Transforming Uncertainty to Success in the Classroom and Beyond

Panelist speaking at event

Education leaders from throughout the country recently provided strategies to help students succeed both in and beyond the classroom during the From Uncertainty to Success panel event, sponsored by the BARR Center.

During this opportunity, the leaders discussed how they overcame last year’s challenges and shared ideas from their own experiences to improve the well-being and success of students, teachers, and administrators in their district. The event was moderated by Education Consultant and Strategist and BARR Trainer David Osta and panelists included leaders from across the country:

  • Frank Camacho, Eisenhower High School Principal (CA)
  • Ed Mathews, South Fort Myers High School Principal (FL)
  • Dr. Dionne Olamiju, Spring Valley High School Assistant Principal & Future Leaders Academy Administrator (NY)
  • Dr. Mark Sander, Hennepin County Senior Clinical Psychologist (MN)
  • Dr. Emily Shaw, Hemet High School Principal (CA)

They explored four strategies specific to helping students and educators succeed in uncertain times including building student relationships and staff morale, designing student interventions that consider the whole child, systematically identifying and addressing student mental health needs, and implementing proven student engagement strategies that can help in this new year. 

Connection was revealed as a critical component to prioritize well-being in school communities. With work-life balance continuing to be an increased challenge with various educators in distance learning environments, Dr. Shaw emphasized how critical it is that educators are encouraged to prioritize self-care. 

“It’s giving teachers time to unplug and separate,” said Dr. Shaw. “Because now more than ever, I think that balance is critical.”

It was also discussed how as a leader, it is vital to be authentic and intentional about sharing their feelings honestly with other educators to cultivate the strongest relationships. Adjustments have been a critical component to help educators meet students where they are by providing them with increased opportunities to embrace student agency.

“We developed an equity team, a social justice team, for students to be able to voice their opinion with staff and be able to have those conversations with staff,” said Camacho. 

Considering the whole child was also revealed as a critical approach to mitigating learning loss at the leaders’ different schools throughout the country.

“I believe every child has a story and it is incumbent upon us as educators to find out what those stories are,” said Dr. Olamiju.

During the discussion, leaders talked about how data can be a critical piece to be able to understand students’ needs and how they can best be supported moving forward to reach their highest potential. The leaders discussed how the best way to understand where students are at is to develop strong relationships by engaging them and making connections whenever possible. 

“Relationships are just so important right now,” said Dr. Sander. 

There were several different strategies mentioned to develop relationships, regardless of the school’s learning model. Dr. Olamiju explained how they have been using I-Time’s, a 30-minute relationship-building lesson, to strengthen relationships between both educators and students at Spring Valley High School. They also talked about making sure to schedule and honor check-in times with students and educators to ensure they are being heard and feeling supported. 

“Make sure that they are the most important thing at that moment and that their success is the most important thing,” said Mathews. “Everyone has a story and we are responsible for what’s being written in that story.”

These leaders serve as a reminder of the passion, empathy and commitment educators are embracing to put students’ needs first so they can achieve success this coming year.