In the Know: Embracing lifelong learning

I want to say thank you to our community for supporting lifelong learning for the adults in our school district so they can better support our students and families.

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Alexandria School District held a professional development day on November 7, 2022.
Contributed photo

By Rick Sansted, Superintendent, Alexandria Public Schools

This past Halloween I had the opportunity to be around a number of eighth-graders who were enjoying our unseasonably warm end of October. They were pleading for a two-hour late start on Nov. 1 so they could stay up a little later. A clever recommendation by a group of 13 and 14 year olds.

What these eighth-graders may not have known is that the two-hour late starts along with full day professional development events allow us at Alexandria Public Schools to live out our mission that includes “…inspire a lifelong passion for learning.” Alexandria Public Schools has a long tradition around the investment in the learning of the adults who work and serve our students and families.

Every two years, our district calendar committee establishes the calendar for the school district. Embedded in the calendar are days that allow us as a school district to invest in the learning of our adults. Part of that structure includes two-hour late starts at various times of the year as well as full day professional development opportunities. We recognize as a school district that this is also a sacrifice for families and we say thank you for the time and space to help our adults continue to grow their skills. We had the opportunity to engage in one of our professional development days this past week on Monday, Nov. 7.

I had the opportunity to attend a session on Monday morning related to how we as adults better understand how the brain works so we can help students learn and grow. A sample of areas of focus staff were able to learn more about included supporting students in the area of working/short term memory, supporting students who have difficulty with transitions or supporting students with sensory processing challenges who might be more susceptible to sounds, movement or changes in surroundings. All of the sessions described above are grounded in research around how the human brain functions — which we continue to learn more about.


As staff register for the various sessions, they can think about the students that are currently in their classrooms and how they as adults can improve their skills to improve our student learning.

This is just one example of some of the investments in staff during this school year. This past summer we have supported training in literacy, school safety and new science and arts standards. We continue to support all of our new teachers with a three-year mentorship program by meeting monthly outside of the school day to focus on enhancing their skills to better support our students.

Over the past three years, we have invested in providing science of reading training for all of our early education and elementary teachers. Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training is having an impact in our elementary classrooms by providing more explicit instruction around how the brain learns to read.

As I visit classrooms across the district, I get to see the application of this adult learning. Last week I was in Carlos Elementary School. It was great to see the application of some of our past training. I witnessed this in Mrs. Weisel’s first grade classroom as well as Mr. Noble’s music class. I want to say thank you to our community for supporting lifelong learning for the adults in our school district so they can better support our students and families.

I will need to circle back to our eighth-graders and let them know the two-hour late starts are strategically placed to allow for teacher analysis of assessment data. Teachers use this data to tailor learning for students. Unfortunately for our teenagers — this does not happen around Halloween.

Rick Sansted is the superintendent of Alexandria Public Schools. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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