iLEAD Staff Reflect on What’s Sustained Them in a Challenging Year

For project-based learning practitioners, reflection is important. Inquiry-based founding father John Dewey wrote, “We don’t learn from our experiences; we learn from thinking about our experiences.” This is an acknowledgement of the higher-level and necessary thinking that is part of metacognition and reflection.

What have we learned in the last year? Undoubtedly, it will be remembered as a year like no other.

This is the first installment of iLEAD staff reflections on their experiences during this challenging year:

How have you kept going this past year? What has helped sustain you?

“After losing my father in 2020, this year has been very difficult emotionally for me. Thankfully, my 3rd graders make my job and my mood much brighter. I do my best to bring energy and enthusiasm to them every morning with music and fun activities. My learners bring genuine curiosity and energy to the classroom. I have seen their math and English language arts scores improve as each learner has adapted to the online school environment. As a facilitator, I do my best to take myself less seriously and really engage with learners to find their intrinsic interests and motivations for learning. I believe this has made a positive impact on student growth.”
— Trista Baham, 3rd Grade Facilitator, iLEAD Antelope Valley Hybrid

“Mindfulness, yoga, my family, my friends, my husband and my kitty! These have all helped keep me grounded and focused. I really bumped up my mindfulness practice and remember to focus on not only each day but each task given to me. Staying present is harder some days than others!”
— Megan Tapia, K/1 Dual Immersion Facilitator, iLEAD Santa Clarita (SCVi)

“My learners and my teacher friends have kept me going. I have been around iLEAD so long that I am very comfortable reaching out and forming my own collaborations and connections. That has been an integral piece to what has kept me going this last year. Together we are stronger at iLEAD, and I have always been an active proponent of collaboration across grade levels and school sites. My ‘why’ has also kept me going. I continuously ask myself: ‘Is this what is best for kids? What do the kids need? Will this decision be better for kids or better for adults?’ The answer always needs to have kids first, and anytime something is in my control to implement or influence, I ensure that what is best for kids is what is happening.”
— Deja Munn, 7th-8th Grade Math and Science Facilitator, iLEAD Agua Dulce

“Focusing on what’s important: relationships with learners, building resilience, keeping it simple, and choosing what projects would work. One project was extremely successful. I had 100% participation and we created a product we’re selling for the senior class. But in doing this project, we were able to celebrate our resiliency.”
— Cheryl Sena, IB Coordinator/Senior Advisor/Facilitator, iLEAD Santa Clarita (SCVi)

“iLEAD’s positive climate and the people I work with have helped me get through this past year. I have met so many learners and staff members who are doing what they are passionate about, and this motivates me to live life to its fullest. Even though there are so many barriers to plow through, learners and staff at iLEAD continue to move forward and are persistent in all their endeavors. I love hearing about learners and staff pursuing their dreams, such as acting, dance, ballet, or pursuing their careers and entering college at a younger age.”
— David Chae, Math Facilitator, iLEAD Online

“For me, what has made a difference is the excellent leadership from our school director, Nykole Kent, who totally ‘gets it’ and does what she can to ameliorate school-related stress. I have set personal goals for myself. A few of these are continuing a weight-loss goal, regular exercise, healthy food, and regular conversations with my sister and other family members. I have a small but safe ‘pod’ of friends/co-workers I can walk and talk with regularly. All of these things add up.”
— Kimberli Lengning, Kindergarten Community Facilitator, iLEAD Lancaster

“Some days are really tough. But then there are inspiring moments that push me to keep going, such as a learner who is excited to see you and doesn’t want to break because they will miss you, a kind email from a parent, and encouragement from coworkers.”
— Julie Zimmerman, Education Specialist, iLEAD Exploration

Stay tuned for more reflections about what staff members have appreciated and learned from this past year, as well as what they are looking forward to in the year to come.

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