Happy New Year! 2018 has launched a new chapter for LeadLocal. After five fun, delicious and surprising years, Brooke McDonald has stepped down from her position as CEO to pursue her next adventure. While we will miss Brooke, change is inevitable. It can be scary and sad, but with the right mindset it can also be an opportunity for growth.

Our friend Kathy Lohse embodies the power of perspective when it comes to change. Over her nearly 40 years of teaching, Kathy has continually learned from her colleagues, students and community. We asked Kathy to share her thoughts as she approaches her next adventure.

By Kathy Lohse

“So are you still teaching?” Over the past three years or so, I heard the same question over and over running into colleagues from around the district and former students or their families. I always laugh and reply, “Yes I am. Can you believe it?”

This year, I have finally reached my retirement year. Due to my own family situation with aging parents, my utter joy at becoming a grandparent, and changing dynamics at a school where I have spent the past thirty-one years at, I am saying “I’m done.” For the past three years, I have been involved with LeadLocal in their DOs, Retreats for Design Thinking and Collaboration for Classrooms and their Leadership C-Suite. Through this work, I began to realize that reinvention is a possibility. I can continue to thrive, connect with the community, and promote positive change.

Through this work, I began to realize that reinvention is a possibility. I can continue to thrive, connect with the community, and promote positive change.

Kathy in her element: providing students with what they need to learn and grow.

As I reflect on my thirty-seven year career, I can identify moments of time with students that I will forever remember and cherish. These are all connected to project work. Here are some moments (in no particular order) that will be with me always.

Moments in Time
  • Some years ago, I ran into two former students at our Neighborhood Celebration. The couple shared with me their memories of the Tree Room (my classroom). The “moments in time” concerned project work. This couple is now married. They have four beautiful children.
  • One of my former students wanted to change a piece of playground equipment that students were not playing with, because it was too tall. Through my encouragement, this student initiated a project to let the school know about this need, gain permission from the principal and find someone to lower the equipment. This student had many academic and emotional challenges, yet because of sense of purpose he was successful in getting this piece of playground equipment lowered. It warms my heart every time I see students playing with this equipment.
    Students at Borton Elementary working on their classroom project with Ms.Kathy.
  • I am passionate about project work. I was encouraged by former administrators to work with students in student-centered investigations that explored big ideas that helped students connect their learning to the community around them. Some of my favorite investigations included creating a simulation of the Arizona Daily Star business, a year-long study of archaeology assisted by a Tree Room parent, a musical based on our version of Jack and the Beanstalk and a year-long investigation of the World of Work. These investigations awakened my love of community engagement and the students loved this work. When I see the students and families from these classes, they share their memories of these “moments in time”.
  • Seven years ago, I left the Tree Room to become the Project Based Learning Coordinator for my school. I took the position, because of my love for project work and to support our magnet focus. I told the former principal I would only take the position if I still had guaranteed “kid time”, because adults weren’t “my gig”. I give great credit to the Borton staff for their initial forays into Project Based Learning. We tried different models of PBL and different amounts of support for classrooms over the years. We have completed projects on hunger in the community, food and community, redesigning school routines, bullying and three student run businesses. Over the years, I have improved my skills with adults, thanks mostly to LeadLocal.
    Kathy challenging students to ask “Why?”
  • A highlight this year was taking three fifth grade students to present at the Pima County GIS Fair. These students are part of Easy Move It Furniture a student run business that builds bean bag chairs, pillows and lap desks that help create a sense of collaboration. Three students interacted with the Tucson community in a professional manner. The students returned to their class filled with information that has motivated the students to create prototypes of lap desks that will be built and then sold. Taking these students to this event has inspired me in my final year of full-time teaching to reflect on some of my wishes for the future.
Wishes for the Future
  • I want to take every single student participating in the Easy Move It Furniture Project on a field trip. Not the whole class together, but rather small groups, maybe 3-4 students at a time to businesses in Tucson to see what they are doing in this project is as “real as it gets.” (Words I often use with the students) We will go out into our Tucson Community and then return to class to share our learning. I will be using CommunityShare to make our connections.
  • In my last year may the ongoing projects Landmarks and Structures, the Heart Sculpture, the Peace Mural and all others be completed and celebrated in our Borton Community and beyond. I will help support you all in any way I can.
  • Teachers please continue to believe in Project Based Learning. Our students want it. Our students deserve it.

The next five months of school will be filled with joy, some sadness and more “moments in time” for me to treasure. To grow we must change, but my moments in time will continue to inspire me as I embark on a new adventure.

Kathy Lohse is the Project Based Learning Coordinator at Borton Magnet School and a vibrant part of our LeadLocal family. We will keep you posted on where her next adventure takes her!

Have a story you want to share? Reach out to Carly, carly@leadlocal.global

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