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What Is the Next Step in a Retired Educator's Journey? Edjacent!

Hello, fellow educators and learners!

My name is Donna Spangler, and as I sit in my kitchen overlooking my garden, I feel honored to share my thoughts on the next step in my educational journey: becoming an Edjacent designer.

Thirty-five years in public education - Wow! It is hard to believe. There were days I never thought I would get to this point!

Some days in public education go by in a blink of an eye, and other days feel more like a year. The exciting and challenging thing in education is that almost every school year is different, as change is constant. For example, my garden changes almost daily.

As a former department coordinator for instructional coaches and a current virtual instructional coach, I have dedicated my career to supporting teachers and empowering students to achieve their highest potential. I continue to watch passionate educators take on one of our world's most challenging and essential jobs.

As educators, you are truly classroom warriors working with children; some are eager and happy to learn, while others deal with personal challenges, insecurities, or doubts, leaving indelible marks on them.

As I embark on the next part of my journey as an educational designer, Edjacent’s core values of authenticity, belonging, and growth resonate deeply with my own beliefs.

Embracing Authenticity

At Edjacent, authenticity is not just a buzzword but a guiding principle that shapes the entire educational design process. In my work with educators as an instructional coach, fostering authenticity is about creating a supportive and empowering environment where they can be genuine. By building trust, promoting self-awareness, and emphasizing growth, I help educators embrace their true identities and flourish in their professional journey. Two examples of articles I have written or coauthored about leveraging the power of teacher voices and teacher-driven problem-solving are “The Solution Is in the Room” (2017) and “Solution Summit Harnesses Teacher Knowledge and Expertise” (2023).

Cultivating Belonging

Belonging is a foundational pillar at Edjacent, which emphasizes that everyone should feel a sense of wellness and safety in the spaces we create. I have witnessed how a supportive and inclusive learning environment that acknowledges diverse backgrounds and experiences resonates with each learner personally. Examples of publications about my work in this area include “Micro Approach, Major Impact: With Microcredentials Teachers Can Tailor Learning to Their Specific Needs” (2019), “Microcredentials for Educators: A Powerful Professional Learning Option” (2023), and “3 Ways to Increase Student Ownership in Learning” (2023).

Nurturing Growth

Growth is not just about acquiring knowledge; it's a continuous improvement and development process. As an instructional coach, I have seen the impact of well-designed professional learning on teacher growth and student achievement. By blending my coaching background with instructional design principles, I aim to create learning materials that promote reflective teaching, active learning, and meaningful skill development. While there are many ways to do this, one way I accomplished this was through the use of classroom video, as described in “Video Empowers Self-Reflection, Personalization in Professional Development” (2021) and “Video for Professional Development Accelerates Teacher Growth, Student Learning” (2023). The use of video is also recommended in “Features That Spell Success for a Teacher Coaching Cycle” (2023).

It is important to remember that the gifts and expertise of educators and students are like flowers in a garden. Everyone possesses two types of gifts. Our innate talents and abilities come naturally to us, shining brightly without much effort and are fully formed like rare flowers that catch everyone's eye from the moment they bloom.

Other gifts are like precious seeds, awaiting the nurturing touch of hard work, dedication, and perseverance to blossom into something extraordinary. These gifts are not prepackaged or fully formed. Some of the most beautiful flowers in the garden start as humble seeds buried deep in the earth. They may not catch your eye at first, but they hold immense potential and promise beneath the surface.

Some of our gifts might not be apparent right now, and our journeys may take twists and turns. Just because you can’t see your gift right now doesn't mean you won't ever have one or be able to grow in an area. Embrace the process; embrace the journey. You can nurture your gifts and your students' gifts to discover the potential that lies dormant.

Remember, it's not a race, nor is it a competition. It's a journey and every flower in this garden blooms at its own pace. Comparing our growth to the growth of others is like expecting a rose to bloom like a sunflower or a lily to grow like a tulip - each is unique. In the garden of education, there is space for every flower to bloom and for every gift to flourish. Trust in your abilities, tend to your dreams, and believe in the beauty of your growth.

Thank you for joining me on this reflection. I am eager to contribute to the educational landscape as an Edjacent designer. I look forward to learning from and with you. There is no limit to what dedicated educators can achieve together!


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