by Kate Ariga
I’ve heard our Chief of Staff Jamie Meade speak several times on the power of building hope for the future, but there was something extra special about the convocation at Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools earlier this week, where she was invited to speak to their entire staff.
Maybe it’s because it’s the first week of school, and I got to spend the morning in a café full of educators excited (and hopeful!) about the year ahead.
Maybe it’s because just last week, I became a first-time mom of a kindergartner, and I’m caught up in the magic of back to school.
But it might be because through my job, I’ve gotten to work with visionary leaders like Mechanicsburg Superintendent Danielle Prohaska, who inspires everyone she encounters because she leads with hope.
“This year is different,” began Superintendent Prohaska at the morning convocation. “Normally, we’d review the state report card and our district data. But those conversations can wait. Today is about building—and sharing—hope. Today, we’ll start the year around the hope we have to bring our Portrait of a Graduate to life for every student.”
“Today, we’ll start the year around the hope we have to bring our Portrait of a Graduate to life for every student.”
Last year, Mechanicsburg engaged the community in defining a collective vision that articulates their aspirations, dreams, and hopes for all students in the district. The Mechanicsburg Portrait of a Graduate serves as their North Star in creating learning experiences that prepare every student for the future.
To clarify, hope is more than just wishful thinking. During Jamie’s opening message, she shared not only her personal experiences with hope as a student, teacher, and administrator, but also the research behind the power of hope. “It’s our job to inspire hope, to get our students excited about their futures,” Jamie explained. “Hopeless students in your classroom can borrow hope from you, but only if you have it to spare.”
Following Jamie’s talk, Superintendent Prohaska and her team engaged the Mechanicsburg staff through a high-energy, thought-provoking morning that included team breakouts that stretched everyone’s creativity in building 3-dimensional definitions of hope. “We experienced powerful team time designing hopeful classrooms and schools,” said Superintendent Prohaska. “Our teams have the power to build hope for the future.”
And for me, after listening to Jamie, seeing the Mechanicsburg educators diving head first into the new school year, considering all of the Portrait of a Graduate work we’re doing for districts around the country, and thinking of my young son in his second week of kindergarten, I’m filled with hope.
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