My journey with Renaissance Education didn’t begin with a burning desire to be an educator that changes lives. In fact, after about a decade in education, I had found that I just wasn’t passionate about teaching. I was in it to coach baseball. That was my priority – I showed up in the classroom so that I could spend time on the field.
Coaching baseball led me on a path to becoming an athletic director, a role that interacted with my school’s Jostens rep. Little did I know when he invited me to the Jostens Renaissance National Conference that it would change my life.
A Change in Perspective
Initially, I only agreed to go to the conference because it happened to also be in the same location as my favorite vacation destination – Disney World in Orlando. I figured, why not attend this conference for a bit and then I can take the family to Space Mountain?
Yet, the minute I stepped foot in the conference, I was hooked. The energy was palpable. The students and educators in attendance blew my mind. They truly opened a whole new world, a way of teaching that I didn’t realize existed. Renaissance spun every notion I had about education on its head. I may have come for a vacation, but left with a love for teaching. I became passionate about impacting student lives in ways I would have never anticipated.
Soon after, I became a principal at Portland High School in Portland, TN and implemented Renaissance Education. My school was not thriving. School attendance rates were down, graduation rates were below the national average and our discipline rates – well, they kept us on our toes. My school needed to make some big changes. And that’s exactly what we did.
Within six years of the implementation of Renaissance Education, our school had totally turned around.
- School attendance rates increased to more than 95%—an all-time high in the 100+ year history of the school.
- Discipline referrals decreased by more than 80%.
- Graduation rates increased from 81.5% to 92.9%—another record for the school.
A Community Unlike Any Other
Through Renaissance Education, I found a community of passionate, energetic educators and student leaders. At this point in time, it’s all too easy to lose sight of your “why” as a teacher. The “why” is what drives each of us every day. That’s why this community is so important: it not only recognizes but harnesses the power we all have to improve the educational experiences of our students.
Kids can’t succeed if they’re not in school. Attendance rates matter, but they aren’t always easy to change. My friend, superintendent of Simpson County Schools in Kentucky, Tim Schlosser, found a solution in Renaissance Education.
“Franklin-Simpson High School was a persistently low-achieving school,” Schlosser said. “Two years after our first attendance at the Jostens Renaissance National Conference, we saw increased attendance, reduced discipline referrals, increased college and career readiness rate, increased graduation rates, and we were ranked among the top 5% of all schools in Kentucky.”
Franklin-Simpson found success through the Renaissance Formula, which includes relationships. For educators to be a beacon of hope for our students, we must reach our kids on a personal level. We must show that we care about them as individuals. A Renaissance school’s focus on students is tangible through how it looks, the achievements that are celebrated and in the way everyone treats each other in the common pursuit of growth and knowledge. When someone walks in a Jostens Renaissance school, it just feels different.
In a Renaissance school, everyone shares an understanding of the school values. But perhaps most importantly, you can tell that it’s a place where students and educators truly want to be, as evidenced by improved student attendance rates and academic performance. The power of Renaissance Education been proven time and again for the 40 years of its existence. Just ask Tiffanie Smith, an educator in the award-winning Newport News School System in Virginia.
“Jostens Renaissance has helped impact our school climate and culture by providing students and staffulty (staff and faculty) many ways to connect and build relationships with each other using the Jostens material in the toolkits provided,” she said. “Over the past years, the Harbor Series and Leadership Curriculum have been used in our homeroom classes. These tools continue to make a noticeable impact within our school.”
It is the success stories of districts like Newport News School System and schools like Franklin-Simpson, as well as my own first-hand experience, that makes me proud to be a part of Jostens Renaissance Education. I’m honored to work with an amazing network of educators and students to build culture, climate and achievement in schools.
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