Combining Forces

Teachers21 and William James College partner together to ensure educational excellence and social and emotional learning

November 15, 2018

Laurie Sullivan conducting a Teachers21 Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Administrator course to 18 area administrators at Teachers21 in Newton, MA.

There is book learning and then there is on-the-job training; Teachers21 combines the best of both for the benefit of teachers, principals, superintendents and school districts, along with the children in their trust, across Massachusetts. A new partnership with William James College is a home run for both the College and the state’s education system. The Teachers21 blend of educational rigor and hands-on practice instruction and its work with Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) integrates perfectly with William James’ commitment to SEL and children’s mental health.

“This partnership opens doors not only for faculty and students here at William James, including in our School Psychology and Organizational and Leadership Psychology programs, but also for a wide variety of professionals within the field of education,” says William James College President Dr. Nicholas Covino. “Combining our academic expertise with the applied knowledge of Teachers21 will greatly benefit both organizations, offer a number of advantages to children and families, and expand our ability to train leaders in the fields of education and mental health.”

Teachers21 mentors preK-12 educators in knowledge development and applied skills. Customized programs build expertise and capacity in teaching teams. Graduate level courses and professional development (PDP) workshops train teachers and administrators, approved through the Massachusetts Department of Education. Its Leadership Institute helps educators apply best practices to their work. Certificate, licensure and degree programs help teachers gain advanced training in coordination with Boston College and state universities. Other programs help teachers become principals and superintendents through a partnership with Boston College Lynch School of Education, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, and the Massachusetts School Administrators Association.

Educators come to Teachers21 seeking advice on how to create more productive teams, and better holistic systems in the school and/or school district.

“We bring the brass tacks,” says Jennifer Antonucci, associate director of Teachers21. “We want to advise educators about what works and what doesn’t in the classroom. We take education theory and policy and ask, ‘What does it look like, sound like, and act like when you try to implement it?’”

That real-world knowledge is conveyed by advisors with decades of education experience. They help educators learn how to solve problems based on their personal problem-solving approaches.

“Our clients want a customized approach, not an off-the-shelf product,” says Antonucci.

When Teachers21 conducts assessments, it frequently discovers issues that differ from what administrators believe is at play. Called in to assess a team productivity issue, Teachers21 may discover that instead it’s a matter of too much work, too few resources and a lack of information about goals. According to Antonucci, schools benefit when Teachers21 identifies root causes to systemic problems.

“Teachers succeed most often when leadership understands what they need, and when there is a school culture of professionalism, support and accountability,” adds Antonucci.

New Executive Director Andre RavenelleThe addition of André Ravenelle as the new executive director of Teachers21 marks another exciting change for the organization. Most recently he served as superintendent of the 5,200-student Fitchburg school system where he incorporated SEL throughout the school district

“Superintendents are at a loss as to how to meet the growing challenges of a changing student body,” says Ravenelle. “With access to the wealth of information at William James College, Teachers21 can help school districts excel and provide them with needed resources. Teachers21 and William James College are in the right place, at the right time, with the right solutions.”

“André’s arrival opens the door to collaboration and program development opportunities within our School Psychology, Organizational and Leadership Psychology, Distance Education, and our Freedman Center for Child and Family Development” says Covino. “With considerable experience in leading urban schools and social emotional learning, he will help Teachers21 and the College to expand our work in these areas.”

Much of William James curricula focuses on integrating mental, social, and emotional wellness into the schools.

A prime example is the College’s Graduate Certificate in School Climate and Social Emotional Learning, offered through its School Psychology Department, which trains teams of school staff, including teachers, psychologists and administrators, on ways to transform, create and sustain a positive school culture and climate. The ultimate goal is to improve child emotional and academic learning at a district and system level.

The School Psychology Department also offers training and expertise needed by school psychologists to obtain their state license to practice. The MA/CAGS program in School Psychology grants a Master of Arts in Professional Psychology and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies degree in School Psychology. It also offers a doctoral level program, the PsyD in School Psychology and a MA in Applied Behavioral Analysis.

Another example is the College’s PATHWAYS program, a unique campus-community collaboration that provides mental health services to urban students in the Boston Public Schools. It provides many services, including school-based, trauma-informed mental health services and clinical interventions to traumatized youth at risk of dropping out or failing to graduate.

Together, Teachers21 and the vast expertise, passion and commitment of William James will be able to give educators the tools they need to develop mental, social and emotional wellness in every child.

Bold change in Dedham with a Teachers21 Blueprint

When Michael Welch became superintendent of the Dedham, Massachusetts, school system four years ago, he couldn’t identify what was hampering district success in educating students, particularly in English-Language Arts (ELA): was it the curriculum, training, teacher belief systems or other factors?

That’s when he called in Teachers21 to do a system-wide ELA audit. “We knew they could develop a plan molded specifically to our school district.”

The Teachers21 team spent three and a half months assessing the ELA landscape from pre-school to high school. The result was a 45-page report on ELA, and much more, that became the blueprint for a district-wide restructuring.

Superintendent Welch and his team converted $2 million worth of salaries and positions, eliminated 25 full-time positions, created 19 new ones, instituted free, full-day Kindergarten, went to an instructional coaching model for teachers, instituted new curriculum models, and made significant investments in professional development training—all cost neutral.

“We are seeing tremendous gains in student learning already,” Welch says. “We want a culture where there is a real thirst to understand how kids learn and how to improve teaching. Teachers21 launched us on that path.”

Michael Welch

Superintendent, Michael Welch addresses his entire leadership team and educators new to the district at the Dedham Public School new teacher orientation.