Thursday, October 19, 2017

Staying Positive This Time of Year!

As I was thinking about my next blog, I came across an article that seemed to fit the many topics running through my head.  The article is linked here for your reading pleasure.  

October is a month when so many things converge on teachers and administrators.  Grading periods are coming to a close, parent teacher conferences fill the hallways after hours, value-added data is released for buildings, and the light of day gets shorter and shorter.  All of these things may make October a LONG month for educators.  Fashioned from the article above, here are my top 10 ways to stay positive during this time.  

  1. Find strength in students:  After celebrating both muffins with moms and donuts with dads this month, the excitement that fills the building when families are engaged is uplifting.  
  2. Learn something new: I am working on a new way to share information with staff, parents, and the community.  I recently joined a group of 6th graders for a lesson on using Screencastify, and I am excited to try out my new learning!
  3. Pull out the instructional stops: I am reading 3 books right now, thinking about leading and learning in new and engaging ways to prevent plateaus.  
  1. Battle your boredom: When we get the chance to exercise our professional freedoms, we feel energized to focus on priorities.  Personalizing PD pathways for teachers has been invigorating as a leader.  Giving teachers the control of their learning has not only battled our “PD boredom” as leaders, but has made collaborative learning from each other a priority!
  2. Find your tribe:  I am so blessed to be a part of Ohio School Leadership Institute Cohort 32 this year.  With the support of BASA and The Center for Creative Leadership, we have formed a “tribe” of lead learners, exploring and developing our leadership styles together.  
  3. Hit pause and reflect:  Have you ever completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Questionnaire?  If not, I would highly suggest it!  As part of OSLI Cohort 32, I completed this survey at the 1st part of our leadership institute.  The results have allowed me to “pause and reflect” on my preferences and how those preferences impact my personal and professional decisions.  My MBTI profile is included below.  
  1. Never let your flame go out:  I am more excited to be a superintendent today than I was when I took this job 4 years ago.  As I continue to grow as a lead learner, I am excited to “flex” my leadership styles to fit the needs of the person and the situation.  Each time we “flex” our skills, we add fuel to our professional fires.  
  2. Take a hike:  I just completed the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Half Marathon.  Enjoying the weather, taking time for my own health, celebrating children champions, and running with friends helps me find balance.  Don’t forget to take time for yourself and your family and friends.  
  3. Have coffee with a mentor: I am blessed with several trusted colleagues and mentors both locally and through state and regional organizations. Picking up the phone, carpooling to a conference, or arranging an early money coffee stop, all to connect with a mentor, should not be overlooked.  It is nice to check your thinking, seek advice, or share innovative ideas with those you trust to counter the blues we sometimes feel this time of year.  
  4. Resist the isolation: I am so hopeful for education in Ohio as superintendents across the state have come together in the last year to collectively tell our stories.  This “movement” has resulted in the introduction of a School DeRegulation Bill from Senator Huffman.  For the first time in several years, I can feel the landscape of education changing, with a focus on local control, all because we have collectively stood together.  

Take time this month to focus on the positives and counter the energy drain that hits all of us this time of year.  Our students, buildings, and communities need us!

#Know Our Why -  Purple and White.png
Yours in Education,  
Prohaska Sig-03.png

Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

We are Human Systems - Opening message 17.18

Each year since I have become a superintendent (August 2014), the importance of opening day has grown.  This is the one day that I stress about more than anything else throughout the year.  This day  unleashes the energy that feeds the culture and behaviors of the district and sets the stage for the year to come.  

Last year in the opening message I referenced Urban Meyer's book Above the Line and it’s core principle, The R Factor, which is applicable year after year. And yes, even as a Michigan fan, I can bring myself to say that :)

The R factor is  a simple equation that says

Before the opening of this year, the administrative team and I had the pleasure of hearing Tim Kight,  the developer of R Factor, again and then completed his train the trainer workshop. During that professional development, Tim said something that really resonated with me and seemed to be the missing puzzle piece to the 2017.18 opening message.  

Tim Kight put what we do as educators into perspective when he said  “We are human systems first and education systems second”.  

So what does that really mean?  Whether you are in Mechanicsburg or any other school district, it means that what we do is not grounded in the words on paper that make up our goals, our vision statements and our core beliefs.  It means that what we do as educators begins with the core beliefs that rest on our hearts.  Let me say that again, what we do as educators begins with the core beliefs we have for our students that rest on our hearts.  

That’s the beauty of R Factor and E+R=O.  This equation is not something new, it’s merely a tool that will help us stay focused on our why, which is what rests on our hearts.    

Mechanicsburg has opened the last few years with a hashtag.  The hashtag is a way for us to consistently keep our priority at the forefront of what we do and allows us to tell our story of education in Mechanicsburg.  If we don’t tell our story, someone else will do it for us.  Don’t leave that to chance!

Knowing our why comes right back around to the notion that we do what we do because of the beliefs that rest on our hearts.  

Tim Kight also talked about the notion of the edge, which is where the average version of ourselves, meets the best version of ourselves.  I was really intrigued by the notion of this edge because I wake up each day hoping to bring the best version of myself to this district and to my family.  I wake up each day with the intention to be the best version of myself but that is not always easy.  

Why isn’t it easy?  In order to break through the edge, to be the best versions of ourselves, we must develop skills that we don’t have the talent for.  

The Edge
Lesser Version of You
Average Version of You
tapping into maximizing natural gifts and talents; build skill and talent and then push through the edge.  Can’t negate having to work to your limits.  

Comfort Zone - No Growth
Talent Zone
Best Version of You
Elite” (journey to elite)

This is learned behavior and not attributed to your natural talent

The best version of ourselves takes work beyond our talents and requires 5 important things.   The best version of ourselves requires us to lead with our hearts first rather than rely on talent alone.
Breakthrough happens when we:
  • Embrace productive discomfort,
  • Give relentless effort,
  • Use mistakes as an opportunity to begin again,
  • Defeat Fear, & lastly breakthrough happens when we
  • Believe!  

If those 5 things don’t describe the staff of Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools and educators in general, I don’t know what does.  As educators we are working on the best versions of ourselves every day!

With this opening blog in the books, I am so glad that opening day has come and gone and we can begin this school year together, knowing that student success rests on our hearts.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to read the 2017.18 opening blog.  I look forward to sharing our educational journey with your this year as we #KnowOurWhy.

Yours in Education,

Danielle Prohaska

Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent

Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools

Monday, March 6, 2017

Professional Fuel or Personal Failure??

As the year moves along quickly with or without us, I am trying hard to schedule time to do the things that keep the discussion of education at the top of the list.  It is redundant for me to say that I like to find cross over from personal events to professional learning, but it is what helps me find balance when focusing on priorities.  Over the last few months, I have learned what it means to be a gymnastics mom, as my 7 yrs old Brennan competes for the first time as a gymnast.  Lots of learning curves for both of us in this latest venture but the biggest take away has to be courage.  Courage to have professional/athletic fuel rather than live with personal failure.  

At this point in the season, Brennan has had modest success in his competitions.  Medaling in some events, improving his scores, and working on form.  From earlier blogs, you can deduce that Brennan slowing down enough to work on form is a major accomplishment in itself.  Two weeks ago, Brennan and his coach decided it was time to “go big” and work on some more advanced elements than he hadn’t attempted in the past.  He went big and he went home posting what he coined “not my best day”.  

A week later, Brennan and his team were back in competition, and he was nervous to get back out there and “go big” again.  But that’s when the connection to education was highlighted.  This 7 year old had learned from the failures last weekend, working on his skills at practice, listening to his coaches feedback, and gaining the confidence to try again to show what he could do.  Feeling confident, having professional fuel after learning from those failures paid off!

As leaders, educators, and colleagues, are we encouraging our students, teachers, and administrators to take risks?  Do we have the relationships, trust, and an environment that encourages risk taking in learning?  Are we encouraging students and teachers with feedback that builds their confidence to take risks even after failures?  Are we highlighting the learning potential when we fail and responding with reflection and commitment to professional fuel?  Are we as individuals taking feedback constructively and using it to try again and improve upon our skills?  Do we live by personal failures or professional fuel? Are we truly committed to high expectations for learning, which can only be evident when we continuously seek new and better ways to engage students in the process? What is it worth to you as educators and leaders to take risks, give and get feedback, and build confidence in serving our students at a higher level?  


If the smile, posture, and pride of a 7 year old standing atop the podium doesn’t illustrate the power of those qualities, I don’t know what will!

Yours in Education,

Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent
Mechanicsburg Exempted Village SD

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mechanicsburg Measures that Matter

Dear Mechanicsburg Staff, Administration, and Community

Check out our Annual Measures that Matter Report.  Measures that Matter is a reflection of the many lens of data that provide a glimpse into the teaching and learning in Mechanicsburg.  The report highlights the academic, athletic and artistic accomplishments of our students.  Community members can also find important information about finances, safety, and communication within the annual publication.  Mechanicsburg strives to prioritize the learning of all students, which would not be possible without the inclusion of the many areas shared throughout this report.  Many thanks to our teachers, related staff, administration, and community for helping to make all of these things a success.  Mechanicsburg is the "Best Small School in Ohio" because of who we serve!


Danielle Prohaska, Superintendent
Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools