Solution Tree

Episode 10 – A Conversation with Shannon Ritz: From Pom-Poms to PD

Categories: Authors, Solution Tree

Our Vice President of Professional Development Shannon Ritz has been around the block a time or two. With 20 years of experience at Solution Tree, her tenure rivals that of CEO Jeff Jones. As one of the six original employees, Shannon has ridden the ups and downs, seen the company evolve, and has personally grown our PD from the ground up.

Read on to discover her story and a little bit about professional development at the Tree! Read more

Thoughtful Engagement Leads to Essential Empowerment

Categories: Authors, Instruction, Pandemic Response and Educational Practices, Solution Tree, Student Engagement

As we reflect on the trials faced during this COVID-19 state of being, we long for a chance to navigate away from struggles and toward new beginnings. During this new phase of learning designed by the pandemic, I find myself in the role of guest teacher in order to keep the education of students continuing when symptoms or close contact removes the regular teacher for a brief period. I must admit that I absolutely love being back in a classroom setting and interacting with students. Having an opportunity to provide instruction on a variety of topics fills me with both excitement and anxiety. As a principal the stakes are certainly high; you make sure to meet the same expectations you have set for your staff when you take the reins, and one of the key pieces is student engagement. Engagement is paramount while we focus on bridging learning gaps caused by the recent upheaval.

All parties grapple with building connections and maintaining engagement during this socially isolated time. The struggle is real. It is real for the teaching staff, students, support staff, administration, parents, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and the list goes on. We have all been searching for an answer on how to engage safely with each other, on the level we desire and know to be essential for growth in an education setting. Critical are the relationships built during the course of a school year. The personal bonds that teachers have with their students reinforce basic needs of belonging, which is the antithesis of what many of us are currently feeling. Social isolation, specifically in a school setting, has created a disconnect. The pandemic has often left us with somewhat superficial attachments rather than the deeper camaraderie facilitated through daily face-to-face sessions. Targeted work to show compassion and caring through our extended or virtual classrooms has been a goal for educators of all disciplines. Integrating social-emotional learning strategies has provided help in this work of regaining and maintaining connections as we shift our focus from engagement to empowerment. Read more

Episode 9 – A Conversation with Cassandra Erkens: Happy Accidents and Assessments

Categories: Solution Tree

From facilitating workshops to finding innovative solutions, Cassandra Erkens embodies a true teaching professional. As a founding member and leader of the Solution Tree Assessment Center, Cassie is all about reinventing the assessment wheel. But, did you know that she also has three kids, owns a collection of traveling treasures, and even shoots the occasional potato gun? 

Read on to discover her story and some fun facts about Cassandra Erkens! Read more

Searching For My “Awe Family” Response!

Categories: Instruction, Leadership, Pandemic Response and Educational Practices, Solution Tree

Image of heart with blog title

I sense a paradox of competing emotions on the horizon.

On one hand I find joy in the capacity of our positive, generous, and courageous human response to the relentless stress, strain, and change we have faced each day for almost a year now. On the other hand, I feel queasy and uneasy as we close in on the anniversary of the most intense, unexpected and unwelcome change to our personal and professional lives as educators. March 2020 seems so long ago, and yet it sticks so close to, and lives inside of, our very being as teachers.

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Episode 8 – A Conversation with Dr. Robert J. Marzano: Our Rockstar of Research

Categories: Solution Tree

While you may know Dr. Robert Marzano for his contributions to educational research, there’s so much more than meets the eye. Sure, he has more than 50 years of experience, 50 books published, and over 200 articles written, but did you know he was in a movie with Elvis, joined a monastery, and has two black belts?

Well-versed and well-read, there’s no one with a better grasp on today’s educational climate than Dr. Marzano. Here’s a glimpse into his life-long career in the field and how he got there:

Moving Around and Monastery Life

Growing up, Marzano was a Navy brat, switching schools at least seven times through his elementary and middle school years. Marzano also had a bad stutter. Neither of which favored his academic success. Looking back, he believes it was one influential elementary teacher who really turned things around, giving him the confidence to no longer be held back by his speech disorder.

Marzano attended high school in Seattle (yes, there was only one). During his teen years, Marzano was a jock, playing basketball, football, and baseball. Although if you ask him, he’d say basketball was by far his favorite. 

After high school, Marzano’s path took an interesting turn. He joined a monastery in New York. Although this monastery was a teaching order which required no vow of silence, Marzano did spend four years fairly cut off from the world. While there, he earned his undergraduate degree from Iona College. He even had college classes with singer Don McClean!

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