As the guest blogger for Texas EduChat, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle King, the Professional Learning Executive Director for Lewisville Independent School District (LISD). Our thirty minute conversation felt like five because we covered so many topics and Michelle’s knowledge, experience, and willingness to share were captivating.
Michelle grew up in Rochester, Minnesota. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Iowa and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with an education certification. Michelle began teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth grade mathematics in Birdville Independent School District in Texas. While earning a master’s degree in secondary education, Michelle worked as a sixth grade mathematics teacher at J. Erik Jonsson Community School. She then stepped into district leadership in 2001 as the Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator for the Denton Independent School District. In 2005, Michelle began her employment with Coppell Independent School District. She served as Mathematics Curriculum Director, the Dean of Instruction at Coppell High School, Strategic Plan Internal Facilitator, and the Director of Professional Learning in Coppell Independent School District until 2014. At the beginning of the 2014 school year, Michelle was offered the position of Professional Learning (PL) Executive Director in Lewisville Independent School District. She shared with me how excited she is to be working in this position with the administrators and educators of LISD. Finally, while Michelle has a long list of impressive professional memberships and contributions, I’d like to highlight her role in Learning Forward. Michelle was a board member, then the President of the organization’s Texas affiliate.
After discussing Michelle’s background and experience, we had a conversation about her goals. Michelle’s very first goal as the PL Executive Director is to make sure all of the district’s professional learning is aligned with Learning Forward’s set of standards (you can see the quick reference guide here). Just as the Common Core State Standards are designed to keep students on task and learning, Learning Forward’s Standards for Professional Learning are designed to do the same for teachers and administrators. Her second, and probably equally important goal was the idea of having a connected school district. Michelle described herself as a “connector” and explained that interdependent schools, classrooms, and educators are hugely beneficial. Something we discussed while talking about goals really struck a chord with me. Although LISD educates approximately 52,000 students, she takes special care to make sure she is reaching every teacher, and in turn, every classroom and child.
One of my favorite quotes came from our conversation about the importance of professional learning and being a connected educator. Michelle said, “Being connected is not just consuming, it’s contributing.” This is something I think every educator should strive to remember when learning and connecting. It’s easy to sit back and wait for others to contribute their ideas and resources but to be truly connected, an educator must also share his or her own ideas. This brings us to Michelle’s interesting concept of professional learning: something she calls “give one, get one.” Each participant can bring an idea to share, take someone else’s idea to use, or do both. When teachers are connected with a professional learning network and participating in effective professional learning, they can improve their skills, which Michelle says will help change their practices according to student need. When their practices are changed, students continue to improve. Michelle emphasized the reciprocal aspect of the learning process.
As a new graduate, I find it interesting to ask other teachers how they’ve seen education change throughout their careers. Michelle’s answers vary from being tangible, like the amount of technology, to intangible, like the curriculum. Michelle also talked about the accessibility all students have to education today. Specifically, more students have the opportunity to experience advanced courses and content, when they might not have in the past.
Naturally, after asking how education has changed throughout her career, I had to ask the all-important question: How would you like to see education change in the future? I found myself, unsurprisingly, agreeing wholeheartedly with everything Michelle said. If you’ve seen, and were inspired by, Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms, then you would also agree with Michelle’s dreams for the future of education. We had a wonderful conversation about students being able to engage in learning at the level for which they are prepared, not what their age suggests they are ready to learn.
Before our interview ended, I asked Michelle what was her favorite part of being the Professional Learning Executive Director. She had many reasons for loving her job, but the best part for Michelle is working with so many amazing teachers and administrators. She said that she loves to learn and she loves to help others learn, as well. She also reminded me that just because you are an educator, it does not mean you aren’t a learner. Michelle hopes that the staff in her district learns as much from her as she does from them.
I’d like to thank Michelle King for sharing her resources, inspiration, knowledge, and most importantly, her time. As a past student of Lewisville Independent School District, I am so happy the students, teachers, and administrators have the opportunity to grow and learn from such a dedicated and helpful leader. As Michelle shared with me during the interview, “We’re better together.”
Jaclyn Kuehl is a graduate student at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut. Her area of concentration is Educational Technology. Jaclyn graduated with a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education from Queens University of Charlotte in 2014. She is currently a substitute teacher while she completes her graduate degree. Jaclyn’s goal is to become a connected educator in Texas after she completes her graduate course work in the Summer of 2015.