Episode #51: Amy Valentine
Amy Valentine has been called a social rabble rouser, a turnaround strategist and a fighter of the status quo in K-12 education. She has served as a teacher, trainer, administrator, and executive director overseeing networks of schools. Amy is a staunch supporter of educators, a believer in the promise of new technologies, and remains above all an irrepressible optimist on system-level change. She leads @Future of School, a national education organization, dedicated to bringing all kids’ learning opportunities into the 21st century. Amy has appeared onstage at DLAC and iNACOL and in dozens of panels, sharing insights on digital learning, equity and access. She calls herself an “education evangelist”.
Kai Valentine: Student guest, son of Amy Valentine, 7th grade student at Aspen View Academy (AVA), a charter school in Douglas County, CO, Enjoys playing basketball, baseball and swimming.
Tell a time you were in the trenches and managed to crawl out: First yr teaching High School. Did M.A. in Spanish and started teaching at a very young age. She was passionate about the language. Needed to be mature. She was going through alternative licensure. She was assigned the most challenging kids that year. Her most favorite student was actually the most challenging. Behavior kids-pulled self out of the trenches with the student- helped him do well, believed in him. Was able to work with him. Was a memorable student. 8 years later connected with him as an adult. He’s now a lifelong connection. She didn’t judge him, but got into the trench with him. Sat next to him, what can we do? Has stayed in touch, and when his brother died 7 yrs later, she read over the eulogy.
What led you to start Future of School: Shifting into public charity space. It has been around 5 years, forecasted shifts in K12 education. Uses student’s experience of taking online/blended classes. Are partnering with digital resilience projects. Left the classroom because she wanted to have an impact on high quality instruction. She helps unleash the power of tech. Took a series of jobs for educational service providers. Future of School was called “Foundation for blended and online learning”’ first. Wasn’t designed to do advocacy first. She created a cohort with school leaders where they share stories of collaboration. Before tech is effective, leaders + staff have to be open to using it. Need to be flexible now with shifting time, especially during the pandemic. Also, Future of School gives grants to innovative teachers (research and teacher grants), resiliency-based projects. Will reopen the grant program this spring. It serves as a conduit where people can go to learn & share as we consider the future of school as we learn and grow. The districts need to have a blended learning plan in place to be able to access the grants.
Are you currently providing PD for districts? She put her ear to the ground in summer to find out what educators need. Will have Future of School podcast series, 2 episodes/month that started in Nov, and have run through until now *this episode was published 2/14/21*. (Hers is a real time recording). Format is both them talking, it has educators, parents, students interviewing teachers. 10-19m episodes. All centered on theme about what is the future of teaching. Also interviews students. Will have webinars as well. Putting them in driver’s seat. Does monthly webinars. Trying to get bearings about what they went to do going forward. She has consultants, they are social media, graphic design, high school experiential learning specialist. PR firm has an educational background.
Tell me about your work with families and guiding them through home learning environments: She’s really passionate about it. These are all free on website to thought leaders, legislatures. They’re hoping to hire a parent liaison. She’s got a son (Kai) who was diagnosed with dysgraphia. She explained what the diagnosis entails, it is to reading what dyslexia is to writing. To a teacher, it looks like kid’s cognitive processing is high, but cognitive load is low.
Tell me about your experience and writing of this article: “How I learned not to be ‘that’ mom” She took her son to a neuropsychologist and he was diagnosed with dysgraphia. She wrote the article in April ’17, she wrote about his 2nd grade year and teachers working with him. He was denied recess time to work on his 504 accommodations. Amy worked with district leadership, teachers, brought in his neuropsychologist to educate the teachers in order to keep him at the school he had friends/community. Amy being committed to working with the school and stayed on top of it. I pointed out this quote: “It is a parent’s responsibility to be involved, to embrace the struggle, and to demonstrate how collaboration and cooperation can yield much, much more than anger, blame, or avoidance ever will.”- please explain how you came to this conclusion? What needs to change is what she could control, that teachers deliver the fundamentals of his 504. She wanted his teachers to have grace & understand. You get a lot farther with sugar than with vinegar. Interview with Amy’s son, Kai:
How have things been for you throughout your school journey? Did it take a while for you to get diagnosed with dysgraphia? Throughout K+1st grade he struggled a lot with writing. He couldn’t read much until 2nd grade.
What is your favorite subject and least favorite subject & why? Science because it’s hands-on and a better learning experience for kids with dysgraphia, least favorite math or writing. He doesn’t qualify for SPED but does have 504, school doesn’t get the funding for support.
How has being remote & transition back to the school affected you? He wasn’t used to being in the building between March-August. Going online at the beginning was struggle but the last month he got used to it. It was not a huge transition going back into thee building in the fall.
What do you have to do to work harder not using the software? He felt like he stood out, declined the accommodation, he felt like the software was a bit harder to use. Will talk about compensatory strategies. Became an advocate for dysgraphia. It’s created an awareness. She knew nothing in formal trainings about dysgraphia. He is a textbook case.
Tell me about your most impactful teacher & why. Mrs. Winter because she was tough on him. First she called him lazy. Was 2nd & 4th grade teacher. In 2nd she was tough on him but in 4th grade he realized he she was pushing him to do his best.
Key quotes: Kai– “Never give up. It’s a practicing thing. When you’re diagnosed with dysgraphia it’s not necessarily forever.” Amy: “Every challenge and obstacle has a silver lining, learning is at the core of the human spirit, together we can accomplish so much”.
Find Amy and Future of School online on Twitter: @amyvalentine555 @futureof_school
FB: Future of School Stories