Superintendent discusses personalized learning and her path to Greenwich
Updated 6:48 pm, Thursday, October 12, 2017
GREENWICH — Her grandfather was a boat builder, an immigrant from Europe moved to the United States speaking no English. She grew up in the Chicagoland suburbs, sailing a sunfish in the summers. Until she moved to Greenwich this summer, the mother of four and 29-year educator lived nearly all her life in Illinois.
Jill Gildea, new superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools, shared some of her personal path through the education world and her insights into the district she now leads at a “Cocktails and Conversation” event at the Greenwich Water Club Wednesday night.
“I really value public education and everything that education brings to our children,” said Gildea. “Here in Greenwich, I love your public education system.”
She highlighted the district’s strategic plan and its forthcoming master plan for facilities improvement as some of the most exciting work the Greenwich Public Schools administration is doing now.
“That starts the conversation about not only five years, 10 years, 15 years in the future, but also starts our conversation about 50 years,” she said. “What do we want Greenwich to be in 50 years? What kinds of residents are going to live in this community? What kind of business will they be a part of? What is the industry Greenwich will be known for?”
One of her favorite topics to discuss is “in 2035, what does education look like?” Gildea said. “We are living in transformative times,” she continued. Education needs to progress to keep step with technology and changing industry, she said.
Answering audience questions about personalized learning, a central tenant of the strategic plan, Gildea explained that teachers implementing personalized learning will be familiar with a student’s interests and strengths before he enters the classroom, link curriculum to his interests when appropriate and allow the student to decide how to execute assignments.
“There are a lot of misconceptions out there right now like, “Oh well if you’re in personalized learning, you can’t all read the same book,’” said Gildea. “Well that’s not true. You can all be reading the same book; you can all be doing the same lesson, but maybe you have different ways to demonstrate your knowledge.”
The last district where Gildea was superintendent, Fremont School District 79 in Mundelein, Ill., was a leader in personalized learning and was visited by administrators from 200 other school districts last year who wanted see the education theory in action, Gildea said.
Personalized learning and the district’s strategic plan was the reason she came to Greenwich, Gildea said. She applauded the work of the district and said students are making “great gains.”
When asked what she would change about the district, she replied, “We could use an elevator (in the Havemeyer building) ... the infrastructure definitely needs improvement.”
The event was organized by the League of Women Voters.
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