Innovation Grants: KLSD's Two-Year Journey Begins

On Tuesday, August 29, seventeen Katonah-Lewisboro teachers, along with staff developers and administrators, gathered to begin a two-year journey towards innovation in the classroom.

This is the school district leaning in to its Learning Commitment, the educational high bar set by teachers and administrators and supported by the Board of Education at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. It dedicates the district to creating learning experiences for all students that are engaging, relevant, and take place in an active learning environment.

“By supporting the Innovation Grants in the 2017-18 budget, the Board of Education demonstrated its commitment to ensuring that KLSD is a learning organization, striving always to improve how we support our students in their academic and emotional growth,” said Andrew Selesnick, Superintendent of Schools.

Teachers were invited to apply for this initiative in May 2017, with a deadline of June 7, by reflecting on innovation and the role of the Learning Commitment in their practice. The resulting “innovation team” represents every school level in the district and a broad range of disciplines—including occupational therapy, elementary library, math and sciences, the humanities, engineering and robotics, and world languages.

The breadth is one of the most exciting aspects of this initiative.

“We don’t have any other structure where teachers gather solely to discuss their teaching practice with a K-12 multi-disciplinary approach,” said Alice Cronin, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.

 “One of the exciting opportunities presented in this grant is the opportunity to work with a group completely outside of my immediate colleagues on an open-ended project of our own design,” wrote Laurie Griffin, occupational therapist, in her application.

Teachers didn’t need to have a fleshed-out idea in order to apply. “We were looking for a commitment to innovation, an openness to new ideas, an interest in feedback, an enthusiasm for learning alongside their colleagues, and a recognition of the importance of sharing their practice with others,” said Cronin.

In the coming year, participants will gather once a month after school, as well as meet individually with Candy Wilmot and Andrea Kantor, staff developers, to shape the ideas into new units of instruction. In year two, the educators will pilot and evaluate their methodologies and share the results with the entire Katonah-Lewisboro learning community.

The innovation grant’s first cohort began their journey by reading and discussing Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions, by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santan. The book shifts the makeup of the classroom to flip the questions to the students to help them better explore their world.

“Innovation Grants helps us support our teachers as learners and that is important modeling for our students,” said Selesnick.