Houston Implementation Institute: Learning The Importance of Tooting Your Own Horn

Hello, my name is Katie Gainsback and I am the coordinator for NSRC's Building Awareness in Science Education initiative. I just got back from my first trip to Texas and first time working with Houston ISD. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. I was inspired by educators, administrators, and community members who took time out of their hectic schedules to work toward improving science education for all students.

Houston Teachers working together

Facilitator Arthur Mitchell welcomed us to the first ever LASER i3 Implementation Institute. On October 12-13, 2012, 26 leadership teams representing schools in the Houston Independent School District convened for a jam packed day-and-a-half-long institute. Over the course of the event, teams revisited and revised their five-year strategic plans created back in January at the 5-day Strategic Planning Institute.

One of the overwhelming advantages of NSRC's approach is our focus on region-specific problems and concerns, and this was apparent during this Implementation Institute. The program allotted time not only for teams to plan and assess their implementation progress, but also to begin addressing issues like materials management and garnering community support. One participant noted, "As a new administrator to the campus, it was extremely useful to have planning time with our campus based team." Another exclaimed, "I appreciated the amount of time we received to work in our teams [...] editing our school plans!"

Houston Teachers at the Implementation Institute

The overwhelming favorite of the institute however, came when we tackled community partnerships on Saturday morning. The session began with many schools feeling as though they didn't have a single partner to call on. By the end of the presentation, however, teams were excitedly planning ways in which to leverage existing partners, now recognizing that "partnership doesn't always involve monetary contributions but giving of time..." Armed with a greater understanding of what a "perfect" partnership looks like, one participant commented that they now appreciated the "importance of 'tooting your own horn'".

I hope Houston teachers will take that advice to heart and toot their horns regularly because it's clear they are doing incredible work!

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About the Author

Katie Gainsback
Program Manager for Leadership Development



Katie Gainsback is a Program Manager for Leadership Development in the Professional Services division at the SSEC. Katie coordinates events promoting inquiry-based learning and STEM education across the United States for science teachers, administrators, and community partners. Through her role designing and executing leadership and professional learning opportunities, Katie has reinvigorated her passion for working with teachers and grade school love of hands-on science. Before joining the Smithsonian in 2012, Katie worked at the National Geographic Museum planning and facilitating drop-in programs for visitors of all ages on exhibits ranging from the Anglo-Saxon Hoard to Animal Grossology. Prior to that Katie was part of the Education Team at the National Archives and Records Administration, supporting school and public programs while in graduate school. Katie earned her BA in History from the College of William & Mary and received an MA in Museum Education from The George Washington University.