Virtual School Meanderings

May 21, 2023

Efforts Underway to Elevate the Paraeducator Role

An item from a K-12 blended learning organization.

Engaging conversations with our Bronx school & community partners

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Highlander Institute: Leveling the Field for All Learners

Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement culturally responsive school change.

In This Week’s Issue

  • Go Local: Efforts Underway to Elevate the Paraeducator Role in the Bronx
  • Did You Know? We are an approved RI vendor for PK-12 School Redesign & Strategic Support services & a PD Provider in MA’s DESE registry
  • Join the RISTE Tech Coach Group
Image collage of community educator interest meeting, Highlander Institute staff, Malika Ali presenting at a digital whiteboard, and Stephanie Garcia talking to a small group of Baychester community educators

Go Local: Efforts Underway to Elevate the Paraeducator Role in the Bronx

 “Why are we searching so far outside of school neighborhoods and not investing our time, money, and capacity into the people within our own communities?”

This critical question was center stage last week as members of Highlander Institute and Baychester Middle School met with Bronx educators and local organizations to discuss the Institute’s “Community Educator” concept.

As a partner school in Highlander Institute’s Community Educator initiative (generously supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York), Baychester invited their current employees who live in or close to the school neighborhood. Spanning roles such as paraprofessional, school aide, and secretary, participants expressed a passion for culturally responsive education and creating empowering experiences for local students. Their interest in supporting local students and families — and helping them feel seen, uplifted, and trusted by their schools — provided powerful support for the Community Educator concept.

Dr. Meisha Porter of the Bronx Community Foundation elevated these perspectives to a group of school principals, district administrators, nonprofit representatives, alternative pathway providers, and CUNY staff committed to brainstorming collective strategies to diversify the teacher pipeline. The rich conversation provided insights from professionals across educational systems, highlighting both opportunities and concerns, and setting the stage for additional partner sites to explore Community Educator programming.

We are grateful for the insights provided by educators and community members across systems in the Bronx last week, and appreciate the hospitality of Dr. Porter. Establishing proof points of innovative staffing models and roles are crucial to attracting more talented community members to education professions. We are excited to launch the community educator concept at Baychester beginning next school year and to share our learnings.

Achieve more equitable student outcomes: Partner with us today to transform your school or district

2023-2024 Partnerships 

If your strategic plan or professional learning roadmap elevates culturally responsive learning environments, Highlander Institute can help operationalize your goals! Did you know that we are an approved RI vendor for PK-12 School Redesign & Strategic Support services and a registered PD Provider in the Massachusetts DESE database? Let’s talk about how we can support your 2023-2024 implementation needs!

From Other Organizations

RISTE Tech Coach Group: Join Now

Join the RISTE Tech Coach Group

RISTE’s Tech Coaches Communication Group is now live! This self-serve discussion group is for all educational technology coaches, integration specialists, instructional coaches, or other tech-loving teachers and administrators to meet and discuss current issues, problems, and possible solutions. Once added to this group, you’ll be able to post and respond to others via email and receive invites to monthly Coaches’ Coffee virtual meetings, held from September – May.


May 14, 2023

Teacher Appreciation Week 2023

An item from a K-12 blended learning organization.

Join Highlander Institute in acknowledging and celebrating the teacher community


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Highlander Institute: Leveling the Field for All Learners

Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement culturally responsive school change.

Thank You! Teacher Appreciation Week 2023

The spring season evokes feelings of hope, growth, and renewal. Just as the weather brings the healing energy of sunshine, Teacher Appreciation Week reminds us of the power of shining a light to express gratitude for the amazing individuals supporting and encouraging students every day.

When we asked the Highlander Institute team to reflect on what teachers mean to them, a few key themes emerged. Read on to discover the sentiments from our staff members and be sure to thank a teacher in your life today!

“My favorite teachers will be part of me forever. While I would be hard pressed to remember any of the content they taught me, whenever I sit down to work through a challenge, I still feel their encouragement and belief in my abilities. I will always be grateful for their most important lessons — how to be resilient, how to learn from my mistakes, and how to demonstrate love and care for the people in my world.”

Cathy Sanford, Director of Communications

“Teachers are crucial to understanding data through a liberatory lens. You bring us the context, insights, and valuable anecdotes we need to develop a holistic view of student experiences beyond test results. Thank you!”

Rebecca Roberts, Data Analyst

“I would like to send deep appreciation and gratitude to all the educators I work with. I have learned so much with you and from you this year. I see ALL of your hard work and dedication to your schools, students, and families. I am uplifted and inspired by your creativity and caring for kids every time I enter your buildings.”

Heidi Vazquez, Instructional Equity Partner


May 7, 2023

Making Improvements that Matter

An item from a K-12 blended learning organization.

Our roadmap for working toward more equitable experiences and outcomes for students


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Highlander Institute: Leveling the Field for All Learners

Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement culturally responsive school change.


When we follow research that centers students with marginalized identities, we identify different root causes and recognize different patterns of outcomes. This evidence helps us diverge from the dominant, often deficit-based, narratives we hear in education and move together toward new possibilities. Explore our Research Base.

Students in our partner schools report more positive learning experiences:

  • “I feel like my teacher is glad I’m their student”
  • “My teacher listens when I share an idea about how to make class better”
  • “I can do well on an assignment, even when it is difficult”

Schools engaged in our multi-year partnerships have achieved new levels of success, improving: student belonging, engagement, and mindset; interim academic achievement scores; attendance rates; Math & ELA exam performance; and school classification levels.


May 6, 2023

TLA Update: Making Sense of AI in K-12 Education

An item from the folks at The Learning Accelerator.

The Learning Accelerator Celebrating 10 Years Logo with a Blue and Green arrow inside of a Blue Circle

Making Sense of AI in K-12 Education

Dear friends and colleagues,

According to ChatGPT, at least in response to a prompt I gave it to write this, “One of the most exciting and promising technologies that has emerged in recent years is artificial intelligence [AI], and in particular, the development of language models like ChatGPT. […] ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and learn in K-12 classrooms.”

Is it? Will it? The explosion of interest and use of AI across fields, K-12 included, has been rapid. The promise of these tools to support educators and students feels unlimited. As does the hype. TLA’s work over the last decade in blended and personalized learning has taught me that, regardless of ChatGPT’s own opinion on its capacity to “revolutionize,” the deeper K-12 revolution won’t be led by the robots but rather by humans, working together to make sense of and choices about the future. Making good on that promise and avoiding the perils will require leaders at every level to get curious and concrete, asking deep questions and openly sharing early lessons about the role of this new technology in teaching and learning.

To that end, I’m excited to share five takes from TLA partners on the mainstream emergence and awareness of AI. From working with a district to prototype students’ schedules with ChatGPT, to listening to leaders about the gaps they perceive, to fighting our own “battle with the bots,” we’re learning that there is a lot to consider as we move forward as a sector together. Check them out, and tell us what you think!

With humanity and solidarity,

Beth Rabbitt, CEO

A young child sits in front of a laptop typing while a teacher looks over her shoulder smiling

Blog Series: AI and K-12 Education

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The Learning Accelerator | 103 Roaring Brook RoadPortland, ME 04103

April 30, 2023

Get to Know Our Director of Program & Implementation

An item from a K-12 blended learning organization.

Help us welcome Michaelle Larracuente to the Highlander Institute team!


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Highlander Institute: Leveling the Field for All Learners

Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement culturally responsive school change.

Welcome to Our Team. Head shot photo of Michaelle Larracuente, Highlander Institute's new Director of Program & Implementation.

Welcome Our Director of Program & Implementation, Michaelle Larracuente!

Educator. Activist. Lifelong Learner. Michaelle Larracuente is a fierce child advocate who believes the key to establishing equitable and nurturing spaces for students lies in cultivating and sustaining high-quality professional learning communities for adults.

Describe the work you will be doing in this role at Highlander Institute.

As Director of Program & Implementation, I’ll be managing our portfolio of school partnerships and our team of Instructional Equity Partners; including but not limited to professional development, coaching, implementation support, and creative problem solving to address issues as they arise with the implementation process. I look forward to  building momentum through meaningful partnerships grounded in the deep belief that all students can and will achieve.

Can you tell us a little about your background?

I am a proud Rhode Islander! Born and raised in Providence, I’m honored to be working in the city that has had such an impact on me as a person. I graduated from Classical High School and hold a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University. I identify as a Haitian, Cuban, and Puerto Rican woman of color. Prior to joining the Institute team, I served as the founding Head of school for Excel Academy’s first Rhode Island campus. I was a Rhode Island District Teacher of the Year and I have 10+ years of experience in both public charter and independent schools.

What’s your self-professed education superpower or passion?

I think my strengths include working with community partners to create powerful opportunities for students and developing dynamic relationships with families. In addition to my educational career, I’ve also continued my passion as a civil servant, having supported philanthropic endeavors in over fifteen countries. I consider myself unapologetic in my pursuit of educational equity and I believe wholeheartedly that it is our collective responsibility as global citizens – and as humane people – to take an active role in building a more just world.

What are you most looking forward to with this new position? Are there any goals or interest areas you’re excited to explore?

I’m excited about the possibilities that come with collective impact. Together, coaches, teachers, and district and building level administration can reflect, collaborate, and better their pedagogical practices ensuring academically rich experiences for their institutions. With alignment and an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement, we can create the conditions for all learners to develop the skills and competencies necessary to live full and enriching lives.

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