The Change Agent

Elena Aguilar

Founder and President, Bright Morning Consulting

The Objective

Creating powerful professional development that will have a lasting and meaningful impact for both teachers and their students.

Show Notes

Elena Aguilar is the founder and president of Bright Morning Consulting, an organization committed to helping individuals and organizations create the conditions for transformation. Elena is also the host of The Bright Morning Podcast, which provides coaching conversations meant to inspire listeners to listen to their own callings and take action in their lives. Elena is a writer, leader, teacher, and coach and has authored multiple highly acclaimed books. Her most recent book, entitled The PD Book: 7 Habits That Transform Professional Development, is set to be published May 24, 2022.

Host Bio: Dr. Chris Balow is the Chief Academic Officer at SchoolMint. Dr. Balow has a Ph.D in Educational Psychology and served for 33 years as an educator in various roles with focuses on literacy, mental health, and the behavioral and emotional growth of students. He has worked the last 6 years in the educational technology field to promote student success on a larger scale.

Season 2 : Episode 10

Title: Transforming Professional Development

Subtitle: Keys to creating powerful PD that will have a lasting and meaningful impact for both teachers and their students.

VoiceOver (00:02):

Welcome to the ChangeAgents in K12 podcast. Join our host, Dr. Chris Balow, chief academic officer at schoolmint, as we dive into thought provoking in-depth conversations with top educational leaders. Our goal? The advancement of education and improved outcomes for all students. Listen in, be inspired, and ask yourself, are you ready to be a change agent?

Dr. Chris Balow (00:28):

Welcome to ChangeAgents in K12, the podcast where I have the distinct opportunity and pleasure to interview some of the movers and shakers in the K-12 world. And today I have a really great guest, Elena Aguilar, and she is a writer, a leader, a teacher, a coach, and a podcaster. And she’s the author of six highly acclaimed books, from the art of coaching to her newest book, the seven habits that transform professional development. And we’re gonna talk about that. She is the co-founder and CEO of Bright Morning Consulting, an organization committed to helping individuals and organizations create the conditions for transformation. She has taught tens of thousands of folks on how to have conversations that build a more just and equitable world. Elena can be heard, demonstrating these conversations on her own podcast called the bright morning podcast, Elena Aguilar. Welcome to ChangeAgents in K12.

Elena Aguilar (01:32):

Thank you so much for having me, Chris.

Dr. Chris Balow (01:36):

All right. Well, Hey, I have so much information to get to, but I’d like to start off with having you tell us about your latest book, the seven habits of transforming PD. And I wanna preface that by saying, you know, as an educator, I spent 33 years working in schools and districts and four states across the country and at the district level, where I helped plan PD. And it was always like the biggest headache and challenge for us at the district level. And we always were challenged with how do we provide great PD that’s meaningful, that will take root. And I don’t know if we were ever successful. So this topic is really, really important to me.

Elena Aguilar (02:20):

So that’s a great question for folks to ask is what makes PD successful? What are you trying to create? So my latest book, which will be available in may of 2022, is called the PD book seven habits that transform PD. And this was co-written with Lori Cohen and our beginning thoughts in terms of this book and this content had to do really with the question that you just read is raised, which is what kind of PD are we trying to create? What is successful? What do we wanna see as a result of it? And one of the first things that we came up with and then came back to over and over and over was how could PD workshops, sessions feel better for everyone involved? How could they be energizing thought provoking places where folks connect to each other, places and moments where folks actually cultivate resilience, where people learn and where their practice changes. So all of those indicators for us are part of the definition of what is a transformative learning experience. And so it is transformative on the levels of what we do, our behaviors, our actions, what we think, what we believe, what we feel our relationships with folks. And so that was really what guided us in thinking about, okay. So if we are committed to creating transformative PD, then what do we need to do in order to do that? And that’s where we came up with these seven habits, seven things that folks can do. And when we say a habit, we’re talking about actions we take or things that we do, that we internalize so deeply that they become second nature, that they are what we do without having to be perhaps consciously executing all these skill sets. So what can folks do in order to create transformative PD and those include habits such as engaging emotions, how do you, how do you cultivate the kind of emotional experience for folks so that they can take risks and trust the facilitator and have healthy conflict with each other? That chapter, for example, includes tips on how to shift a mood. You know, sometimes when you’re facilitating a PD session and folks come in, you just feel like, oh, the mood, isn’t what I want it to be. Yeah. It’s not that kind of, it’s not what I imagine. They’d rather be anywhere else. Some of the other habits are focus on identifying purpose and being really clear about the purpose of PD, navigating power anchoring, and adult learning, attending to the details, facilitating adaptively. So we really hope that this book will help designers and facilitators have both a lot of technical skills and strategies, but also help them cultivate a vision for PD that, so here’s what we came up with in the end. And I say this a little bit sheepishly, I’ll tell you one a moment, but how can PD feel a little bit more like a party? How can it feel more celebratory and joyful? And I say sheepishly because neither Lori, nor I are people who probably anybody would ever describe as being like party people. We’re not talking about like, you know, big wild parties obviously, but we’re just talking about how can we have a feeling that is more like I wanna be here. I want both for facilitators and for learners. And so I love the cover of the book. It feels very colorful and celebratory, and really is inviting folks to shift their vision for PD and think sort of develop new paradigms for what it could be. So that’s a little bit about it’s very concrete hands on, but also has lots of stories and hopefully is really inspirational.

Dr. Chris Balow (06:50):

Yeah, that sounds excellent. And it’s so much needed. Particularly school districts are really cutting back on their time and money available for professional development. And so every single opportunity for professional development is extremely precious. And I love the notion of it being fun and a party, because I think if you ask teachers, that’s what they wanna do for their students. They wanna make learning fun, which promotes engagement And so we need to do that with our teachers as well. You know, I’m a licensed psychologist and, and so I always think about that, that whole emotional piece you talked about, and that really resonated with me because you talked about how it’s important for the educator to, to understand how they think and feel and their belief systems that that’s so important that our belief systems drive our moods and our attitudes and our mental health, you know, from a cognitive behavioral perspective. So tell us a little bit how, how you address that or work through that with your participants.

Elena Aguilar (08:08):

Even just starting with that concept, that what we think has a deep impact on how we feel right. There, there can be some discussion and sort of what comes first. It’s like a chicken and an egg. But what we think has an impact on what we feel and what we do. And so, and that is, I so appreciate that you brought up the way that teachers feel about creating a joyful learning environment for students. And yet when we think about adult learners or working with teachers, we tend to have, at least I, as a teacher, went to a lot of sessions that were very serious, and they were not fun. And in the coaching model that I’ve developed and in the way I teach this coaching model, I always say, we start with ourselves. We have to start with ourselves as coaches, as leaders, as facilitators and reflect on who we are, being, how we are feeling, what our belief system is about professional development, what’s the purpose. And going back again to how you started off, what are we looking for? What is success when it comes to PD? And are we, are we thinking big enough? Are we thinking hopefully enough, inspirationally enough? Right. So we can think, well, the P this PD will be successful. If teachers understand the new initiative and can execute it in their classroom. And my response to that is kinda like, it doesn’t inspire me, but can we think, could we think about PD as a place where teachers come together to connect back with themselves and who they wanna be as educators to connect with each other, to support each other, to help each other, reconnect with why they came into the profession and to acquire some new skills so that we can serve students. Can we have a bigger just starting with our vision and our aspirations? Can we get a little bit bigger than these four learning targets on an agenda?

Dr. Chris Balow (10:34):

Yeah, that’s such a great point. I, and, you know, I’ve done a lot of professional development with teachers over the years. A lot of it focused on mental health and student behavior systems, et cetera. Um, and then other things, but there was always the question that, how does this fit in the bigger picture and cuz oftentimes districts have many different PD initiatives going on. And um, so I love the notion of vision. How does it all fit? And, and then connect back to my work as an individual so important.

Elena Aguilar (11:10):

Yeah. And we need to both we as facilitators or designers of PD, but also for participants, we all need to be able to see those connections. And that’s one of the things that we dig into in the chapter on purpose and getting really clear on purpose and how one initiative relates to another or how a school’s initiative on RTI or restorative practices connects with, with academic goals, with district goals. And so being able to otherwise there’s so much going on in schools and sometimes it can feel so fragmented and disparate and it’s when a facilitator or a leader can tie those elements together. It gives everybody a sense of, of, of a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.

Dr. Chris Balow (12:01):

Fantastic. Well, I, I think this book is so interesting the way you’ve described it and I think it should be in every school. And so I, I really wish you well, that, that, that book can get out there. I think it’s gonna really make a difference. Um, regarding PD, you know, some of the reading I’ve done about instructional coaching, it’s described by many as professional development. Would you agree with that?

Elena Aguilar (12:33):

Oh, absolutely. Yes. I’m glad that you made that connection. So I define coaching as a form of professional development, and it’s actually one that the research has found is particularly effective because it is job-embedded. It’s ongoing. It is by nature differentiated. And so it is, you know, it is absolutely an incredibly high, um, strategy lever to help teachers develop their skillset, develop their practice. And ideally when it is linked again, coming back to connections to a school or district’s larger efforts and those efforts could be reflected also in what we’re thinking about as sort of that traditional PD on a Wednesday afternoon, when there’s a connection. Um, there, when there is one on one coaching in conjunction with a sort of more traditional kind of PD scope that can have tremendous impact it, it just makes sense. I mean, I think any educator, like yeah, of course that would just make sense. There are obvious analogies being in the classroom, you teach a lesson and then you provide some, you know, on the spot coaching for each kid when they need it to help them master those skills that you’re teaching.

Dr. Chris Balow (13:53):

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And there, there probably is not a better way to change behavior and to, to make skills, you know, part of your repertoire, like you were saying, become a habit, um, through, through coaching where you’re meeting with an individual you’re, you’re held accountable to a certain extent, not in a negative way, but, um, there, there can’t be a better way to, to actually inculcate these, these new skills.

Elena Aguilar (14:24):

Yes, definitely.

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Dr. Chris Balow (15:50):

So you wrote a book a while back called coaching for equity, which, which really was interesting to me. And you write about tools and strategies and models for, for conversations around equity. Could you give us a few of the concepts that you talked about in that book?

Elena Aguilar (16:09):

Hmm, sure. Coaching for equity came out in 2020, and I’ll say a good amount of what is in that book actually are stories and conversations. So there are strategies described, but then when I teach about how to have conversations around equity, everybody was saying, well, how do you say this? What would you say if someone said that? Okay. And so there are a number of stories and in depth anecdotes about teachers that I coached in which I guided them through unpacking their practices around equity and specifically around racial equity. And so there are sections around, you know, how do you talk about racism? How do you describe it? What do you do if, if you say something to a teacher and they say, are you saying I’m racist? You know, how do you respond to that? How do you understand someone’s background experiences, skillset? How do you understand, have compassion and empathy and curiosity, and still guide them to dig deep into their beliefs and their behaviors and make changes. So, um, I think that book, like all of my books, I worked in the Oakland public schools for 19 years. I was a teacher, a coach. I was a central office administrator. And, um, often when I went to PD sessions or when I read books for educators, I was really interested in the theory and the ideas, but I always wanted to know, okay, so what can I do tomorrow, help me, you know, sort of like, what do I say? And so all of the books I write, I, I, I go perhaps into a little bit of theory or context. And so coaching for equity for example, has a whole chapter on what is racism and white supremacy. Because some folks we need that kind of knowledge background context, but then I get into like, okay, so what do you do with this knowledge? How do you act on it? I don’t wanna be just in this sort of domain of theory and context. Like I wanna help coaches and teachers and school leaders really figure out what do I say when I hear a teacher say, well, I mean, you know, those paras just don’t care about education. Like we do. Well, what do you say in that moment? And that’s what I wanna help folks figure out.

Dr. Chris Balow (18:45):

Yeah, that’s excellent. So some really practical what to look for and how to respond to it. You know, in a, in a positive, proactive way that that’s excellent. Um, going on to one of your other books that, that was of interest to me called onward, which really talked about building resiliency in, in teachers. And recently I’ve done extensive research on teacher attrition and, and wrote a big white paper and I’ve been presenting around the country on it. Um, you know, we, we’ve got issues with teachers, you know, struggling on many, many different levels with their mental health, um, there’s teacher shortages. Um, so talk about, you know, that book onward and, and how you, the framework to help teachers manage the stress of, of what, what is a really hard job.

Elena Aguilar (19:38):

It is a really, really hard job. And, I would say that book is for any educator. And so it is a really, really hard job being a teacher. And it is a really, really hard job being a principal. I have coached a ton of principals and site leaders. And it is a really, really hard job being the only district director of curriculum and instruction. And it’s a really hard job being a coach in a school. I mean, it’s just really, I’d say it’s really hard to be a human being is where I’m coming to in my conclusion, I guess it’s just hard being a human being. There’s so much that’s outside of our control. And so what can we do about what is within our control and our influence an onward is built around 12 habits. Again, I like to go really concrete. It’s built around 12 habits and 12 dispositions that educators can engage in to build their resilience. And the way that that book is laid out is those 12 habits are organized around the calendar year. And so my suggestion for folks is to read one chapter a month to read the chapter that correlates to that month. It sort of, um, overlaps with the rhythms of a school year. And so that book includes habits, like build community and know yourself and ride the waves of change, play, and create, celebrate. These are some of the habits, it’s all research based, but I don’t, again, I don’t, I do a lot of research and reading, but I don’t write a lot of it. I use that to inform what I suggest for folks. And it’s also based on my own experience as an educator and as a coach. But so I don’t go deep into the research. I mean, I, I reference it, but it’s mostly like, here’s why you have to know about what emotions are and here’s what you can do with that knowledge. And even that, so many of us talk about emotions, but how often do we really pause and say, what is an emotion? Is this something, you know, what’s the difference between feeling an emotion and what sometimes is called managing an emotion or expressing, like, let’s just break this down a little bit. And then along with onward is another book. I wrote a companion, which is the onward workbook, which gives folks 365 exercises to practice the ideas, because I know that in order to change behavior and in order to feel better, we actually need to do these daily practices. And so some of them are even what you might imagine to begin with. There are opportunities for folks to identify affirmations they wanna use or dig into what their core values are, or write a legacy script, or do some work around forgiveness or dealing with anger. Um, and there’s also some really fun and creative activities in there. But I know that just reading about something isn’t enough and onward has, that’s definitely been my most popular book and has, um, just done so many people have sent me appreciations for the ideas that they’ve gotten in it. Um, and what it’s, how it’s helped them, especially in the crisis of the last couple of years.

Dr. Chris Balow (23:05):

Yeah. Well, I am just so impressed, Elena, you have a little bit of a psychologist in you. Al of the things you mentioned are really core precepts of cognitive behavior therapy. So you definitely did your research. And it’s just so interesting to me. I think it’s so needed right now.  I’ve been looking at the studies, and the depression rate is twice the normal population in teachers. 55% of teachers are looking at leaving the profession. 38% of principals are looking at leaving the profession. I mean, we’re facing a crisis if we don’t help these folks and your book onward, um, would be a very, very important tool. Um, so I’m definitely gonna tell everyone I can about it because if we don’t help our teachers ,wow.

Elena Aguilar (23:58):

Yeah. And thank you for that appreciation and that recognition. I do. I’ll say a lot of what I have researched and learned I have done, so because I need it, I need the resources, you know, whether, and I would say whether it is teaching or coaching or leading or being a mother, or as I said, being a human being, it’s hard work. And my hope is that I can bring what I’ve learned about all of that, which I’ve definitely dug into what we know about psychology and different approaches. I’m also a certified meditation teacher, and I’ve done a lot of work  in the area of meditation and mind-body awareness resources. And so my hope is that I can bring those strategies in. And when I think about onward and school leaders in what can be done about the turnover rates of teachers, I also think about the connection between onward and professional development, because onward was designed as something that teachers could use to guide themselves through PD for a year. And that has happened in some places. And so I just think about administrators being able to have the PD book in one hand and use that to guide how they facilitate a study of onward for educators. Because the thing is, there is so much outside of our control and there’s so much that is going to, that is changing and that we’ll continue to change. And there’s a lot we can do about our own wellbeing. There is so much we can do. And so we can actually start with that paradigm shift or that mental model shift, which is, we’re not victims. It is not an ongoing, you know, all these terrible things are gonna happen. We just have to try to, you know, paddle and swim you know, stay afloat. We can actually really change our reality. We really can.

Dr. Chris Balow (25:59):

Yeah, absolutely. I like to think about it. Um, a term was coined by someone, I know a psychologist who called it mental fitness, that even if we’re not suffering from a diagnosable mental condition that we all need to learn these skills, and these are skills, just like any physical skill. These are cognitive skills that keep us fit and protect us when, when we do get into troubled waters. And so I just love how you fit this all together.

Elena Aguilar (26:30):

Right. And I think another thing is I think that they give us basically more energy and stamina to be able to make the systemic changes that do need to be made. So I also wanna make sure that I’m not telling people, like it’s just about your attitude, change your attitude and everything will be great. No, there’s a lot of systemic changes that need to happen in our education system, in our communities, in our society, in our country. And yet if we’re completely drained, then it’s gonna be really hard to engage in those battles. And many of them are battles. And so the more we can shore up our resilience and come together as resilient communities, the more we can undertake those bigger, those bigger changes that need to be made.

Dr. Chris Balow (27:16):

Yeah, absolutely. I think of a battery on a cell phone, you know, the battery gets down to 10%. You just can’t function. And so how do you charge up that battery? Well, changing gears a little bit, let’s talk about instructional coaching. I’ve read the research. The impact on student outcomes is tremendous. The other thing I’ve read is that in reference to teacher attrition is that instructional coaching can actually keep teachers on the job. And so talk about how that kind of support from administrators and coaches can really make a difference ’cause we’re facing this teacher shortage right now.

Elena Aguilar (27:58):

Sure. And that is the same results that I’ve seen both in the research and in my own practitioner research in the Oakland public schools. So if you imagine or understand that a really well-trained, well-supported instructional coach is someone who would come into your room. Let’s say, if you’re a teacher and sit down with you and say, Hey, we’ve got our agenda for today. Before we get into that, I just wanna hold our little space to hear how you are doing. I really care about you. How are you doing? And that instructional coach is someone who listens really deeply and who is able to adjust an agenda when necessary to respond to what someone is bringing up or recognizes that by working through that agenda and helping someone refine their teaching practice, they will cultivate their resilience. They will feel reconnected with their purpose. They will recognize the impact of what they are doing. So many teachers, I’m still a coach. And I coach school leaders. I coach a couple of teachers. And one of the things I hear so frequently is the feeling that folks feel like they’re not having an impact. They’re not making a difference. They come in, they came into this profession because they wanted to make a difference for kids and they don’t feel like they are. And a coach helps folks recognize the impact they are having. And that is, you know, it, one of the chapters in onward is called, oh, what’s it called? Now? I’m blanking. It’s about seeing the bright spots. And that is what a coach can do is help someone see the bright spots. Our brains are wired in a way where we see what isn’t working and we really focus on what’s not working. And a coach can help us slow down and see all the bright spots, see the things that are working, see where we are being effective and then help us figure out how to become more effective. Right. And so if you can imagine or understand that that is what a really effective instructional coach can do, then you might immediately be able to, Under, of course I can understand the research that says that folks who have really good instructional coaches stick around, cuz you’ve got someone who is your biggest champion cheerleader, who is actually, you know, who is like a, perhaps like the best kind of athletic coach who sees your potential. And they are, you know, sometimes perhaps a little bit demanding because they know that you can make that growth and then they’re cheering you on. And people, we want to be around folks who see us that way.

Dr. Chris Balow (30:58):

Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve talked to many superintendents recently and they’re like, how do I keep my, how do I retain my teachers? And it seems to me that investing in a great instructional program, instructional coaching program would be essential. Absolutely not only to retain teachers, but help them improve to get, get better outcomes for kids.

Elena Aguilar (31:24):

Yeah. And you, like you said, there is so much research. There’s been research for decades on the impact of instructional coaching. And so it is, you know, the thing is I have to say that those coaches do need to, there are conditions that need to be in place in order for them to be effective. The coaches need training. There needs to be really clear communication parameters and agreements set up. There needs to be clarity on what the coaches are coaching on. There needs to be alignment. So there’s these other components because there are places that I’ve worked as a consultant where folks say, well, we hired 12 coaches and we didn’t see any impact. So when I dig in with them to what’s going on, it’s like, well, these coaches got no training. They had no idea what there you wanted them to do. They weren’t given any focus areas. So there’s, there are things that need to be done in order to ensure the success of coaches and the coaching program.

Dr. Chris Balow (32:25):

Yeah. And it’s so important. My experience in schools is that you get about one chance to get things right. Otherwise people sort of disengage and they get turned off. And so, if I’m hearing you, your advice is if you’re gonna do coaching, do a lot of time planning and training before you roll out, and know what it is you want the coaching to do, be sure that everybody’s in agreement. 

Elena Aguilar (32:46):

What’s the purpose of the coaching program? What are the problems that it is intending to solve? How is that gonna happen? So some backwards planning, but just some very basic program development framework development. What is the mission for this program? What are our values? What are our principles? How are coaches evaluated? How is the coaching program evaluated in so many districts, coaches are evaluated using the same rubric as teachers are evaluated on because there isn’t a coaching rubric. Ah, and so that makes it meaningless. And that’s not evaluation for the sake of I’m a new coach. I wanna know. What does it look like to do a good job in this school? What do you, what are you hoping for? And, and so there’s a lot of work to do to clarify a coaching program.

Dr. Chris Balow (33:42):

That’s great advice. I’m curious, what’s your philosophical approach to coaching? Is it more on the directive side? Is it more on the sort of passive side or maybe somewhere in the middle? I think it’s called dialectical by some people. Where do you fall on that continuum?

Elena Aguilar (34:01):

Thanks for that question. So the coaching model that I have developed, I call transformational coaching, and it’s a holistic model that addresses and explores a person’s behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being, because those are all connected. I am really committed to transformation in all of those areas to retention of educators. I know that we cannot see true sustained change in practice. If we haven’t surfaced and explored the underlying beliefs, otherwise we’re just getting compliance. And I’m really committed to folks deeply examining their core beliefs about education and teaching and learning, and power and race and their own authority. And what is the purpose of education so that we can really see empowered children, teachers, coaches that’s in a sort of very high level. So I lean on what would be described as sort of the facilitative side of coaching. I believe that when you are coaching someone, the coach is guiding a reflective process, not telling people what to do or what to, you know, that you are guiding someone to reflect on their behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being, you understand that they know themselves better than you will ever know them, that they have the answers within them. That if you, as the coach, are a really powerful listener and you believe in the other person’s ability to reflect and to grow and to transform, that will happen. As the coach, you don’t need to know everything. You don’t need to know all the content areas. You need to know how to ask really good questions. You need to know how to listen. You need to know how to believe that people can change. You need to know how to see someone’s potential and how to have curiosity about what’s going on with them, how to really connect to your own compassion for others. That’s how I think about coaching.

Dr. Chris Balow (36:24):

Okay. So on the facilitative end of things. We’re almost out of time. But I wanted to ask you, I work for a software company obviously. And do you see, or have you worked with, in the instructional coaching realm, software that supports that, and have you found it helpful in any way?

Elena Aguilar (36:49):

I think of software as what it is. It’s a tool that can, you know, enable certain organizational material, you know, organization of material of communication. I mean, clearly you and I are communicating right now through a platform. I’m so grateful that we can be in a conversation like this. So I think it’s a tool and it’s really how you use it, what the purpose is, and not over relying on it or thinking that it’s gonna be some kind of magical solution. And, you know, there are simple tools that can be used in terms of ways to capture data about what’s going on in a classroom to store it, to share it too.

Dr. Chris Balow (37:30):

Like video, for example.

Elena Aguilar (37:32):

Sure.

Dr. Chris Balow (37:33):

Well, we are out of time, but before I let you go, you have to participate in our fast five where I ask you five questions about yourself and you give us your quick answer on it. So if you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Elena Aguilar (37:55):

Ooh, well, I love traveling, and I love being all over the world. Today, I will say Rome, Italy.

Dr. Chris Balow (38:02):

Rome, Italy. Well, Italy’s number one on my list of places I wanna visit. It looks amazing, and I can’t wait to go there one day. What is your favorite family vacation besides Rome?

Elena Aguilar (38:18):

Favorite family vacation would be on the OSA peninsula in Costa Rica. So my father is Costa Rica. He lives in Costa Rica and the OSA peninsula is a place where there are macaw parrots through the sky and toucans and monkeys and dolphins. And it’s just an absolutely magical place. And so that’s my favorite family vacation.

Dr. Chris Balow (38:43):

Oh my gosh. Well, I’m gonna be going to Costa Rica at some point. Here, my company, we have a big facility in Costa Rica. We have about 50 people that work for our company in Costa Rica. They’re computer programmers. They’re all just amazing and we love them. So we’ve got a big installation down in Costa Rica we have for many years. So it’s kind of cool. Have you ever had a nickname and if you did, what was it

Elena Aguilar (39:12):

A nickname? Oh my goodness. You know, I don’t think I have. My name does not really lend itself to nicknames. I can’t think of any.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:29):

All right. What’s your favorite zoo animal?

Elena Aguilar (39:33):

Ooh, my favorite zoo animal. The first thing that comes to mind is giraffes. I just think they’re so funny looking and they’re so odd. They’re so interesting looking.

Dr. Chris Balow (39:48):

They are definitely that. What was the first job you ever had?

Elena Aguilar (39:53):

First job. I worked in a bead shop.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:01):

Okay.

Elena Aguilar (40:01):

Like a bead, like the things that you make necklaces with. And there was a bead shop in the little town I lived in and I worked there. It was really fun. I actually got to learn a lot about where all these beads from around the world came from and how they were made in the history of beads in the world. It was actually really interesting.

Dr. Chris Balow (40:24):

Awesome. Well, Elena Aguilar, thank you so much for being a guest on Change Agents in K-12. I really appreciate it. And I know our listeners will really learn a lot and definitely I’m gonna recommend that folks check out some of your books.

Elena Aguilar (40:41):

Well, thank you so much for having me, Chris. I really enjoyed this conversation.

VoiceOver (40:46):

Thank you for listening to the Change Agents in K12 podcast brought to you by SchoolMint, find us on all major podcast platforms and make sure to subscribe, so you never miss a show. See you next time.

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Season 1

District Spotlight: Evanston/Skokie School District 65 28 District Spotlight: Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Dr. Devon Horton joins the podcast to discuss his district's ability to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. Change Agents S1 E28 Caroline County Public Schools web Listen Now District Spotlight:  Caroline County Public Schools 27 District Spotlight: Caroline County Public Schools Dr. Herb Monroe joins the podcast for an inspiring discussion of his personal experiences, the influence of educators, and creating lasting change. Change Agents S1 E27 Caroline County Public Schools web Listen Now Instruction That Closes Gaps 26 Instruction That Closes Gaps Eileen Murphy, Founder and CEO of ThinkCERCA, joins the podcast to discuss the relationship between literacy and Social-Emotional Learning. Change Agents S1 E26 web Caroline County Public Schools web Listen Now District Spotlight: Santa Ana Unified School District 25 District Spotlight: Santa Ana Unified School District Using “strategic foresight” in order to plan for, innovate, and meet the challenges of our new educational environment, such as declining enrollment and social/emotional well-being... Change Agents S1 E25 Caroline County Public Schools web Listen Now District Spotlight: Greeley-Evans School District Six 24 District Spotlight: Greeley-Evans School District Six Dr. Pilch discusses challenges and triumphs facing districts and superintendents with valuable advice for future school leaders. Change Agents S1 E24 web Greeley-Evans School District Six Listen Now District Spotlight: Moreno Valley Unified School District 23 District Spotlight: Moreno Valley Unified School District How can districts engage with their community and encourage their students to succeed, regardless of their situation? Dr. Martinrex Kedziora, Superintendent Moreno Valley USD, explains... Listen Now District Spotlight: Seminole County Public Schools 22 District Spotlight: Seminole County Public Schools Guest Dr. Walt Griffin, Superintendent of Seminole County Public Schools, shares how his district’s focus on building relationships, changing the culture, and taking good care... Listen Now District Spotlight: Illinois School District U-46 21 District Spotlight: Illinois School District U-46 In this District Spotlight, Tony Sanders (Superintendent of Illinois School District U-46) describes his professional journey to leading the second largest school district in Illinois.... Listen Now What Makes Us Different 20 What Makes Us Different How can we build a more inclusive system in order to make things better for all? Join guest, Dr. Kenneth Magdaleno, as he discusses his... Listen Now Rising to the Challenge 19 Rising to the Challenge Guest Joe McKown discusses some of the challenges faced in education - including poverty, absenteeism, student behavior, and school climate - and provides data and... Listen Now Brain and Behavior: The Inseparable Link 18 Brain and Behavior: The Inseparable Link With a compelling discussion of trauma and brain science, Dr. Lori Desautels explains how educators can use educational neuroscience to better understand student behavior and... Listen Now Creating Conditions For Powerful Learning: Answering the “Big Questions” 17 Creating Conditions For Powerful Learning: Answering the “Big Questions” How do we define ‘learning’ and how can educators support powerful learning in schools? Guest Will Richardson, former educator for 22 years and co-founder of... Listen Now Connect, Learn, and Grow: An Educator’s Evolution 16 Connect, Learn, and Grow: An Educator's Evolution Guest Dr. Rachelle Dene Poth explains the importance of being a “Connected Educator” and how unconventional teaching can change engagement and outcomes for students. Poth's... Listen Now Marketing Matters 15 Marketing Matters Are you telling your school’s story? Guest Nick LeRoy, Founder and President of Bright Minds Marketing, examines the rise in school choice and its effect... Listen Now Student Agency and the “Big Picture” 14 Student Agency and the “Big Picture” Guest Dr. Elliot Washor, co-founder of Big Picture Learning, joins us to share the impact of his organization and their work to foster learning spaces... Listen Now Social Justice In Education 13 Social Justice In Education Guest Dr. Kate Anderson Foley shares her thoughts on educational social justice, including anecdotes from her personal and professional journey. Hear her thoughts on policy... Listen Now District Spotlight: Minnetonka Public Schools 12 District Spotlight: Minnetonka Public Schools In this District Spotlight, guest Dr. Dennis Peterson (Superintendent of Minnetonka Public Schools) shares lessons learned from his 50+ years of experience, explains the unique... Listen Now Organizational Redesign Through the “Equity Lens” 11 Organizational Redesign Through the “Equity Lens” Guest Dr. Stacy Scott discusses how to make equity work in schools, including what challenges may be faced and the characteristics to promote organization success.... Listen Now Formulating A Positive School Climate 10 Formulating A Positive School Climate What do SEL and School Climate efforts look like in practice and how can we continue to improve? Guest Heather Anderson discusses strategies used in... Listen Now Equity, Excellence, and Engagement: How can we accomplish it all? 9 Equity, Excellence, and Engagement: How can we accomplish it all? Guest Dr. Doug Reeves takes a deep dive into equity, excellence, and student engagement, sharing information on his personal research, common obstacles, best practices, as... Listen Now District Spotlight: Fort Worth Independent School District 8 District Spotlight: Fort Worth Independent School District In this District Spotlight, guest Dr. Kent Scribner, Superintendent of Fort Worth ISD, shares their response to the pandemic. Dr. Scribner also discusses leadership in... Listen Now Moving Forward Together 7 Moving Forward Together With all the recent events, what considerations must schools take into account when it’s time to reopen? Guest Dr. Dennis Carpenter discusses challenges and the... Listen Now School Spotlight: Southwest Allen County Schools 6 School Spotlight: Southwest Allen County Schools In this school spotlight, guest Dr. Phil Downs, Superintendent of SW Allen County Schools, offers thoughtful dialogue on preparations and practices that have been most... Listen Now Becoming Transformational in Education 5 Becoming Transformational in Education How do we define transformation in education and what challenges lay ahead? Guest Gary Soto provides an extensive dialogue on what schools need to focus... Listen Now School Spotlight: Hilliard City Schools 4 School Spotlight: Hilliard City Schools In this school spotlight, guest Dr. John Marschhausen (Superintendent of Hilliard City Schools) shares district information and answers questions related to the pandemic closures. Dr.... Listen Now Post-Pandemic Preparation 3 Post-Pandemic Preparation How has the pandemic affected students and how should schools address these needs when preparing to reopen? Dr. Howie Knoff provides valuable answers to these... Listen Now PBIS & SEL: Conversation and Challenges 2 PBIS & SEL: Conversation and Challenges An in-depth discussion on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) with guest Dr. Don Kincaid. Key factors to school success and... Listen Now Change is good: Transforming the way we think about “School” 1 Change is good: Transforming the way we think about “School” Guest Dr. Scott McLeod engages in a compelling discussion about how schools can work to transform education in a way that can increase student motivation,... Listen Now