Creating A Connected Community For Improved Results

Chelsea Penney
December 27, 2022

At this year’s AASPA conference, Proximity Learning’s Daryl Chesley and Dr. April Willis presented on how they created a connected community among faculty and corporate employees. They shared their goals, techniques, and results, so administrators can establish a supportive organizational culture in their own districts.

Why is Organizational Culture Important?

Attracting & Retaining High-Quality Staff

  • 77% of adults said they would “consider a company’s culture” before seeking a job 
  • 56% added that they found a good workplace culture to be “more important than salary” when it came to job satisfaction
  • 65% said their company’s culture was a main reason for staying
  • Workers want mission-minded employers
  • 89% of adults said they felt it was imperative that an employer have a clear mission and purpose

Let’s Set the Stage

Today we will…

  • identify shared challenges
  • define our unique situation
  • share strategies to enhance culture
  • discuss opportunities for improvement

Common Problems We Are All Facing

According to National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) joint study

Teacher morale is at an all-time low

  • 99% of teachers ranked teacher morale as low
  • Only 72% of admins ranked teacher morale low, suggesting a disconnect 

School culture is a top priority

  • 80% of Administrators view school culture as their #1 priority 
  • 69% of teachers also view school culture as the top priority

Teachers cite a lack of structured, meaningful  PD and unfamiliarity with “tech tools” as top areas to improve

We Need More Than Superficial Fixes

  • Culture & climate can boost caring, or it can be unsupportive and raise stress levels 
  • Everyone must feel safe, secure, and supported
  • Caring cultures create a sense of ownership and create space for innovation 
  • When individuals have a say in what they do, feel seen, heard, and valued
  • They develop a sense of belonging and ownership that fosters positivity and enthusiasm 
  • Trust and psychological safety develop, giving people the confidence to take risks, challenge current thinking, and innovate 

When schools are driven by the needs of their people, not just the curriculum or school improvement plan, employee happiness increases, and student engagement and learning skyrockets.

Learn more about Proximity Learning here.

Where to Start

Create an Impact Statement Aligned to Your Mission

Like Any Good Teacher - Chunk & Chew

  • Break down your situation into manageable-sized bites
  • We start with onboarding
  • Virtual Teachers Academy (VTA) is a customized, new hire onboarding program designed specifically for teachers entering the virtual teaching field

The PLI Virtual Teacher Academy is the first step toward becoming a part of the PLI Connected Community.

What Is The Purpose Of The Connected Community?

  • Create a process where every Proximity Learning teammate has a structured opportunity to contribute to the Connected Community 
  • Be an active, contributing part of the team!
  • Invest in our teacher team and develop collaborative leadership, resulting in an engaged workforce
  • Engagement = Commitment to the success of the PLI Mission

Our model engages all teammates in our mission to deliver #Equityfor1MillionStudents

Virtual Teachers Academy & Post-VTA Transition

Virtual Teachers Academy (VTA) is a customized, new hire onboarding program designed specifically for teachers entering the virtual teaching field.

Creating A Culture Of Support

  • Restructuring of live and asynchronous cohort content
  • Teacher Onboarding + Mentorship
  • Instructional expectations
  • PD opportunities

PLI community resources

  • PLI Platform support
  • Account Set Up and Training
  • Canvas
  • Zoom
  • Prox U
  • PLIConnect
  • Digital Tools

Value Added Through Onboarding

PLI Virtual Teacher Academy participants receive:

  • Dedicated PLI VTA Trainer for virtual instruction model orientation
  • Specialized PLI VTA courses through Prox U, a customized LMS
  • A customizable virtual background designating your PLI VTA status
  • A customizable teacher ID design ready for printing, suitable for use anywhere teacher discounts are offered 

Graduates Of The Proximity Learning VTA Receive:

  • A Transition Specialist to assist with additional training and targeted coaching/assistance during first 30 days with PLI
  • Client Support & Success Specialists to handle communication with schools & districts 
  • High-quality virtual curriculum
  • 223K+ digital resources accessible through Canvas Commons
  • Nearpod Premium Plus License (K-12)
  • TeachersPayTeachers School Access (K-12)
  • MobyMax License (K-8)
  • Use of USATestPrep for benchmark assessments, if applicable (K-12)
  • Teacher & Learning Specialists’ observation & evaluation model 
  • Community building via virtual workspaces

There’s More!

Office hours with:

  • Solutions Specialists for emergency tech support
  • Department Chairs- grade level/subject area
  • Curriculum Specialists + experts in digital tools 
  • Teacher Effectiveness Specialists - instructional support coaches
  • Department Chairs - collaboration with grade level/subject area via virtual workspaces

On-going PD through Prox U: Earning state certification reciprocity and/or CE hours:

  • Monthly PLI PD Series targeting the needs of virtual teachers
  • Self-paced &  live PD to expand digital tools skillbase
  • Cognia Learning Community, exclusive, differentiated PD experiences by invitation-only 
  • Free and subsidized access to PD courses and NVTA certification through strategic partnership with the National Virtual Teacher Association

Membership in the PLI Connected Community:

  • High-performing teachers participate in initiatives with a direct line PLI’s President
  • Teachers organize and take part in structured social networks & meetups

Engagement Opportunities

  • PLI Connected Community Facebook Group, led by teachers designated as Community Ambassadors
  • Subject-specific virtual workspaces, led by Department Chairs
  • Employee Engagement Committee, led by Marketing
  • Restorative Circles, led by Teacher & Learning Specialists
  • Year-round professional development led by the PD Team, with opportunities for teachers to conduct sessions in addition to participating in sessions
  • Socials, led by the PD Team, with opportunities for teachers to organize in addition to participate
  • National Virtual Teacher Association accreditation opportunities

Structured Professional Development

New ProxU PD Course Catalog:

  • PLI PD Series
  • Digital Tools
  • Virtual Teachers’ Academy
  • Lunch & Learns
  • Teacher Appreciation Series
  • Connected Community Events

How The Proximity Learning Connected Community Works

PLI has identified 7 Essential Elements that we believe are critical to the success of virtual instruction:  

  1. Clear and Focused Mission
  2. Academic Success for All Students
  3. Innovative Instruction
  4. Open Communication Channels
  5. Engaging in the PLI Connected Community
  6. Positive Relationships 
  7. Well-being

Our success has built a supported workforce and set up our organization for a sustainable future.

Contact us for more information.

about the author
Chelsea Penney

Chelsea Penney earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing from University of Colorado Denver and her Masters of Science in Marketing from Texas A&M University Commerce. She loves living in Austin, TX and working on the frontline as Content Marketing Manager for Proximity Learning.

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