Feb. 18–20, 2021
New Orleans, LA
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Sandvik, in General Session Address, Highlights Conference Theme of Personalization
Kristi Sandvik

Given the 2020 national conference’s theme of personalization in education, it wasn’t too surprising that Kristi Sandvik, the incoming president of the AASA, addressed that topic during her speech at the 3rd General Session on Saturday morning.

Sandvik is the superintendent of Arizona’s Buckeye Elementary School District. She takes over as AASA president in July.

Here are excerpts from her remarks at the national conference:

“Personalized learning encompasses many facets to meet the needs of students and a community passionate about student success. … School districts that are fortunate to enter in the phase of adding new schools or redesigning current classroom configurations are in a great position to reconsider educational spaces that maximize optimal learning experiences for both students and teachers as we prepare for an unknown future.

“Schools for the future incorporate rich learning experiences for both students and educators that include deep personal reflection and encourage risk taking that meet the demand of an ever-changing future.  We are now looking at providing instruction differently than we did 60 years ago, or even 15 years ago.

“In 1960, students were positioned with the factory-based model of education in mind.

“Fast forward to 1990. … While we have made some changes in education in terms of the environment for student learning, rows of desks facing forward with the teacher positioned at the front as ‘master of knowledge‘ rather than ‘facilitator for knowledge’ still remains in many classrooms throughout American classrooms. 

“Today we are closer to 2050 than we are 1990.The shifts necessary require a combination of innovative thinking and funding. As leaders, we can certainly influence funding, but we can control our thinking. Leaders matter!

“In our own district in Buckeye, Ariz. we are breaking ground this July on a new K-8 school for the future named after the late Sen. John S McCain III (R-Ariz.). Our community realized that despite the changes in teaching and learning, human nature often embraces comfort over challenge, especially when our surroundings look similar to what we are accustomed to. We decided changing teaching practices requires a change in the physical and visual surroundings.

“We are fortunate in Arizona to have nationally recognized schools known for … (an) innovative spirit to visit and learn from. The trailblazers who have embarked on the visionary risk taking in school design, have included the following drivers in educational spaces to maximize student and teacher learning experiences:

“Collaborative educational  spaces where students and teachers are best able to problem solve, reflect upon learning, apply personalized approaches and work in teams. Spaces that maximize project-based learning and places where the social emotional needs of students are best met.

“Social Emotional Learning is part of the change in teaching practices and must be remembered when designing school spaces. At one of our innovative schools, our principal and an SEL trainer collaborated to create a customized program to address the unique needs of students and staff at our highest poverty school. The focus of the program is to provide schools for re-framing and re-thinking about challenging opportunities, with an outcome of increased resiliency and hope in participants. Humans are born to learn, but we don’t learn in isolation. We learn based on positive relationships and interactions with peers in environments like schools that foster opportunities for students and staff to learn and grow together.  What we learn from this new collaboration will certainly inform the design of our new school.

“Changing classroom settings increases the pace of change in teaching practices as well as the ability to learn. Sometimes moving out of our comfort zones is the jumpstart needed for innovative and creative teaching to occur. It also forces students out of their own comfort zones and the ‘game of school,’ and empowers them to develop new skills and view learning from a new perspective.

“If you are one of the leaders who has the luxury to build a new school, don’t miss the opportunity to build a school that helps the adults capture the skills necessary for our students to be successful in their future. Lines are blurring between core subjects and grades, academics and technical skills that require an innovative approach to educational space.

“Be memorable in your quest to think differently.

“Together, we are trailblazing today and transforming tomorrow. Join us in New Orleans in 2021 Together our call to action is to move beyond the status quo, engage trailblazing behaviors of our leaders that will continue to transform the educational landscape for public education.

“See you next year in New Orleans!”