the most effective kind of learning and success. After planning with other community members, the school opened its doors in September 2018.

What is portfolio night?  Students developed two individual goals and learner-centered projects in the first couple of weeks of the trimester. The learners access their  neighborhood library and online classroom resources for their research. Portfolio Night is similar to parent conferences or report card pickup.

There are no letter grades at Nautilus, but there is a language that has been developed to indicate how the students are progressing towards their goals. Students then review their self-selected work in their portfolio. They present their videos also.

By the end of the year, the school hopes the students will be running their own conferences. To do this, Nautilus staff are working with learners on speaking and articulating their learning for parents.

The school is working to release agency in its learners. Students set goals for learning during morning meeting every day. Students use set processes to review their progress. Even on the parts of the day which are more free choice or play-based, learners determine what options work well in their space.  Learners complete self-checks and monitor how they are doing. Learners also use a free choice calendar, which was designed by the learners.

Nautilus is digging into open-walled experiences and shifting to a more learner-centered environment. They are currently thinking about assessment and how it will evolve. They are determining how they and the learners can articulate what they are learning.

Helping parents see school differently is important as Nautilus seeks to increase the number of students attending the school. Community members and parents are generating a buzz on social media. Word of mouth is spreading.

You cannot do this work by yourself; it has to be a collaborative effort. As a leader, Milissa does not hold all the responsibility of developing the school and generating all of the ideas. She uses her coaching background to engage the whole team in reflection while she learns alongside others. Leaders need to constantly have the eyes open for what lessons they are learning on a daily basis.

AJ reflects that Nautilus is a friendly time and place for kids to learn. He appreciates they have a class pet, a lemonade stand, yoga, and working with the teacher on Daily 5.  Some of the work is also different from his previous school. He notices there are fewer worksheets and more choice in his learning. AJ reflects on his learner-centered goal. He wants to learn more about electric cars, and has created an Animoto. AJ brainstormed about next goals, and pondered about learning more about his friends.

What advice do you have for learner-centered leaders? It is really important to partner with parents and  know kids deeply.

Connections to our Practice

  • We have done several surveys to seek input from learners, teachers, leaders, and parents.
  • We have elementary learners creating student-led conferences as an outcome of our Leader in Me process.
  • We struggle with deep parent engagement.

Questions Based on Our Practice

  • Do we know our learners deeply?
  • Are we open and responsive to feedback?
  • What is our attitude towards feedback? Do we seek it out, or do we only accept it when we receive it?

Next Steps for Us

  • Talk with leadership team about venues for feedback. How can we truly partner with parents?

Episode 042 – The Nautilus School Interview with Milissa McClaire Gary and AJ, a learner

In this episode, we are speaking with Milissa McClaire Gary from the Nautilus School located in Chicago. Joining Milissa is a young learner –  Andrew (we call him AJ) is almost 8 years old and is passionate about technology and cars. Nautilus opened in the Fall of 2018 with 3 learners. The Nautilus School in Chicago is an independent school empowering students to explore their world and drive their learning through a learner-centered education leveraged by their unique strengths, curiosity, and the community. Their reimagined one-room schoolhouse allows students of various ages and abilities to learn in a shared space.  Students work at their own pace, as valued members of our learning community.

As a result of the conversation, here are a couple of questions we are asking:

    1. What learner-centered aspects of the Nautilus School might you apply in your school or district?
    2. How might you know your learners and be open and responsive to their needs?