June 8, 2016
When Poudre High School Principal Kathy Mackay signed up for CEI’s first School Retool, a one-of-a-kind leadership fellowship, she thought she would learn more about design thinking and project-based learning, but she walked away with much more.
“I found encouragement and momentum,” said Mackay. “It was a great way to surround myself with like-minded principals who were willing to take risks and try to make change. We created a support system to try something new whether it fails or succeeds.”
CEI is looking for a few more open-minded principals or assistant principals to join another exclusive opportunity to attend School Retool this fall.
“CEI is the only one in Colorado, and one of only seven states, to offer this kind of high-quality, customized professional learning experience,” said CEI’s Next Generation Learning senior manager Tara Jahn. School Retool helps school leaders redesign a school’s culture by using small, scrappy experiments called “hacks.” Leaders like Mackay connect with their peers to develop change management and leadership skills and get support from local and national school design experts. “School Retool showed me what entrepreneurs and small business people do to succeed. They try something, they learn from it, they move forward — it’s a great way to learn,” said Mackay. “We learned to have the courage to do something to make change.”
Mackay’s school “hack” invited her students to design their perfect high school. “Students ran a survey on iPads and I expected them to say they wanted longer lunch periods or longer passing periods,” said Mackay. “Instead, it was an eye-opener for my staff. Our kids care about what they are learning, but they want it to be something they are interested in or a career pathway they are already thinking about like engineering or welding.” Grounded in the principles of Deeper Learning and designed by Stanford’s d.school and IDEO, School Retool leverages design thinking to help educators ignite innovations in their schools. It helps educators deliver on Colorado’s vision for next generation learning – an approach that lets students connect with the larger world; learn about careers; work on solving social problems; and develop skills they need to be happy, healthy, and productive adults.
Mackay describes her School Retool experience as a different kind of professional development. “It challenges your thinking. The homework hacks are meaningful and impactful to help lead your school through change,” she said. “My teachers wanted to try new things to promote change, but were blocked by a fear of failure. This exercise helped to change their mindset, to get over the fear and build their willingness to try.”
Her teachers are taking it to the next level. “I shared the resources and books from the fellowship with my teachers and they are leading an entire summer book study about deeper learning and project-based learning,” she said.
CEI’s spring School Retool cohort represented 20 school leaders and 14 Colorado school districts, and impacted over 20,000 students.
Experience a new kind of professional development and apply now to join CEI’s fall School Retool fellowship that starts in September.