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Southwest Life Health And the West is History Community Travel

Fulfilling our mission with educators as our guide

The Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative’s mission is to strengthen diverse communities by providing pathways in career readiness and higher education for students to build 21st century skills and economically viable futures.

Our team, along with stakeholders, worked for several months to craft a mission statement that supported the grand vision to lead our work. I am proud of our mission statement; it is our north star guiding us toward where we want to go with our organization, both now and in the future. Yet, what I consistently remind myself and my colleagues of is that the devil is in the details. Our day-to-day mission is to understand all of the components that need to be created, executed and, at times, strengthened to carry out the common agreements in our mission statement.

Jessica Morrison

One key detail that is essential to our preliminary success is the building of partnerships and community across the region. Specifically, our focus to engage teachers within school subjects that align directly to the career pathways we are implementing. For both the Environmental and Building Trades pathways, we have teachers engaging in conversations, sharing resources and providing a vision on how to successfully deliver opportunities for students to explore career and higher education pathways.

I have been in the world of education for over 20 years, and what I know to be true is that educators are usually the experts in the room on how to support students with igniting their dreams and guiding them toward their futures. However, at times, educators are not provided the space or opportunities to use their expertise because of the many other demands that are a part of their day-to-day profession. Through the Collaborative, we work with supporting groups of educators in our school districts, we provide the space, resources and time for teachers to showcase their expertise and guide our work toward fulfilling our mission. One example of this synergy is providing quarterly professional development sessions, which are hosted throughout each school district, for educators to share ideas, design student experiences and provide feedback to the Collaborative. This access to expertise across school districts is always a great way to build and share regional resources. This is even more true in rural school districts; where a science department in a small school may be a teacher of one who does not have the ability to engage with colleagues within their own department to drive best practices within their classroom.

On the net

To learn more about the Collaborative, visit www.swcoedcollaborative.org.

When educators are given the opportunity and space to dive deeply into their craft it is like watching a magic show unfold. Discussions about what challenges are arising in one teacher’s class are quickly met with ideas from a teacher in a school district two hours away, who found solutions to the same issue. Lesson plans for an upcoming science unit are discussed and placed in a shared drive for the whole group to access and refine. Test runs of projects for implementation in a carpentry class are carried out with teachers pairing up and running through the lesson and discussing how to refine for their students. I have witnessed all of these examples and many more every time we bring teachers together to support the building, refinement and execution of content for our pathways.

Sprinkle into these meetings the current and future use of mobile learning labs with cutting-edge equipment, and suddenly, teachers become like children opening presents on Christmas Day. Excitement builds around the possibility of multiple school districts collaborating on a curriculum that would allow them to bring their students together for expeditionary learning via a mobile outdoor classroom lab. Building Trades teachers gather around a new piece of technology and discuss how students could build items that they then could sell at farmers markets to combine financial literacy and carpentry skills. Ideas, innovation and collaboration start to naturally form among these groups of educators who are giving the space and time to be reminded why they decided to become an educator to begin with. Through providing the space and resources, these educators naturally build a community that supports each other, shares resources and creates future opportunities for students.

How we execute our mission of providing pathways for career readiness and post-secondary education is not by re-creating the wheel, it is identifying the people who are already engaged in the work and providing them the teacher network and resources they need to collaborate, build community and put into action the knowledge and skills they already possess. The Collaborative focuses on these details to empower the educators within our region so they can bring opportunities in a collaborative, community-focused manner to their rural students.

Jessica Morrison is executive director for the Southwest Colorado Education Collaborative.