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School Stories

A Schoolwide Culture of Learning: A Vision for Students and Teachers

Ji Han Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Nikki Spiers Associate Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Nanette Newman Associate Director of Programs
​​In school communities, each year provides an opportunity to begin with fresh eyes, renewed energy, and a reaffirmed commitment to working together for the common good of our learners. This commitment at Graland has led to a reimagining of curricular leadership. For our team, it is both an honor and a privilege to support the extraordinary Graland community as a part of their efforts in meeting the needs of each learner, be it student or adult. In this article, we would like to introduce a broad overview of the renewed curricular leadership, which provides a balance of big picture perspective and hands-on pragmatism.
Research from a joint task force from the University of Minnesota and Toronto reports, “effective educational leadership makes a difference in improving learning. Leadership achieves significant impact by setting a common direction that everyone understands, setting clear and high expectations and developing the tools and support to succeed.” The new Curriculum & Instruction Team (C&I Team) leadership will support the growth of our learning community by providing a systematic approach to curricular review and professional development. We will build on the progress so far and continue to define the scope and design of our curriculum to increase clarity and efficacy. Our team is committed to collaborating with leaders and faculty to focus on these aspects going forward. The C&I Team consists of the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Ji Han, Associate Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Nikki Spiers, and Associate Director of Programs, Nanette Newman. For more information about us please read our bios at graland.org/faculty. 

 Curriculum and instruction is a key pathway to being mission aligned and learner-focused. The Director of Curriculum & Instruction position will focus on providing a comprehensive and strategic lens to increase alignment and coherence within our curricular programs and practices. From a big picture perspective, curriculum development, strategic planning of professional development, enhancement of instructional supervision, and alignment of our learning programs to our curricular goals are key drivers that will guide our efforts. On a practical level, this involves a close look at systems and structures that support curriculum development, teaching practices, and professional development. Our work begins with celebrating areas of strength, seeking opportunities for growth, and identifying ways to enhance existing processes and procedures. A key part of our efforts this year will be partnering with teaching teams and divisional leaders in order to define and design curricular and professional development goals to promote student achievement and agency.  

 Every community member is on a journey of lifelong learning. Associate Director of Curriculum, Nikki Spiers, will continue with a focus on “putting theory into practice” with tools such as instructional coaching, professional development, and peer learning. Ms. Spiers will continue to collaborate with our dedicated faculty and staff to enhance teaching practices. Day to day, this means that Ms. Spiers will work closely with our professional team of teachers to facilitate conversations revolving around teaching practices that will support them in meeting their goals as well as those of their students.  

 Ensuring opportunities for experiential, project-based learning experiences continues to be a core value of the Graland mission. Associate Director of Programs, Nanette Newman, will focus on developing and coordinating the co-curricular programs which enhance learning objectives within the classroom. Planning opportunities for experiential learning, facilitating project-based learning, organizing trips, and supporting our service learning program are all aspects of this role. Mrs. Newman’s collaboration with teacher leaders provides a pathway for Graland students to demonstrate engagement, agency, and voice while applying what they have learned within authentic contexts. 

 The introduction of instructional coaching across divisions and departments signifies an investment in Graland’s greatest asset, our teachers. It benefits faculty by allowing us to be responsive to teacher needs, connect colleagues working toward similar goals, and link individual professional development to the school’s broader initiatives. Instructional coaching is an impactful mode of professional growth because it is ongoing and driven by teacher agency. Through planning, co-teaching or observation, the coaching process provides a continual feedback loop that promotes an innovative approach to teaching and learning. Teachers are encouraged to experiment, reflect and iterate in order to develop engaging, purposeful, and relevant learning experiences.

 The greatest beneficiaries of this restructuring are the students. The C&I Team will work with grade-level teams and departments to ensure continuity in the student experience and model a culture of learning and collaboration. Through our partnership with faculty, we can match teaching methodologies and student needs. Having an understanding of the K-8 scope and sequence allows the team to also support differentiation. Asking the question “What do our students need us to learn?” both at the classroom and the institutional levels shows Graland’s commitment to preparing our students for the world ahead.

 Helen Keller reminds us that “Alone we can do little, together we can do so much.” As members of the Graland C&I Team and community of lifelong learners, we are excited to work in partnership with our dedicated team of faculty and staff toward meeting our Graland Mission “to achieve intellectual excellence and build strong character.” We look forward to sharing updates about our learning and progress with you throughout the year. 
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Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.