Story by Bob Romantic
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs and nearly 1,000 educators from Arizona and California gathered Thursday at GCU Arena to talk about improving the educational process with one thing in mind:
The empty chair at the front of the stage.
Jacobs, president and CEO of Curriculum21, places the chair front and center at every event in which she speaks, then asks a teacher for the name of one of her students. On Thursday, “Nathan” was offered up. So for the rest of the day, that chair belonged to Nathan.
“With everything we decide, we have to determine how it helps Nathan in the 21st century,” Jacobs said during her daylong presentation entitled Mapping to the Core: Integrating the Common Core Standards into Your Curriculum. “The tools that we use to create the curriculum have everything to do with what Nathan will do.
“There is a new kind of learner and he needs a new kind of teacher and new versions of school.”
Common core standards from the federal government have been implemented by 44 states, including Arizona, in an effort to raise the educational bar in this country and ensure that individual states are working under the same set of academic benchmarks.
“What it’s doing is raising the bar for teaching and learning,” said Tacy Ashby, vice president of strategic educational alliances at Grand Canyon University. “It’s allowing states and students to provide a commonality so that as students move from state to state there is a more level playing field. Most importantly, it’s raising the bar for students, preparing them for that next step in a career and college readiness so that they’ll be ready for a global world.”
Jacobs has been an educational consultant for thousands of schools nationally and internationally and is the author of seven books.
“We were very fortunate to get her here,” Ashby said. “She’s an expert in the common core standards and is able to provide teachers with the tools and expertise to be able to plan and prepare to properly instruct students to those standards.”
Curriculum mapping involves making sure that teachers across different subjects at the same grade level are on the same page, and that teachers in the same subject are working in unison with teachers from other grade levels, so that the elements of the curriculum -- as well as how and when that instruction is delivered – are uniform.
“It’s a deliberate commitment,” Geri Frederick, a teacher at Abraham Lincoln Traditional School in Phoenix, said after Thursday’s seminar. “We need to do everything we can to prepare that student and think about the future, not just our year and our class.”
Lois Whisiker-Williams, a retired administrator who now works as a consultant, said Thursday’s seminar was a learning opportunity for schools throughout the state.
“The common core standards are so new, this can only help teachers and administrators understand the standards and teach the standards,” Whisiker-Williams said. “It provides a blueprint for everybody but still allows teachers to have the art of teaching.”
Jacobs stressed that technology will be a key factor in addressing these standards. That was evident during the seminar, wherer teachers were asked to bring laptops and iPads in order to participate in the presentation.
“The beauty of it was to have an arena and have a place to have all of our teachers sitting there with laptops,” Ashby said. “We are in a new era with technology and digital literacies, media literacies and global literacies. She was teaching with this technology and was using the terminology teachers are going to need to be more relevant and upgrade their instruction with these technologies.”
In the end, that will only help Nathan.
“The empty chair is the focus,” said Tara Mayole, principal of Abraham Lincoln Traditional School. “If Nathan doesn’t know how to tell us what he’s learning, he’s not learning.”
Reach Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or [email protected].