Jim Reese

Jim Reese

Washington, United States

I direct the Professional Development Collaborative at Washington International School. Part of the Remake Learning network and closely aligned with Project Zero, a research group at Harvard University, we organize high-quality professional development events for educators in the Washington, DC, area and beyond.

About me

I have been involved in education for over 30 years, first as a classroom teacher and now as an administrator--mainly providing professional development opportunities for educators. I see myself first and foremost as a teacher, even though now my teaching is mostly with adults. I have consulted with Project Zero, a research group at Harvard, for the past 20 years and served as Education Coordinator for their annual Project Zero Classroom summer institute for 11 years, and as Education Chair for their off-site Project Zero Perspectives conferences for seven years. In my role as Director of the Professional Development Collaborative at Washington International School (WIS), I lead a summer institute for educators in DC as well as two conferences during the academic year. I also manage a number of professional development projects having to do with creating a culture of thinking, educating for global competence, and encouraging a maker-centered practices across the curriculum. Our network of educators in the DC area numbers 2200+. 

Why do you want to be a part of the HundrED Community?

As part of the Remake Learning Days Across American network, I learned about HundrED and feel we have much to share about creating innovative and timely professional development for educators, and I feel we can learn from the innovations of member organizations from around the world. Our mission is "to enhance the capacity of educators across Washington, DC, to create classroom cultures that support deep learning and that engage the world. In building upon WIS’s role as a leader in international education, the PD Collaborative’s ultimate goal is to make the nation’s capital a model city for creative thinking and innovation in education, worthy of replication across the country."

How can education support students to flourish?

Having worked for years with classroom teachers from preschool through high school, and with educators in informal learning settings, I know the best way to support students to flourish in our modern world is to help them cultivate agency. When we truly listen to students, guide them in putting their ideas into action, and push them to think critically and creatively, we are preparing them for the uncertain world they will be entering after their formal education ends. 

What role does innovation play in education change?

Schools can be some of the most conservative institutions in society. They needn't be, but they often are. Resistance to change and innovation leads to complacency and, to be honest, mediocrity. Innovation in education is important for many reasons, the most prominent being that we never have the same set of students from one year to the next, and in each classroom there are many different styles of learning, viewpoints on issues, and ways of approaching the world. Innovation keeps us fresh and attentive to opportunities for taking action to make the world a better place. It can come in small ways, medium ways or big ways. Our job as educators is to be alert to those opportunities and to assist our students in finding solutions to the problems at hand.

Three HundrED innovations you love. (and Why?)

1. Remake Learning - Having participated in the Soutwestern Pennsylvania Remake Learning Days Festival in 2019 and being a regional co-lead for this year's Remake Learning Days Festival in the Washington, DC, area, I have been energized by the scope of innovative learning that is highlighted in the 15 festivals around the USA, and I think the organization is one of the most outstanding examples of network building in the country.

2. Roots of Empathy - This Canadian program works with children on one of the most important elements lacking in our world today, empathy for others. I appreciate the way the project weaves in curricular goals with the profound experience of learning how an infant comes to know and understand. It reminds me of a project I've been involved in for which middle school students design dollhouses for a class of three-year-olds, and when presenting it to them and playing with them, they observe carefully the way that young children play, interact with new objects, and make sense of things. It gives the teenagers greater insight into their own learning and the importance of individualizing learning as much as possible.

3. Two Rivers Performance Assessments of Critical Thinking - I've collaborated with Two Rivers Public Charter School for a number of years and have been very impressed with their thoughtful approach to building a community of learners--comprising students, teachers, staff and parents. They also are generous about sharing their learning with others. I've seen the development of the Performance Assessments and know they have used research-based work coming from Project Zero, among other research organizations.

Three innovations you would love for HundrED to know about. (and Why?)

1. Children Are Citizens - Conceived as an early childhood project, inspired by the municipal preschools and infant/toddler sections in Reggio Emilia, Italy, this initiative in Washington, DC, fosters civic agency in our youngest children. It now has spread across schools--many of them serving the most marginalized neighborhoods in the city--and includes classrooms up to middle school. The professional development component associated with it focuses on assisting teachers in truly listening to their students' ideas about how to make their city a better place for children; documenting the learning process and letting what they learn from that documentation guide their next pedagogical moves; and facilitating a child-centered action project based on students' interests. There is also a strong arts-based component, as cultural institution partners support the classrooms with in-class workshops for students and field trips.

2. LearnServe International - Two programs organized by this Washington, DC, non-profit are especially significant to me: (1) social entrepreneurship curricula designed for high school, middle school and upper elementary school, which encourages students to create an action that helps others, and (2) a social entrepreneurship fellowship for high school students for which they design and launch their own “social ventures” - projects to benefit their neighborhoods and schools; they meet leading local organizations tackling poverty, discrimination, climate change, civic engagement, and other pressing social problems and work closely with business mentors from local companies, emerging with stronger leadership and entrepreneurship skills.

3. Making Across the Curriculum - Launched in 2018, this project has reached over 100 Washington, DC, area teachers who engage in professional development to learn about innovative maker-centered education practices from Project Zero's Agency by Design initiative. There is a strong social justice component to this work, in that students develop the agency to act on their world in a positive way through making, hacking, taking apart, exploring systems, etc. The network continues to expand as more and more teachers and schools find that maker-centered practices are not only engaging but they also support curricular goals in creative ways and they often reinforce social-emotional learning efforts.