Natalia Elementary team travels to Harvard

A team from Natalia Elementary can now call themselves ‘Ivy-Leaguers’ after attending School Turnaround Leaders Institute at Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, MA in June. So just how does a group of educators from Natalia, Texas make it to Harvard, for a week full of learning, for free?
“Attending the School Turnaround Leaders Institute was life changing for the adults but also a chance for us to show our students that we are always learning and that anything is possible. A group from little Natalia, Texas had the opportunity to attend classes at Harvard and learn from amazing instructors,” said Carmen Maglievaz, principal at Natalia Elementary School.
Maglievaz submitted an application for a grant from Raise Your Hand Texas in December. Raise Your Hand Texas is a non-profit education organization working to improve public education by catalyzing research-driven innovation in policy and practice for all Texas students. In February, Maglievaz was notified that team made it to the second round of interviews. The team consisted of 4th grade teachers Sonia Lagleder and Michael Torrez, and special education teacher Debi Cone. Natalia Elementary was one of only five other Texas schools selected to participate. The grant from Raise Your Hand Texas not only paid for the School Turnaround Leaders institute, but also paid for all travel fees for the team to and from Cambridge.
The team was responsible for several case studies and reading assignments prior to their arrival to Cambridge. Raise Your Hand Texas welcomed the team, along with their fellow Texans, at an intimate welcome dinner at the Charles Hotel prior to their long week. The days were long, starting as early as 7:30 a.m. and not ending until 6:30 p.m. on several nights. Each day focused on a different aspect of school turnaround, as follows: Leadership & Strategy, Learning & Learners, Culture & People, Community & Climate, and Next Steps & Actions.
The protocol for consultancy exercise was an important part of this week’s learning. The team was split into different groups, where they presented a content-specific challenge and plan and received feedback from other educators from across the country.
“School turnaround IS happening in Natalia. Harvard staff assured us that we were on the right path and gave us great ideas how to make sure it is as effective as possible and long lasting,” said Maglivaz.
As part of the grant, the team will complete monthly progress updates, participate in monthly video calls, host and attend a site visit, and attend the Raise Your Hand Texas Leadership Symposium in the spring, and volunteer to assist in the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspirating Teachers selection process.
One of the team’s favorite presenters was Kay Merseth, Senior Lecturer on Education and Director of the Teacher Education Master’s Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Merseth left the group with this final message: “This is important. You can do it. We won’t give up on you.”
By Debi Cone