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Bennett Elementary One of Only 31 Texas Campuses to Earn the 2018 Schools Transforming Learning Award from the Principals’ Institute

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Thursday, June 14, 2018

McKinney, Texas – On Thursday, June 7, Bennett Elementary was one of only 31 campuses in Texas to receive the 2018 Schools Transforming Learning (STL) Award from the Principals’ Institute (PI) for their efforts to provide innovative learning opportunities for all students.

PI is a statewide professional learning series designed to challenge thinking and help campus leaders develop and sustain transformative learning environments. Nominations for the STL honor were open to campuses led by any of the nearly 350 PI participants or alumni whose schools represent more than 72 Texas public school districts.

Student drawing on paper with marker

Students create Ozobot maps in the MakerSpace at Bennett Elementary. (Photo courtesy of Bennett Elementary)

“Our school is deeply honored to be named as the first MISD elementary school and one of 21 elementary schools across Texas to receive this award,” said Bennett Elementary Principal Amy Holderman. “Every day, we say we are the very best school in McKinney, and this award shows state recognition of the hard work of our students, staff and parents. I am proud to serve as a Bennett Bear!”

Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Student Support Suzy Woodard said that Bennett is one of several campuses in the district that attracts other educators who want to learn from the school’s innovative approaches. “This recognition gives other people an opportunity to say, ‘Oh, that’s what they’re doing there at Bennett,’” she said.

Highlighted among their successes were Bennett’s MakerSpace program and their focus on digital learning.

Trio onstage holding award

N2 Learning Partner Danny Modiste presents Bennett Elementary Principal Amy Holderman and Assistant Principal Rachel Constantinescu with a 2018 School’s Transforming Learning Award at the Principals’ Institute Summer Conference on June 7, 2018, in recognition of Bennett’s efforts to provide innovative learning opportunities for all students.

The MakerSpace is housed in the Bennett Learning Commons, and through it, students can explore the Make Lab, Think Lab, Beat Lab and Byte Lab which feature robotics, Legos, coding, 3D printing, Rubik’s Cubes and animation—among other options.

“Through a partnership with Rubik’s this year,” Bennett Assistant Principal Rachel Constantinescu said, “students learned to solve Rubik’s Cubes and then created large mosaics of famous art pieces out of multiple cubes.”

It’s learning that takes place beyond the classroom.

“All of our campuses have a MakerSpace now, so it’s an out of the classroom learning experience for the kids. Most of the libraries are open before school for kids to come in and check out books or to participate in MakerSpace,” Woodard said.

Students holding book smiling at camera with glasses they made from pipe cleaners

Creativity, learning and fun abound in the MakerSpace at Bennett Elementary. (Photo courtesy of Bennett Elementary)

“What’s interesting about the MakerSpace concept is that it’s not structured,” she added. “There’s not a big lesson plan. It is free exploration and free play, really. For a lot of kids that play piece is important, and MakerSpace helps us make sure that kids have that opportunity to learn through play.”

In addition to the impact of Bennett’s MakerSpace, the campus’s bolstered digital platform has served to enhance learning over the past five years, expanding the possibilities of lessons that teachers can put in front of their students.

“Thanks to laptops and iPads provided to our campus through the district, PBL, PTO and grants, students regularly use Google classroom, apps, social media and other platforms to engage with the world,” said Constantinescu.

And, engaging the world now through meaningful learning experiences means they’ll be more prepared to engage the world a few years from now when they become graduates.

Click here to learn more about how Bennett Elementary is transforming learning.

Bennett Elementary currently serves more than 500 students in grades K-5 who speak 16 diverse languages at home. Collectively, the staff boasts more than 540 years of teaching experience and 15 advanced degrees. Six are graduates of McKinney ISD high schools. Parent volunteers provide more than 600 hours of service per month.

The Principals’ Institute (PI) is a year-long professional development series that works with principals to understand why transformation of public education is necessary, develop the knowledge and skills required to lead and build the capacity to sustain transformation over time. The future of Texas public schools depends on the quality of its leaders. Attending PI allows principals to experience one of the most noteworthy professional growth opportunities in their career and collaborate with the innovative PI network that now stretches nationwide.

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