My Turn, Jessica Bolen: Schools challenge students and teachers

Published 9:32 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2018

“Overcome the notion that you must be regular. It robs you of the chance to be extraordinary.”

I read this quote as I scrolled through Facebook the other day, and it immediately spoke to my heart. As I look back on the past four years, Rowan-Salisbury Schools has worked tirelessly to achieve the extraordinary.

In January 2014, I came to RSS in search of opportunities for professional growth. Before that, I spent 12 years in a neighboring district that offered very few opportunities for growth, innovation or leadership.

RSS is leading the charge in creating an environment where both students and educators are presented with opportunities to learn and grow together — opportunities that are not offered in neighboring districts or through other local educational choices.

RSS encourages teachers to think outside of the box and take risks. They are offered a multitude of opportunities to learn new concepts and grow professionally. Professional development is meaningful, includes choice and can be offered online or in-house.

Some examples of professional development opportunities unique to the district include an annual Back to School Conference, RSS EdCamp, RSS Blended Learning Symposium, chances to attend national conferences (ISTE), attending sessions with national speakers and go-and-see visits designed for teachers and administrators to learn from other schools/districts/businesses.

With this level of professional support, teachers feel comfortable taking instructional risks and creating learning experiences that inspire students and increase achievement.

The administrative leadership of RSS understands the importance of investing in their people. Educators are encouraged to pursue leadership opportunities.

For a few years now, the district has offered the “Grow your Own Leaders” cohort to vice principals who are interested in becoming principals. This year, RSS launched the “Grow Your Own Coaches” cohort for teachers interested in becoming instructional reading design coaches. RSS works closely with Catawba and UNCC to offer teachers scholarships to pursue higher degrees or to obtain a license in a different area.

The Rowan-Salisbury Schools system is an institution that encourages teachers and students to think differently. RSS has been recognized with several national honors, and positive word of mouth is spreading rapidly. Other districts from across the state are choosing to visit RSS to learn from us.

If you haven’t already, I would like to encourage you to visit a Rowan-Salisbury school, and see firsthand what sets us apart from the rest.

RSS teachers believe in taking the time to get to know their students. They build meaningful relationships with them. They create safe learning environments, while also holding students to high expectations. Students are challenged but supported. Classrooms are places where concrete, small group instruction meets new age skills like coding and robotics. Students collaborate to create and problem solve. They have opportunities to showcase and present their work to the community.

The work that RSS administrators, teachers and students do everyday is not easy, but choosing to be extraordinary requires a great deal of effort. I am thankful to work with such a remarkable group of educators and students. I can say without hesitation that Rowan-Salisbury Schools absolutely offers students an Extraordinary Education Everyday.

Jessica Bolen is a reading design coach at Granite Quarry Elementary School.