Episode 7: Dr. Jason Ottley
Jason is a natural-born leader who will prove to be essential to how the world views progressive education in the 21st century. He is the founder of the Bond Education Group and runs the American University Summer Institute on Education, Equity and Justice. Jason was raised in DC in the late 80’s/early 90’s, when DC was the murder capital of the world. Education was a great emphasis in his household, since in his community it was all about survival. His family moved 74 miles west to W. Virginia. When moved he had culture shock, as the town in W. Virginia was in a very rural environment full of whites. Education became an opportunity to make something of himself without the pressure of living up to “the creed of the streets”. Jason and his brothers embraced it slowly. They adapted to a different culture. After completing his B.A., Jason taught for a while. He was then the director of student support for a charter school, then a principal. He went back to get a Ph.D. (he studied in Atlanta in predominantly white institutions). He experienced microaggressions at each level during education. The community of Black + brown students supported him to get through. He also met many great white colleagues who were invested in his success.
In early 2020, he built a non-profit, the Bond Education Group. His passion lies in giving back to the community that raised him. It helped him understand buoyancy and resilience. The Bond Education Group serves students in underserved communities. A lot of them are K-12 students. He knows that many students of color don’t feel adequately prepared when entering college. They try to navigate the environment, and they’re coming from homogenous environments. They are dealing with mental health, finances, and academic rigor. Many of them end up dropping out after 1st semester. Bond Education Group focuses on soft skills, entrepreneurship. Shortly after it was formed, the Bond Education Group went from a team of 4-5 to team of 20.
“Some of my drive towards education is how to give back to the place that birthed me. I want to provide opportunities for growth, as there’s a lack of growth because there’s a lack of knowledge.”
“Many people ask me about how to get involved with racial justice, I say get involved with non-profits doing such work. You can pledge money and help with your time. There’s a network you have, you can bring your skills to the organization. Help make the quality of life better for all people”.
Episode 8: Hans Appel
Hans Appel is an educator, speaker, and writer deeply committed to inspiring the whole child. He’s the author of Award Winning Culture: Building School-Wide Intentionality and Action Through Character, Excellence, and Community. Additionally, he’s the Director of Culture for the Teach Better Team, Co-host of the Award Winning Culture podcast, and the Co-Creator of Award Winning Culture.
He’s worked as a counselor in the Richland School District for the past 19 years and at Enterprise Middle School since it opened. He’s passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness. In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy. Additionally, they were selected as a finalist in the 2019 PBIS Film Festival and took top prize in the Community, Parents, and Staff category.
In 2018, Hans launched his own blog about School Culture and rolled out a student-led leadership podcast called Award Winning Culture: Hosted by Wildcat Nation, which can be subscribed, listened or reviewed on iTunes Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, PodBean, and Libsyn.
Hans’ blogs have appeared on DisruptED TV magazine, CharacterStrong, Teach Better, AIMS Network, and PBIS Rewards. He’s written social-emotional lessons for CharacterStrong. Furthermore, he has been featured on numerous educational podcasts speaking his brand of school culture into existence.
Hans believes that education at its highest level is about inspiring others to discover and develop their JOY.
Episode talking points:
-Talk to me a little about what led you to write Award Winning Culture: “Education at the highest level is about living out your “why”- purpose. We need to take the time to craft an award-winning culture“.
-Tell me a story of a time you were in the trenches and how you crawled out: I was your typical ACEs kid, empathy, kindness, etc. shaped my life. Jennifer Appel, wife is 4th generation educator. He wanted to forge that path. Loves middle school culture, SEL was different than what was happening in other schools. Companies wanted to know what the secret to his schools’ success was. Character, excellence, community. They explored an idea that other schools needed it. Before working on the book, for 5 years they knew something different was happening @ Enterprise. He writes about creating a “whole child” team, all in mindset, being purposeful + intentional about teaching character ed. Writing process, write table of contents, line up publisher, write rest of the book. He didn’t go into a lot of detail with publishers. He wrote the whole book first. He had multiple offers, signed 3 book deals. First is school-wide lens. Jen is writing book specific to teacher. 3rd is wide angle perspective.
10 years ago, at his school there were hallway fights, kids out of control. The question became “How are you going to keep our kids safe?” He felt like he’d hit rock bottom. The school wasn’t safe. Explored how to reach kids on more holistic way. He hadn’t reached every student SEL/character development isn’t a 1 person job. Looked at things from a school-wide lens. Moved from reactive to proactive.
-Give us a unique perspective into your experience as a counselor and how that shaped your coaching practice in helping schools build better culture: Been in profession 19 years, people say “kids are kids”- they’ve changed in the past 20 years. They’re experiencing elevated anxiety + stress. We see the overwhelmed kids every day. SEL and character is “the plate that everything else rest”. Bring in students to have a voice in the plan.
-Tell me about how the use of social media tools has changed for the better or worse in your school setting: Feels like there’s a curve. We’ve come full circle. We see it as a positive. In his school- students run “Human Wildcats”, they go out and make videos, things that are character-related. He’s modeled it. Empowered students to be a part of that. They have intentionally taught digital citizenship in health classes. They allowed students to “take the reins”. Far less cyberbullying than in other school.
-How were you able to support your students during COVID in order to help them feel safe at home? Challenging for him. Felt like a different job. Constant connections helped. Really reinforced that relationships and school culture are so pivotal. They had baseline in place, easier to make connections live on. We often have rituals in school/class. Transferred that to remote environment. Student led podcast, they’d been used to zoom for a while.
Episode 9: Frank DeAngelis
Frank DeAngelis is the retired principal of Columbine High School in Littleton, CO, where he served as principal between 1996-2014. He is presently serving as a consultant for safety and emergency management for the Jeffco School District in Colorado and for Safe and Sound Schools. He has transformed the school safety conversation world-wide. Frank has addressed numerous professional and school audiences on the topic of recovery after a school-based tragedy. He has visited, consulted, and assisted school communities across the country following incidents of violence and tragedy, including Platte Canyon, Parkland, STEM School Highlands Ranch, Chardon, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook. I have personally heard him talk at a few Denver-area keynotes and witnessed how he has maintained close ties with students where in the Columbine shooting 21 years ago. Frank is truly an inspirational leader and guide to others in times of crisis.
How did you come out of the trenches following Columbine and take care of yourself while taking care of the community? He had been the principal at Columbine for 3 years when the tragedy occurred. After the 1998/99 school year ended, he decided to make the commitment to stay there at least until that year’s freshman class graduated in 2002. He stayed 13 years until the kindergarten class from 2002 graduated in 2014. We’re still talking about Columbine today- because it was beginning of the 24 hour news cycle and things were happening in “real time”. After Columbine, he knew he had to take care of everyone in his community. A Vietnam vet told him to take care of himself right away. There was no way he could have supported his community without mental health support. Seeking help doesn’t show we’re weak.
How has social media has heightened the issue of school shootings and preventions thereof, as opposed to when Columbine took place? Back in ’99, there wasn’t really social media, instead there was a 24/7 news cycle. Frank got attacked in the newspapers. He got to know the media fairy well. The district trusted him because they saw him in front of the cameras. Community knew him- he knew how to talk to them.
You mention “Faith, family, friends” a lot in your talks. How has that given you such tenacity in the work you do now? People need to hear that you feel like things are within your own control even now during COVID-19 when it’s out of our control. He was open, up front, as a leader and had a strong support system. Columbine wasn’t accustomed to violence in that community. A story he shares in the podcast is how, when the shooters were approaching, he got together with a group of girls in the gym and was saved with finding the right key on his ring of keys right away, like divine intervention. There was a plan with his life. A Bible verse that speaks a lot to him is Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”
Principals are wondering as we return in the fall, how do you meet the needs of both staff and students? What school principals will deal with are ensuring safety and security. We need to talk about Social Emotion Learning of staff members, not just about students. We’ll see staff members who are changed this August. We need to have things in place to be able to deal with the situation. People want to be told “what to do” often from their principal. He changed the scenario. As administrators, it’s difficult to meet the needs of everyone. tried to instill hope in people’s lives. Make sure you include students in conversations about school rules and policies.
What’s your perspective on having SRO’s at our secondary campuses? He often speaks at the national SRO conference. They’re like part of the staff in many schools. They’re not like other cops. He had positive experiences with those in Jeffco. Not all SRO’s are meant to be in schools.
“Never give up hope. I refuse to be helpless and hopeless. The best way to deal with difficulty is through unity and not division”.
You can reach Frank through his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org and his Twitter handle is @FrankDiane72 Watch this episode here: https://youtu.be/-XlnCCVEYIs
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