Lakota teachers are transforming classrooms with lessons from this summer

Teachers at Lakota West High School are applying lessons they learned during the summer about how to teach differently, and though it’s early in the school year, they say it’s working.

Adopting classroom techniques of “personalized learning” through instruction from the California-based Education Elements organization, many teachers at the Butler County high school – and elsewhere in the Lakota school system - are now teaching in ways unlike they have in past years.

The personalized learning approach is multi-faceted approach to teaching students in the best methods they learn in rather than the traditional, one size fits all technique of teachers standing before a class of students sitting at their desks, hearing daily lectures while all are expected to learn at the same pace.

Jenny Circello, a veteran math teacher at Lakota West, said the new approach has been striking. Her classroom now features a learning couch where students can partner up on projects.

“I’m no longer lecturing at all and I now spend my class periods talking to my students individually and determining what they know and using that information to determine where I need to get them to go,” Circello said.

“I usually start class with some sort of (group) activity and discussion for five to 10 minutes then they all move to their computers (school-supplied laptops) and then they work at their own pace,” she said.

Lakota last school year became the first in Southwest Ohio to give laptops to all students at both Lakota West and Lakota East high schools as well as all junior high students.

Compared to last school year’s traditional approach at this point in the school year, Circello said she is now seeing a nearly 100 percent passage rate on quizzes.

The personalized learning approach is a growing part of learning for students throughout the 16,500-student district, said Lakota Spokeswoman Betsy Fuller.

“Lakota tailors the instructional environment to address the individual needs, skills and interests of the whole child because education should not be a ‘one size fits all’ model. This is done while building a relationship with each student to develop a deep, personal connection that will maximize student ownership of learning,” said Fuller.

She said the new teaching technique is now part of Lakota teachers’ professional development training, which during summer break was provided by the Education Elements educational consulting organization.

Kelly Freiheit, associate partner with Education Elements, said Lakota officials hired the group “to work with their … district design teams of teachers and district leadership to help roll out their personalized learning initiative.”

“In the midst of implementation, the Lakota team recognized that in order to make innovative shifts at the classroom level, school and district leaders needed to change the way they work,” said Freiheit.

Keith Koehne, Lakota’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, said it’s an on-going process through this school year and beyond as “teachers are developing strategies and implementing new ways of teaching to keep students engaged in learning.”

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