Voices from the field: Finding renewed purpose from personalization

Disclaimer: This initiative initially was launched and coordinated by the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation, which in 2022 merged with and became the Charles Butt Foundation.

Our Voices from the Field series features students, teachers, and school leaders who make an impact in Texas public schools. Educators and students at Shannon High School in Birdville ISD open up about finding a renewed sense of purpose and success after transitioning to a personalized approach through the Raising Blended Learners program.

Authors: David Williams, Principal; Karen Lopez, Academic Dean; Cheryl McKnight, Project Manager

Students and educators at Shannon High School in Birdville ISD recognized tremendous gains in their first year of implementing blended and personalized learning. Shannon offers an alternative high school program, targeting juniors and seniors who have not found success in the traditional classroom.

Personalized learning at Shannon means that all students are receiving targeted instruction, intervention as needed, and mentoring to support whole child development. Mentoring is scheduled daily for all students. This has facilitated increased student ownership of learning. Students are actively participating in their education. They know where they are academically. They know what their education and career goals are. They know what it takes to accomplish their goals.  

Students and teachers alike say blended learning is meeting the needs of the individual in a new way, as well as, strengthening the connection between students and teachers.

“The teachers here are more concerned with my learning than just their teaching. I am so happy that I have the freedom to show what I know and can move through a course at a pace that fits me,” Sebastian says.

Key to success at Shannon is a full-time academic dean who works with teachers during daily Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to analyze various data sets and helps teachers design instruction to target students’ needs.

“It has been amazing to hear our students discuss how improving their Lexile score will help them be better prepared for the job they’ve always wanted,” says Karen Lopez, Dean of Instruction. “Knowing that our students, for the first time since being in high school, feel heard, valued and are given voice and choice, brings happy tears to my eyes.”

When surveyed by the district, all Shannon High teachers reported that they would not want to return to traditional teaching strategies, because they have seen what can happen when data drives instruction and students feel pride in their accomplishments.  

Cliff Moran, a science teacher at Shannon describes his teaching style as honoring individual learners, and he is seeing respect coming back in ways he never expected. “Before it was so impersonal, and it was not so much the class size. It was the approach.” Watch this touching video to learn how Moran’s teaching has been transformed by the blended learning model.