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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Putting Adaptive Schools and Cognitive Into Practice - Pitt County Schools

Authored By:

Carolee Hayes


March 4, 2024

Elizabeth Simmons is a Career Pathways Specialist in Pitt County Schools where she serves in an advisory and coaching role with teacher leaders and beginning teachers.  Pitt County is a large district in Greenville, North Carolina with 38 schools.  I chose to interview a leader in that district because of the remarkable saturation and implementation of CC and AS work in the system.  Although Elizabeth is not a trainer, she has completed both AS and CC training and credits the work with providing her with a skill set to lead.  Besides her work with teachers, Elizabeth provides many training opportunities in Pitt County including Data Driven Dialogue and Unconscious Bias, among others.  She uses all of her learnings from AS and CC to enhance those other trainings to make them more engaging, interactive, and thoughtful.


Elizabeth began by taking AS when she was leading a Community of Practice (COP) in a K-5 school.  She was grateful for learning how to design and facilitate meetings.  Her use of dialogue and discussion enhanced the work of the team and led to the school being recognized as a STEM School of Distinction.  The team’s work caused greater willingness by teachers to work with the STEM teacher and greater student STEM engagement.  People who were uncertain about changes more bought in more.  Using AS in this context also changed Elizabeth who had never seen herself as a teacher leader.


One shift Elizabeth has made is realizing she doesn’t have to have all the answers as a leader.  She paraphrases and asks mediative questions to facilitate individual and group growth.  She said, “this is just how we do things here”  and “this work is woven into everything.”  As a result, Elizabeth feels the district has a new vibe, one of trust, appreciation, and respectfulness of adult learners.


When asked about advice she might give to others starting with AS and CC, she emphasized being okay with starting small.  She said there is no need to sell it as word of mouth is the best way to invite the early adopters.  She felt AS and CC need to be seen as a growing experience that may first feel uncomfortable, but that comfort comes with time.  Consistency was another important factor she mentioned in ensuring success.


I asked Elizabeth how Thinking Collaborative might assist her in sustaining her journey.  An idea she spoke of was one she learned from other organizations who send out follow-up newsletters to participants to update them, share research, and new information.  She said this interview allowed her to reflect on her journey and that was important and useful to her.


Thank you, Elizabeth


Elizabeth Simmons

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