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Leverage community educators in learning

How do educator teams leverage community educators in learning? Read on for examples of real projects from Next Education Workforce schools that have invited community educators into learning spaces to connect with learners and deepen and personalize learning.

Who are community educators?

Community educators are youth-serving professionals and volunteers who provide capacity and insight in service of deepening and personalizing student learning. They enrich learning environments by forging authentic relationships, sharing expertise and expanding networks. In Next Education Workforce models, community educators connect as part of educator teams, where they leverage their knowledge and skills to complement the work of professional educators.

About this collection

These resources are designed to illustrate how schools and educator teams are leveraging community educators in learning. Additional resources are available to help educators and school leaders identify, connect with and incorporate community educators

Living Library

The Living Library brought more than 35 community educators — from stay-at-home parents to investment bankers — to connect with high school students struggling to see the importance of learning math. Westwood teacher, Elizabeth Ruiz, made an intentional effort to bring in multilingual community educators so that students could see themselves in these careers and start to envision their future prospects.

Community educators did more than help show students that the content they are learning in school is relevant; they allowed students to see caring adults who value who the students are, their interests and their voice.

At right, hear from Ruiz, community educator Tony Isom and Westwood student Kelvin Rueda as they discuss how community educators’ distributed expertise impacts learning by expanding connections to academic content and increasing social capital.

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Mock Trial

Before this unit on endangered species began, the community educator worked with the teaching team to help them plan the culminating experience and create the preparation materials. The lawyer returned to the classroom virtually to work with the students as they prepared for their mock trial and persuasive arguments. Activating the lawyer for unit planning support is a great example of community educators contributing to the distributed expertise of a team.

At right, hear from MLFTC teacher candidate Zoe Glover about the value of having community educators like Mr. Brown share their expertise with students.

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Driving Academic Progress

Coming out of the pandemic, there were days where KIPP Indy Unite Elementary students never got to school due to a bus driver shortage in Indianapolis. To incentivize bus drivers to select the KIPP Indy bus route, and simultaneously address post-pandemic literacy-loss, the director of operations proposed a solution that would address both challenges: Driving Academic Progress (DAP) — bringing bus drivers in as literacy tutors, between driving shifts.

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Community Circles

When a child enrolls at Jefferson Elementary, they are assigned to a community circle composed of at least one child from each grade level. Having so many groups requires a lot of adult facilitators. Jefferson gathers talented and supportive adults in its community by inviting every staff member at the school to participate as a facilitator, extending engagement beyond just teachers and administrators to include classified staff.

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Literacy Accelerators

Two to four times per week, Skyline High School teacher academy students assume the role of community educator at their feeder school, Stevenson Elementary. Activating high schoolers as community educators in this way creates a symbiotic relationship across all roles. Elementary students receive individualized instruction from cross-age peers. Classroom teachers are given additional support from trained tutors. High school students are given the opportunity to apply their tutor skills to facilitate learning, becoming adaptable and responsive to learners in the space.

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Medical Innovations

To gain an understanding of a variety of medical conditions and how they affect the people who face them, the 4–6 grade teaching team assembled ten community educators — including experts from the medical community and patients living with conditions — to participate in interviews with their students. Interviews were recorded asynchronously to accommodate fluctuating schedules and allow for multiple views.

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