RYHT/REEP Partnership: Michelle Rice, Principal of Copeland Elementary, Explains Her Innovative Plan for the New School Year

September 17, 2013 |

Intro: Principal Rice of Copeland Elementary School

Hi, my name is Michelle Rice. I have been a Texas public school administrator for nine years. This year starts my fourth year as principal at Copeland Elementary in Cy-Fair Independent School District. Prior to coming to Cy-Fair, I worked as a primary grade teacher, GT teacher/coordinator, and administrator in Magnolia Independent School District. My current campus, Copeland, is located in Houston and is in its twenty-second year of existence.

My Involvement With RYHT’s REEP Program

In 2012, I was introduced to the Rice Educational Entrepreneurship Program (REEP), when Raise Your Hand Texas extended scholarship opportunities to school administrators within my district. REEP’s yearlong program had a significant impact on my life by propelling me higher in my leadership journey and challenging my thinking deeper.

As part of the REEP graduation requirements, each member of the cohort must determine, propose and create an innovative project. It is my belief that school leaders must embrace a 21st century mindset and work toward making changes to move education forward to impact students. This conviction was the driving force behind my personal project of developing a three-year plan for becoming a 21st century elementary school.

Bringing Copeland Elementary into the 21st Century

Since my time at Copeland began, I have continually worked to implement new, effective practices that will prepare students for lifetime success. Striving toward a 21st century mindset seemed the most logical next step in the development of my campus.

To truly understand this approach, one must have a clear grasp of 21st century skills. It is not simply the idea of technology integration in the classroom. Instead, the 21st century model couples strong academics, the three R’s (reading, writing, and arithmetic) with the four C’s (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity) to create a strong educational environment that launches students on a learning quest.

Since the start of the 2013-14 school year, it is apparent the 21st century undertaking is what we must embrace to go to the next level. Things that have been different this year include:

  • Increased Emphasis of our Student Leadership Endeavor – As a whole, our staff believes leadership skills are a large portion of preparing students for life.
  • Development of Individual Teacher Action Plans – Each year teachers set goals for their students’ success. Additionally, for the 2013-14 school year each staff member worked with administrators to create personal action plans to take their own teaching to the next level.
  • Staff Development Centered On 21st Century Skills – The four C’s make up the core of 21st century skills. Training in these four areas is vital for true implementation to take place. This year, staff will participate in professional development centered on critical thinking, while targeting innovative practices such as blended learning and utilizing individualized student learning profiles to guide instruction.
  • Utilization of Social Media and Technology as a means for Communication and Learning – Since I have been at Copeland, we have utilized social media as a means of communication with all stakeholders. This year, we have increased our communication through social media by finding the best ways to promote posts and gain followers. Teachers also created videos of campus curriculum information in an effort to accommodate parents who were unable to attend curriculum meetings. I am also working with a team of teachers to research and establish ways for students to attend class via online resources when they are at home ill or out due to family issues.
  • Curriculum Development – Instructional specialist will be working with teachers throughout the year during planning times to incorporate the four C’s in our district’s strong academic curriculum.
  • Utilize Business Resources to Guide Planning – REEP provided many business models that I have begun to utilize. We have found the SWOT analysis to be beneficial as we plan ahead and prepare for projected/proposed items/events. This helps us catch and address loopholes or problems that could occur ahead of time. Currently, my administrative team is using Basecamp project management software to guide our meetings and projects we have underway. We have found it a great resource to keep everyone in the loop and on track.

Implementation of a 21st century elementary school is a big undertaking. My campus is up to the challenge and staff members have jumped right into the process since we’ve started the year. As we embark on the journey, we will utilize feedback from staff, students, and parents to guide our steps. We will also monitor student achievement with district and state assessments. RYHT will be checking in periodically to track progress and share information about the implementation of our new plan.

Click here for more information about the RYHT REEP partnership.

– Michelle Rice, Principal of Copeland Elementary


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