TXEDUCHAT’s spotlight on educators continues with connected educator Matthew Arend.
As the Principal of Sigler Elementary School in Plano, Texas, Matthew is passionate about ensuring all students are meeting their potential and are prepared to be leaders in the 21st century.
Matthew graduated from Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska with a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and a coaching endorsement. Immediately after graduation, he accepted his first teaching job in Plano Independent School District (PISD) as a fifth grade teacher. Two years of teaching fifth grade at Centennial Elementary were followed by a return to school at the University of North Texas to pursue a Masters degree in Educational Administration. While completing his graduate work, Matthew transitioned to be a third grade teacher and team leader in order to further his leadership experience. Before completing his Masters, he accepted an offer to be an Assistant Principal in PISD. He served two schools during this time, Hunt Elementary and Hickey Elementary. After serving as an Assistant Principal in PISD for four years, he became the Principal at Sigler Elementary in 2010. Now, four years later, Matthew says he is proud to be working for and with “the best teachers, staff, and students.”
The Sigler Elementary mission statement, “Prepare students to excel in a diverse and changing world”, reflects the goals Matthew has set for himself and Sigler staff and their learners. He says that they often discuss the importance of “being a part of something larger than ourselves” and of helping students achieve social, emotional, and academic success within and beyond the walls of Sigler Elementary. Matthew also strives to create an environment where teachers and students feel empowered to take risks. This environment comes, in part, from the relationships he has built with teachers, students, staff, and families over the past four years. He told me “the successes we want for our families are unattainable without these relationships.”
Because Matthew and Sigler Elementary find relationships with students and families so important, they make them a priority at the beginning of the year and maintain them from then on. Matthew says, “emails and phone calls can only go so far, but being present in a student’s life outside of school can leave a lasting impression. Support one of your students at a baseball game or attend their club’s fundraiser. Make it a point to build trust and have mutual respect for every student and family.” He said that he believes this is key is creating a successful learning environment.
Along with supporting students outside of school, Matthew also related his belief that social media can go a long way in building and maintaining meaningful relationships. Sigler Elementary uses Facebook, Twitter, a “Parent Center” website, and Matthew has an educational blog. He stated that this makes it more convenient for parents to stay connected to the school and avoids information getting lost in backpacks or inboxes. In discussing some of Sigler’s favorite tools for communication, he included Facebook and Twitter as resources that allow educators to share pictures or celebrate students when parents cannot be present. Remind is also a tool that Sigler utilizes to send brief updates and school information, such as for events or closings. Lastly, the campus uses Smore newsletters for weekly highlights and announcements. All of these tools make it possible for parents to be involved in their student’s school community and allow Sigler Elementary to maintain these extremely important relationships.
Matthew went on to emphasize the importance of educators being connected, calling Twitter the “largest professional learning network in the world.” He said, “The biggest benefit of being a connected educator is the access you have to some of the greatest minds in education.” Matthew feels that educators no longer have to stay in their classroom “bubble”, but rather can grow and learn daily with other educators all over the world. Twitter has revolutionized the teaching profession in his opinion.
If you are already on Twitter, you might have seen Matthew tweeting and blogging using #NoOfficeDay. This is an effort that has administrators spend an entire day in a classroom, rather than their office and Matthew dedicates a #NoOfficeDay once each month. He rotates between each grade level, as well as special education and self contained classrooms, so the he is better able to connect with all Sigler learners. Matthew also blogs about each #NoOfficeDay (read about a recent day with first graders here). He shared that this is the most beneficial thing he can do as a leader, as it provides him with a valuable opportunity to connect with students and teachers.
At the end of our interview, I asked Matthew how he has seen education change throughout his career and how he would like to see it change in the future. As educators, we are often overwhelmed with everything going on. However, Matthew says, “that the good outweighs the bad.” He is confident that Sigler Elementary students are prepared to be citizens in a global way and that their teachers are educating the whole child. Matthew also recognizes that technology in the classroom has changed the way students learn. He ended by relating that his favorite part of being Sigler Elementary’s Principal is that he gets the opportunity to serve and impact the lives of children in Plano everyday. Matthew and Sigler Elementary School are changing lives!
—–This post was written by Jackie Kuehl