Jeana Williams came to work for the Arkansas Public School Resource Center (APSRC) in July 2017, and currently serves as the Interim Director of Teaching and Learning. Jeana and her team provide professional development and educational support for traditional and public charter schools.
Q: What led you to choose a career in education?
A: In my pre-Algebra class in junior high school, I realized that using letters in math equations made complete sense. I instantly understood the “why”. I also quickly realized that I was one of very few that grasped this concept, and I began helping my friends. I knew then, in the 7th grade, that I wanted to be a math teacher.
I was so certain that when I registered for college, I declared secondary math education as my major that day. The professors tried to encourage me to wait, but I knew. Not one time in 16 years of teaching mathematics did it ever cross my mind that I should do anything different. Becoming an administrator was a more difficult decision due to my passion for teaching mathematics. As it turned out, I discovered my passion was for teaching in general, regardless of the subject. As an administrator, I had the opportunity to learn from, and share with, many others about skills and resources for teaching.
Q: How does your experience as a teacher and administrator benefit you in your role at APSRC?
A: For much of my career, I was fortunate to be part of a district determined to provide the best educational opportunity for students. I experienced all of the growing pains of becoming a “good” school, and then the even more difficult challenge of going from good to great.
My journey was unique, as they all are. I am grateful for the strong mentors I had along my path, at every phase, that worked to truly teach me what was needed in order to be better myself and help others be better as well. Now, I am in a position to do the same for others.
My first-hand experience as a classroom teacher and an administrator on the journey to becoming a “great” school allows me to truly understand the work and emotions for all involved. As I work with schools, I share the lessons I have learned, both successes and failures, with others so they can make more informed decisions.
Q: You have worked with schools across the state to provide professional development and curriculum support for a wide variety. What are some of the most important characteristics administrators need to have in order to build strong professional learning communities?
A: We have so many outstanding administrators in the state of Arkansas. When I visit schools, I have the opportunity to observe their culture and school community. If you ask a teacher what contributes to their school’s culture, they always respond with something about their principal.
In schools with strong, positive, collaborative cultures, the teachers respond with:
- “Our principal allows us to be part of the team.”
- “Our principal asks for our input;” and
- “Our Principal listens to what we need.”
Other characteristics of the leaders they describe include:
- lead learners
- ensures accountability
- protects instructional time
- involves everyone in data-driven decisions
The most successful are those that have a culture in which administrators and teachers are united in their focus to do what is best for kids first and foremost – even if it may be uncomfortable for the adults.
Q: Education is constantly evolving. Can you provide us with a sneak peek into some of the exciting things your team is working on in 2020?
A: The thing that has me most excited about our department is that we have the skills and expertise to provide training that is customizable based on the need of the school. This allows us to provide professional development for elementary and secondary levels, teachers and administrators, in all areas of academics.
Our most popular training right now is on vocabulary strategies and close reading strategies for all content areas in high school. We know that students are not reading on grade level. In high school, this is due to their knowledge and exposure to higher-level vocabulary. Our training is designed to provide teachers in all content areas with various strategies to teach students how to break down words and determine meaning. These strategies also expose students to grade-level reading, while supporting them on their level and providing some safety nets.
Our training sessions are provided on-site and can be presented in a variety of ways. Some schools ask us to provide breakout sessions on professional development days, while others have us come in and work with teachers during their planning period.
We are happy to accommodate any need, and if you are looking for something we do not have, we will create it.
To learn more about training provided by the APSRC Teaching & Learning team, call the APSRC office at (501) 492-4300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.