A Passion for Educational Innovation Drives New Programing in Hamilton Southeastern Schools
When Indiana was forced to quickly shutdown schools in mid-March due to the COVID-19 health crisis, Assistant Principal Steve Loser and his team at Fishers High School were ready. At least as ready as they could be to tackle a virus.
The school leadership had been following the crisis for several weeks as the virus spread across the globe. They had already begun instituting new cleaning protocols for the school and new procedures for staff and students to follow. The hope was that school would continue in some way.
However, when Governor Holcomb announced that all Indiana schools would close to help slow the spread of the virus, Loser and his colleagues had to launch a whole new way of educating Fishers students. School was moving online. While Fishers students all had devices and connectivity in the community was not an issue for most families, it was still going to take big effort to make it work.
Maintaining Relationships Key to Success
One thing they knew was going to be important was finding a way to maintain the teacher-student relationship. It would be hard for teachers not to be able to interact with their students and the administration knew they would have to provide extra support.
“We also knew it would be hard on students,” says Loser. “Some of them just won’t be able to do it since every home situation is different.”
To maintain a focus on those students who might struggle, Fishers teachers regularly called the homes of students who were having a hard time. They also understood that there would be a constant evolution to the process.
“I think one of the things that could come out of this is a real understanding of what we all value in education,” says Loser. “Also, we might get a good discussion about how we manage learning time for students and how teachers might better leverage technology going forward.”
Finding new ways to engage students and use new teaching methods is not a passing issue for Loser. It’s a passion. It’s also a big reason he is leaving his post as Assistant Principal at Fishers High School to become the Director of HSE Polytechnic Program at Hamilton Southeastern Schools. HSE Polytechnic is a new program for Hamilton Southeastern Schools that will launch in the Fall of 2020.
A New Style of Learning
In partnership with the acclaimed Purdue Polytechnic High School, HSE Polytechnic will offer students STEAM-focused courses and credits. Students will participate in authentic project-based work. Frequent and early exposure to industry employers and careers is a big part of the program. Part of the curriculum allows students to also participate in the “EnterMaker” entrepreneurship program that challenges them to create and operate a successful business. HSE Polytechnic will be housed at the unique Hub and Spoke Institute in Fishers.
Loser sees this kind of program bringing the innovation that is often seen in the charter school sector and putting it into the traditional school space. All stakeholders – from city government leaders, the school board and Purdue administrators – had to work together to build a program they could all get behind and support.
Loser has high hopes for the new model and believes that there is a lot to be learned from the COVID-19 experience.
As parents have had to experience education through forced elearning, Loser says, “I hope they will become scrutinizers of education and more willing to engage in it.” He also thinks students should have more of a voice and a choice in how they want to grow in their education.
In a post-crisis world, he can see a major shift in curriculum and assessment, perhaps with more focus on mastery of subjects with a greater value in students showing growth and not just that they can achieve a letter grade.
“It’s just possible that this crisis will push innovation even faster. Maybe since we had to innovate on the fly, students, parents and teachers will all start to advocate for new ideas and we can overcome our collective resistance to change.”