School Reform Initiative Blog – Flipping PD – My Experience at the SRI Winter Meeting

By Anastacia Galloway Reed

When people think of professional development, typically the first thing that comes to mind is a room with someone at the front speaking information probably using some type visual aids.  And don’t forget the eager participants jotting down notes (or daydreaming if the content isn’t engaging).  What if professional development was different?  What if professional development mirrored more of John Dewey’s ideology of “learn by doing”?

Last fall I volunteered to serve as part of the planning committee for the School Reform Initiative’s Winter Meeting.  Then, I pushed my comfort zone even further when I was selected as a facilitator for one of the collaborative learning groups.  Taking on those two roles – supporting the planning of a large conference as well as facilitating the bread & butter of the conference – flipped the model of professional development for me.  Instead of being a participant at the conference, I found myself crafting the professional development experience of others.  Suddenly, I was in meetings with people I admire.  Educators who spent years developing the protocols I use daily, whose professional work inspires my practice.

At the heart of SRI’s annual conference is discussing problems of practice with a small group of educators, many of whom you may not know.  As part of my previous experience as a participant at Winter Meeting, I arrived having prepared my own problem of practice to share & brought with me an open-mind to contribute to my small group.  I had invested minimal time prior to the conference & left with great insights for my own practice.  But, taking on the role of co-facilitator involved a total immersion in research & collaboration with a total stranger who ended up becoming a dear friend.  We spent weeks reading & searching for the perfect articles around equity in our education system & spent considerable time discussing which protocols we should match to which article.  Don’t forget the hours spent debating this essential question:  How do you build trust within a group of strangers to talk about deep, and sometimes personal, issues like equity and who we are as educators in the skin we are in?   When I arrived at Winter Meeting this past year in Denver, I had invested time, energy, & emotion in crafting a transformational experience for our small group.  I arrived prepared to have deep and meaningful conversations with others, to push their practice, and to expand my thinking.  I was heavily invested in the conference, it’s success, and the experience of others.

Once I met Michael Phelps while spending hours waiting for a delayed flight.  He’s was a nice enough guy, and I didn’t feel the need to get his autograph or ask for a selfie.  But, when I returned home from Winter Meeting after spending time with Daniel Baron, being part of a meeting with Gene Thompson Grove, getting feedback on my facilitation from Beth Graham, Jonett Miniel, and Raquel Diaz, and breaking bread with numerous inspiring educators whose work spans decades, my husband claimed I was the weirdest star struck individual.  Sure, Michael Phelps is a pretty amazing athlete, but the people I interacted with at the conference are some of my heroes.  Educators dedicating their life to a system I too want to improve for the youth of our country.  Had I not pushed myself  professionally to volunteer as part of the planning committee and small group facilitators, I would not have had the opportunity to work closely with those people nor would I have had the confidence to seek their feedback.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that transformative experience I had at Winter Meeting.  At the conclusion of our small group’s session on Saturday morning, our participants shared out the deep and meaningful impact of our discussions.  Since Winter Meeting I’ve had the privilege of staying in touch with our small group participants & continuing our discussions around deeper learning & equity.  Knowing that my contribution to the conference from the planning committee to the facilitation team resulted in participants leaving feeling empowered and inspired to make change happen in their settings was an incredible high.  Not only did I receive feedback from educators I admire further developing my craft, I gained experience planning a national conference, developed long-lasting friendships with educators I admire, and left the conference with a deeper understanding of the issues facing our education system as related to equity because of the prep I had done to craft those conversations.  Although the bread & butter of the SRI Winter Meeting remained the same (deep conversations around problems of practice with a small group of strangers), I left with so much more than a few good ideas.

This piece written by Dewey strikes me as relevant both in my classroom as well as the spaces in which I am a learner – an eager educator seeking professional development.

“Why is it that, in spite of the fact that teaching by pouring in, learning by passive absorption, are universally condemned, that they are still so entrenched in practice? That education is not an affair of “telling” and being told, but an active constructive process, is a principle almost as generally violated in practice as conceded in theory. Is not this deplorable situation due to the fact that the doctrine is itself merely told? But its enactment in practice requires that the school environment be equipped with agencies for doing … to an extent rarely attained.”  – John Dewey

SRIs annual conference is a professional development experience like no other. I’ve had the opportunity to be both a participant and a facilitator and the experience is truly meaningful. If you are given a chance to be part of planning & facilitating a large conference – take it.  Push yourself to learn by doing & grow your professional practice.  Administrators and classroom teachers can all benefit from this experience.

Hope to see you in Atlanta for the 2017 Fall Meeting!

Anastacia Galloway Reed ( is a Professional Development Associate at Eagle Rock School and Professional Development. Click here to learn more about Eagle Rock’s Professional Development work.

SRI Blog – SRI Pre-Service Summer Retreat 2017

 by Anastacia Galloway Reed

Years ago at a breakfast meeting during a Winter Meeting, Jonett Miniel brought together some folks working with pre-service educators. On June 19 & 20, 2017 we hosted our second summer retreat at Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center.  Along with Eagle Rock staff Anastacia Reed, Michael Soguero and Dan Condon, SRI Affiliates Jonett Miniel, Ruth Whalen Crockett , Todd Sumner, Elizabeth Hearn, Aiden Downey, Ayodele Harrison, Pat Norman, and Susan Adams traveled to Estes Park, Colorado to collaborate with one another on how to better support pre-service teacher candidates in pre-service education using the principles and practices of SRI critical friendship.  We spent some of our two days applying the tools of Improvement Science to opportunities for improvement in our various teacher licensure programs.

Improvement Science is a methodology that uses inquiry cycles to solve a particular problem of practice.  Between now & Fall Meeting this Pre-Service group will be conducting “PDSA” cycles.  First, they’ve got an idea that they’re going to test & have planned action to take.  Then, they will do something & study the findings.  Afterwards they will act – either adopting, adapting or abandoning the idea as they continue additional cycles.

Pat, Jonett, and Susan chose to examine why too few teachers are choosing to collaborate in the face of challenge while the rest of the group dug into why too few participants in SRI critical friendship get to a place of feeling good about the support received.  To unpack those problem statements it’s important to uncover the root cause which we did through an interactive protocol called “Interrelationship Digraph”.  The group first listed 4 – 6 root causes & then forced themselves to say which cause caused the other one.  At the end of the process there is typically a root cause that is at the root of all the other effects.

Between now & Fall Meeting the two groups of folks will be engaging in frequent coaching calls with Eagle Rock as they engage in PDSA cycles running anywhere from a day to a week to a month in length.   One group is working towards developing greater agency and ownership among their interns while the other is focused on developing growth mindset among their candidates.   At Fall Meeting in Atlanta we’ll be convening again to further our work together as a Network Improvement Community, sharing with newcomers what we’ve been up to, and there has also been some talk about some relationship building amongst the group at a delicious Atlanta restaurant.

Estes Park Trail Gazette – Eagle Rock and Estes Park School District partner in Liberatory Design Thinking workshop

The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock and Estes Park Schools have created a partnership that allows Estes Park to benefit from the nationally-renowned work done by Eagle Rock.

Together, Estes Park School District R-3 and Eagle Rock used a process of Neighborhood Learning Conversations. These conversations helped the District discover what skills the Estes community wants its students to possess as a result of their education. As part of this initiative of Estes Thrives, facilitators heard from hundreds of people in the Estes community. The top results, which the school district is now calling their Global Outcomes (GOs), are Communication, Critical Thinking/Problem Solving, Creativity, Life Skills, Adaptability, Empathy and Wellness.

To help teachers meet these goals, Sarah Bertucci of Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center worked with Superintendent Sheldon Rosenkrance and the administration team to develop a Liberatory Design Thinking workshop. Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A design mindset is not problem-focused; it is solution focused and action oriented.

Liberatory Design uses self-reflection and empathy interviews to ensure that all students’ needs are being met. Sarah facilitated this workshop so teachers could design 21st Century, project-based learning units for implementation next school year. As a result, students will be making documentaries about current issues, exploring the ethics around cheating, building their own solar systems, and engaging in many other fascinating learning projects.

During the two-day workshop, teachers went through a process of helping each other create these innovative projects. A group of Eagle Rock students participated in part of the workshop to help stimulate ideas and give feedback to teachers from a student perspective. These students are taking the course, “Deeper Learning and Equity,” to learn about education issues and run a week-long summer institute for educators from around the country. Teachers reported that the Eagle Rock students were incredibly insightful and helpful, especially with emphasizing the value of student input and giving students a choice in their project work.

Eagle Rock students reported that the experience was a fascinating window into understanding how hard teachers work to create good learning experiences.

Sarah Bertucci, who works as part of Eagle Rock’s Professional Development Center team, said, “I work with schools across the country, and Estes Park teachers are exceptional in the way that they jump into learning experiences and care deeply about their students. I was inspired by the projects that teachers created and feel excited for my own children to get to have these learning experiences.”

Both Eagle Rock and Estes Park School District R-3 look forward to continuing this collaborative relationship to keep moving forward with meeting the needs of the students of Estes Park.

Getting Smart Podcast – High Quality Professional Development at Eagle Rock

By Emily Liebtag

High-quality learning is often a result of great teaching and student-centered learning environments. We know from John Hattie and his work in Visible Learning that a teacher is one of the most important factors when it comes to student outcomes. Michael Soguero, long-time educator and current Director of Professional Development at Eagle Rock, fully supports that great teaching is key.

Eagle Rock is a full-service not-for-profit educational reform organization that operates a year-round residential high school in Colorado. Eagle Rock also offers professional development on-site and around the country.

Michael Soguero.jpg

Soguero also argues that we need to keep investing in educator professional learning, regardless of what reports claim about the effects. He has seen, over years of working with teachers, the strong impact that high-quality learning can have on a school and on classrooms.

At the Eagle Rock Profession Development Center, educators have customized experiences that are catered towards their goals and aspirations; they are not one-size-fits-all. Staff at Eagle Rock value many types of learning, including project- and competency-based, but more so value what a school or leader is seeking to create or build for their students. They work with “what is already in the [school’s] kitchen” and assess existing structures and strengths before they go about even developing a strategy or plan. They are doing what we know is best for students – making connections, establishing relationships and getting to know people before they do anything else.

In this podcast, we hear more from Michael about his work and Eagle Rock’s strategy for leading high-quality learning experiences for teachers. For more on their professional development, visit their website directly.

Dreamer Diaries Fall 2016 – Program Staff Creates Plan to Improve Reading & Writing Performance

On September 24th, “I Have a Dream” program staff engaged in a day-long Improvement Science session with Dan Condon, Associate Director of Professional Development at Eagle Rock Professional Development Center. At the end of the day, the session had generated prototype projects to help our program staff in improving student reading and writing performance. The Eagle Rock Professional Development Center works with educators committed to making school a more engaging experience for our country’s youth.

The Times Leader – Film takes new look at education


CADIZ — Harrison Central Jr./Sr. High School held a screening of a groundbreaking film recently to shed light on new ways of thinking about education.

The film, titled “Most Likely To Succeed,” takes a hard look at the American education system and its ups and downs. The film was brought to the attention of Harrison County school officials by Anastacia Galloway. Galloway, a Weirton native, now works for the Eagle Rock School and Professional Development Center in Colorado. She first saw the film in Albuquerque and thought that the message the film provided would find a ready audience in the Ohio Valley.

“I saw it as my life from growing up around here,”said Galloway. “I think it really spoke to the parents around here.”

The film explores the concept that the American education system is woefully out of date for students in the modern world, and as a result students are being left unprepared for a future in a working environment. The narration points out that the last significant update to the education system was nearly 100 years ago, near the rise of the Industrial Revolution. The system of school being broken into different periods and subjects just isn’t relevant to modern students.

The movie takes a look at a school that is trying a different take on education, High Tech High in California. High Tech High is unusual in that it doesn’t have school periods; students just kind of flow from classroom to classroom throughout the day. Students there engage in “project based learning.” In PBL, students don’t study rigorously for a test; rather, they engage in long projects, such as a play or building a display, to prove that they have mastered the concept their instructors have been trying to impart to them over the semester, which are then displayed to the public. The theory behind this is that students will work that much harder to present a project that they are proud of than on a test they have no personal investment in. Instruction is also a bit different; teachers sign on for one year at a time and have complete freedom in what they teach, from the subject matter to how much they teach. The film stresses that while not everyone learns in the same way, many students respond better to hands-on experiences than constant memorization for standard tests.

When Galloway first saw the film, she was already speaking to Harrison School Principals Brent Ripley and Ken Parker, and told the two about the film and the message it sent. The two agreed that it was one that area students and parents would benefit from hearing, and arranged to have a screening of the movie in Cadiz.

“Its another tool to help increase activity and engagement,” said Ripley.

Ripley spoke about the new levy recently passed by the school district to build a new school building for the Harrison Hills Schools in the next few years. He said that the new facility will incorporate more project based learning, which is already starting to be integrated into the current curriculum.

This new way of learning is not without its own challenges or opposition. Many question how students will be able to get into a good college without being taught how to pass the ACT or SAT tests, while others or just concerned that students are breaking away from a tried — if flawed — system that has been in place for almost a century. Ripley acknowledges his concerns, adding that he was questioned by school officials about such matters himself, but he sees the potential of PBL as worth the risks.

“I was asked why a group of students was outside with their teacher. I told him, ‘They’re learning.’ And that’s what really matters,” Ripley said.

Big Picture Learning Blog – Finding your tribe

by Carol Myers, BPL School Design Coach

I believe that all of us have a tribe that we are called to, a group of people who share something that matters deeply. Last week, after having returned from a three day coaches retreat, I joined my brother for dinner at Opa’s–a small Greek Restaurant that has live jazz every Wednesday night. There were three folks holding down the sound with a keyboard, guitar/synthesizer and base. As people started coming up to them with handshakes, hugs, and smiles, the conversation and energy started to build.  Young people, babies and elders moving slowly across the skinny tile floor between coffee shop tables and the food counter found their places and began moving with the sounds of the band.  Kindred spirits and fellow musicians sat on the corner stools – up close and personal, waiting to join in. Within an hour, the energy grew even more, and other musicians came in for a few songs, each one bringing his or her own sound. A female vocalist with a French accent (who, from all physical appearances, seemed very out of place in this corner of the world) began combining the sounds and rhythms of the night through song, bringing everyone into this now moment of community.

I started the evening as an outsider, but it didn’t take long to feel like I was a part of this tribe of music lovers. I didn’t have to perform or meet any standards, or dress a certain way.  By showing up and connecting with the passion that was in this space, I was a welcome sister in this tribe. The love of music, connection and creation was in this space and everyone was a part of this moment in time. What a gift to be a part of this family, this tribe that came together at Opa’s.

While there were a few songs sung over dinner during our last night at the coaches retreat, the music of our time together was a shared focus. We were gathered for three days in the mountain town of Estes Park, Colorado, to explore what it means to be a coach for Big Picture Learning. We had a chance to examine our own questions and dilemmas and to practice strategies for supporting our colleagues in designing schools where learning is personal and communal; based on students’ interests; and grounded in real world learning experiences.  Coaches came from across the country—many new to this role and to each other.   It didn’t take long for everyone present to know that they had found their tribe.

Grounded in a shared commitment to students and to helping others, everyone present brought their questions, shared their doubts, showed their vulnerability and went after new understandings. On our last night, we shared dinner together where those new to the tribe were to be “initiated”.  They were asked to share something about who they were– be it a song, a poem, a story, a joke, dance moves, etc. Something personal—so that they would both contribute to and be known by the community. One by one, each new coach swallowed his or her nerves and began sharing about their lives and the people and experiences that mattered to them.  Time stood still, and we joined the rhythm of presence and vulnerability, of open heartedness and personal expression.

The next day we were different.  We had become the collective song of presence and creation. We could all breath easier, share more openly and feel a part of this transformational organization.

All of us deserve to be a part of a tribe—a group of people who share our passions and can support our personal and collective growth. Consider, Makers Spaces—which are growing across the country in public libraries, community spaces and even schools.  An underlying element of these spaces is the feeling of being a part of a welcoming resourceful and supportive community that encourages exploration and creation. Entrepreneurial businesses provide collaborative environments, rooftop gardens and picnic areas, indoor gaming areas, company teams, service groups and huddle spaces to foster community, belonging and creation.

Where are the spaces, the experiences, and the folks who hold down the beat, so that all of our young people can be a part of a tribe; to find their individual voice and connection within a larger community?  How do we help students take a step out, find their passions, and become vulnerable in sharing with their peers what matters to them?

Probably each of us remembers part of our own high school experience,  in which cliques of students were brought together through some common denominator—be it sports, band, school paper, family wealth, smoking, etc. The purpose of these cliques was to create a sense of belonging, but at the exclusion of others.  Lines were drawn through clothing, and “code” words were used to separate and reinforce who was in and who was out.  It was all we knew. I didn’t belong to any such group. I was a “bridger”–I enjoyed being with each group for a different reason. I didn’t really fit anywhere, and I didn’t feel ok about excluding anyone.  These groups served a purpose and helped students belong, but they were far from inclusive, welcoming or generative. And unlike tribes, they smothered uniqueness and held personal expression and the exploration of passions at bay.

At Big Picture Learning Schools, the focus is one student at a time—creating opportunities for students to follow their own interests and passions through individual learning plans, internships and real world projects.  Underneath this personalization is Advisory: a physical space and a group of 15-18 students and staff who learn together over a 2-4 year period, who challenge each other and make music.  Advisory is a structure that allows every student to be a part of a tribe, to be able to get in the groove of connection and creation and be vulnerable to be seen more fully. Students have the opportunity to both explore their passions through internships and other community learning experiences. They speak up at whole school Pick Me Ups—announcing opportunities for others to join in–to help with a project or create as a community. As students dive deep into their interests, they share their learning with other students in exhibitions. It doesn’t take long for new tribes to form.   But, unlike the cliques of our high school experience, these tribes are fluid.  Through the natural sharing of passions and projects, the collective passion grows and students thrive.

As our group paid our bill and talked with one of the musicians, the owner of Opa’s came over to thank us for being a part of the evening–a part of this community.  It was clear that we were genuinely welcomed to come again and be a part of creating another now moment.  It really felt good to be seen, to be invited in and to know that in some small way we had made a contribution.  We were now a part of this tribe–that sounds and rhythms had brought together.  What is it that we need to do differently in each of our schools to foster the creation of tribes?   What are the sounds and the rhythms that will help our students to:  step into connection; experience being seen; and discover and share their songs? What conditions and structures need to be present for students across different settings to be able to generate tribes within the institution of public education? All of us are called to be a part of a tribe. Helping our students find their tribes will help them to breath more easily and discover the passions that will drive their learning and support their lives.

Eagle Rock Continues Collaboration in Santa Fe

The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock will be supporting planning for the 2015 Youth Summit during the week of September 14, 2015.  Eagle Rock plays a key role in supporting and co-sponsoring the 2015 Youth Summit in Santa Fe. The summit is focused on improving youth engagement during the high school years. Eagle Rock gathers and trains youth in the Santa Fe area to help plan this summit likely to draw hundreds of young people. Sessions at the summits will generate recommendations and an action plan to support youth in and out of school. The summit is run on behalf of Santa Fe’s Children and Youth Commission and the youth recommendations will be a source for an upcoming position paper to be drafted by the Santa Fe mayor’s office.

Eagle Rock would like to meet you at CES Fall Forum

The Professional Development Center at Eagle Rock will continue education renewal work at the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum in San Francisco, CA from November 7 – 9, 2014 and has limited appointments available to discuss what we do and how we might work together. Interested educators can tweet at us @eaglerockschool to set up a meeting.

Eagle Rock, a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Honda Motor Company, is both a school for high school age students and a professional development center for adults, particularly educators. The school is a year-round, residential, and full-scholarship school that enrolls young people ages 15-17 from around the United States in an innovative learning program with national recognition.

The Professional Development Center works with educators from around the country who wish to study how to re-engage, retain and graduate students. The center provides consulting services at school sites and host educators who study and learn from Eagle Rock practices.

Education’s most energetic and innovative leaders from all backgrounds of the learning landscape including teachers, administrators, university professors, business and policy leaders converge each November. Participants from these “Uncommon Schools” will join us for our 30th conversation as we reflect on the work of the past and look forward to how the 10 Principles can inform our collective work in the age of the common core.

For more information please visit and check us out on Twitter@eaglerockschool and on Facebook at

For interview and photo opportunities, please use the contact information at the top of this page.


Join us at Eagle Rock for a School Reform Initiative Critical Friendship Seminar

The needs of our schools call for sharing our expertise and perspectives to reach each student and develop a collaborative community. Together, we can challenge assumptions and habits that prevent us from reaching all students, support robust practices, and explore assets and strengths we each bring to our work together and individually.

Through hands-on experiences and modeling, along with ample opportunity for practice and reflection, participants will leave with:

-Universal structures for establishing, participating in, and facilitating collaborative groups for multiple purposes and in a variety of contexts. (PLCs, CFGs, Communities of Practice)

-Skills and experience to facilitate and lead collaborative work and learning

-Knowledge of protocols that meet specific and varied purposes

-Plans for next steps in your work and colleagues to offer virtual support.

Join us to be inspired by colleagues and the beautiful setting of Estes Park in the Rocky Mountains.

• When: 9:00am-4:00 pm on October 17, 18, March 6, 7 and a fifth date to be announced.
• Where: Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center in Estes Park, CO
• Who: Administrators, Teachers, Coaches, School Leaders,
• Cost: $800, includes materials, meals and lodging at Eagle Rock School & Professional Development Center

Additional information and registration materials can be found here.