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Log in to Witsby: ASCD’s Next-Generation Professional Learning and Credentialing Platform
April 1, 2006
Vol. 63
No. 7

Meet ASCD's Outstanding Young Educator

Take a look inside Khowhemun Elementary School in Duncan, British Columbia, and you are likely to see principal Charles Coleman engaged in conversation with students about the day's lessons or overhear him telling a staff member that he or she is doing a great job. This educator believes in getting out from behind his desk and putting the philosophy of servant leadership into action, helping others make the school a safe, positive place to work and learn. His efforts have garnered him ASCD's 2005 Outstanding Young Educator Award (OYEA).

Getting Results

In 2002, when Coleman arrived at the K–6 school, he faced many challenges. In addition to meeting the cultural needs of the school's First Nations aboriginal students (about one-third of the student population), Coleman was determined to raise student achievement: The percentage of Khowhemun students who met or exceeded expectations on the British Columbia Performance Standards exam was just 67 percent in reading and 65 percent in math.
Coleman's response was guided by his beliefs that all children deserve to be successful and that you can't keep doing the same things in education and expect different results. Taking his cue from such education experts as Robert Marzano, Rick DuFour, and Mike Schmoker, Coleman developed a plan to turn things around. His efforts included evaluating all school programs; establishing results-based learning teams; creating structures that engaged staff in the work of curriculum and assessment at both the school and the district level; and encouraging professional growth plans through consistent teacher evaluations.
These efforts have paid off. Connections with students and their families have grown stronger through increased outreach efforts and staff diversity training. British Columbia Performance Standards exam results from June 2005 showed that 83 percent of students met or exceeded expectations in reading and 89 percent did so in mathematics.

Looking Ahead

Despite these dramatic gains, there is still work to do. “The number one question for us now is, what can we do differently for kids who aren't there yet?” says Coleman:We believe the answer lies in differentiated instruction. The kids who are below expectations based on standard measures actually have many other skills and strengths. Through action research we are now looking at new teaching strategies that focus on multiple intelligences and learning styles. If we hope to make a difference with these particular kids, we have to individualize on the basis of their levels and abilities.
Coleman's leadership style exemplifies ASCD's vision of educating the whole child. He believes that very little academic learning can take place until schools meet learners' social and emotional needs. At Khowhemun, he has created a positive school culture, starting with a welcoming tone when students, staff, and families enter the school every morning and with celebrations of learning at assemblies and in the community throughout the year.
Coleman shares his philosophy in presentations that he gives throughout Canada. The enthusiastic response to his workshops on positive school discipline have prompted him to write a book,Heart of Education—Bringing Out the Best in Your Kids and Your School, which will address seven key components of a respectful and equitable school: common expectations, targeted instruction, positive reinforcement, support strategies, school-based teams, data-driven decisions, and a schoolwide system approach.
Each day brings new challenges and joys for Coleman and his staff. He finds his role as an educator rewarding and can't imagine doing anything else. Coleman offers this advice to his fellow educators: “Find a passion, learn all you can about it, become great at it, and then share that passion and success with others.”

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