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OPINION: The Portrait of a Nevada Learner persists through pivots

Laura Jeanne Penrod
Laura Jeanne Penrod
Dillon Booker
Dillon Booker

Educators have frequently pivoted since COVID-19. We are masters at pivoting every day — particularly when technology doesn’t work, when there is inclement weather during recess or when we are in the middle of student presentations and there is a fire drill. Pivoting is the norm of everyday life for those in education, showing that we are truly capable of anything we choose to change, grow or expand. 

Severe weather conditions in Reno compelled EdX and its collaborating hosts to cancel plans for the Nevada Future of Learning Network's portrait convening. Though the in-person gathering to celebrate and develop the subsequent Portrait of a Nevada Learner phases couldn’t occur, the pivot was in place, and we successfully engaged. More than 200 educators, youth and community partners participated in a virtual teleconference. 

The Nevada Future of Learning Network and the convening prioritize the benefits and challenges of the Portrait of a Nevada Leaner implementation, centering on the significance of personalized, competency-based learning, as drawbacks noted the challenges of such a progressive style of education. Students are engaging with educators as collaborators in the design of the Portrait. As a 21st century learner, Aeron Pearson, a Clark County School District high school student, shares, “Industrial learning is not engaging; the Portrait offers a way to engage in learning that makes an impact in and out of our lives.” 

As we persist and pivot as a state community in realizing personalized, competency-based learning and the Portrait of Nevada Learner as a North Star for education in Nevada, three key elements must be explored. 

  1. Partnerships: For the Nevada Portrait of a Learner to be successful and sustainable, we must maintain strong partnerships with organizations locally, statewide and nationally at every level. Currently, the partnerships of the Nevada Department of Education, ed. Xtraordinary and KnowledgeWorks have created a national and localized approach to supporting the program’s work at every level in the state, from district and administrative leadership to instructional classroom facilitation. 
  1. Patience: We often want change to happen immediately, yet we must be patient. When the Future of Learning Network Sustainability committee visited Arizona recently, we learned that school districts are implementing 10-year plans in a phased approach. Each phase introduces new leadership and learning elements shared with the broader community and districtwide. A phased and patient approach to the work is essential for long-standing, meaningful implementation and change. 
  1. Persistence: People with a deep passion for education and life are relentless and persistent. One of the top performance coaches, Tim Grover, who trained Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Dwayne Wade, said in his book Relentless, “The only way you can light other people on fire is to be lit yourself, from the inside.” We can not let the Portrait of a Nevada Learner burn out like other initiatives. The program is a significant way to address challenges such as chronic absenteeism and student engagement. It is a teaching and learning approach that ensures equitable learning and brings joy to learning. Persistence is not only necessary but also the only way students and the public education system will be successful in the long term. 

We must consider how to pivot and be agile so that education can become what it needs for our students to thrive now and in the future. Pivots in the educational system must be a natural part of how Nevada students and educators move forward in life and education. Let’s be patient and persistent and, most importantly, partner to make education a collaborative process where a shared vision of what education can be for our students in Nevada serves as our guiding star. 

Laura "Jeannie" Penrod is the 2024 Nevada Teacher of the Year, Teach Plus Nevada Senior Policy Fellow alumna, 2023-24 Teach Plus CEO Teacher Cabinet member, Nevada Future of Learning Network ambassador, and Sustainability Committee member. She is in her 18th year of teaching in the Clark County School District and teaches English at Southwest Career and Technical Academy.

Dillon Booker is a Nevada Policy Advisory Committee member, Nevada Future of Learning Network ambassador, Teach Plus National Policy Advisory Board alumnus, Teach Plus Nevada Policy Fellow alumnus, and Teach For America alumnus. He has six years of community and political organizing experience. He teaches English to high school special education students and is a mentor and instructional development lead.

The Nevada Independent welcomes informed, cogent rebuttals to opinion pieces such as this. Send them to [email protected].


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