Passion and Improvement

On Friday, October 23, 2015, Wescott and Willowbrook welcomed visiting author Pam Muñoz Ryan, who recently released her new book Echo. She shared her journey of becoming an author, highlighted how she spends her days as an author and reflected on inspirations for many of her books.


As she reviewed the six years she spent working on her latest book, she projected a heavily marked up page from her editor and pointed out, “I am not a writer. I am a rewriter.” What a wonderful lesson for our kids and for us.


As she reflected on her own learning, she told our students, “I wish I could go back to school today. Education has improved so much, as kids today get the chance to authentically write, journal, and hear visiting authors.”

Listening to her wisdom, I couldn’t help but walk away with two messages about passion and improvement.

Find Our Passion:

In her journey, she found her passion, which motivated her through the challenges presented by six years of work for one book.

Consider, author Greg McKeown’s three key questions for a successful life in his book essentialism:

  1. What deeply inspires me?
  2. What are my talents?
  3. What meets a significant need in the world?

Pam Muñoz Ryan was a wonderful example of someone who has answered these questions well. What answers will our kids define as they progress through their educations and lives?

Attaining Excellence Requires Revision and Improvement:

Excellence in anything, like clear and rich writing, requires revision and improvement. I attended elementary, middle and high school in the seventies and eighties. The focus was rote memorization, skill development that included writing for the teacher only, and listening passively. In my twenty-seven years in education, I absolutely agree with Pam Muñoz Ryan that education has improved. Today’s students are given the opportunity to be active learners, who are asked to understand, explain and connect.

Education today must address the seven survival skills defined by acclaimed author and Harvard Education Fellow Tony Wagner:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving
  2. Collaboration across networks
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism
  5. Effective oral and written communication
  6. Accessing and analyzing information
  7. Curiosity and imagination

These were highlighted by Mr. Andy Kohl, our Director of Educational Technology at our Board Meeting on Thursday, October 22, 2015. Mr. Kohl reminded us all that these are not skills that we can begin developing in a student’s junior year in college. These are skills that are essential in every phase of education.

Thursday’s District 30 Board Meeting also included several other examples of our district’s continuous efforts to improve:

  • Hirsch shared the results of our Teacher Assistant Task Force, which codified protocols and training for individuals in these valuable aide positions
  • Robyn Kogan advocated for the addition of a Civic Action Project for 6th graders that provides a service learning opportunity
  • Our Social Emotional Committee & Guided Studies Team shared the changes that have resulted from their summer curriculum projects that improve these already effective programs
  • Our administrative team reviewed our significant first-quarter progress on this year’s Board Goals


District 30 embraces the concept of continuous improvement. Our collective efforts strengthen our ability to fulfill the educational needs of all children while recognizing the individuality of each child. In addition, our focus on the intellectual, social, emotional and physical growth of ALL students arms them with skills they need to thrive in today’s world as they explore and ultimately define their won passions.

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