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Training for Vancouver school leaders propels digital education forward

Vancouver Public Schools has been recognized as a national District of Distinction for its efforts to empower school-level leaders. VPS was one of 54 school districts honored by District Administration magazine in July 2017 for successful school improvement initiatives that can be replicated by other educational organizations.

VPS’ award-winning training evolved from the district’s use one-to-one technology. Initial professional development was designed with classroom teachers in mind. As the weLearn 1:1 initiative spread districtwide, however, the lead team of instructional technology facilitators, or ITFs, wanted to tailor the training to support and challenge school-based administrators.

VPS’ Future Ready Administrators are principals representing elementary, middle and high schools. The small cohort has committed to two years of working in collaboration with their schools, one another, colleagues and the ITFs. In regular meetings, they explore resources, share research, discuss practices and complete challenges. The goal: develop a deep understanding of and connection to technology, using it to enhance teaching and learning and cultivate opportunities.

“This is beginning to lead to shifts in the digital culture and climate of our schools, which results in students having more agency, ownership and engagement in their learning,” said Zach Desjarlais, director of instructional technology.

“We cannot teach our kids everything they need to know, nor should we try. We must teach them to be flexible and adaptive,” said Skyview High School Principal Jim Gray, one of the participants.

The use of personalized learning devices is a priority identified through community input into the district’s strategic plan and funded by local voters through a 2013 levy.

Along with the other Districts of Distinction, VPS was featured in the magazine’s July 2017 issue and on its website, as well as in a newsletter distributed to a leadership-development group of superintendents.

This is the third time that Vancouver Public Schools has been named a District of Distinction. It also was recognized in November 2014 for its Family-Community Resource Centers and in November 2015 for Vancouver iTech Preparatory.