Thursday, August 1, 2013

Minarets - The Professional Incubator

MINARETS - THE PROFESSIONAL INCUBATOR

  

Students

    There are many things that are different and unique about Minarets.  For students, the hope has always been that Minarets would serve as their personal professional launching pad for any and all of their dreams.  The intent was to give students great 21st century tools, top notch support and community, as well as the academic and personal freedom to work on projects that would enhance and even inspire their careers. 
    Even with only two graduating classes, this has already taken shape.  So many of our students are pursuing professional endeavors that are based on their passions and dreams.  Whether they are in college, art school, film school, the military, culinary school, technical school, performing or being an entrepreneur, they are taking what they started here at Minarets and taking it to the next level.  That is what Minarets, as well as education, are all about. 
    As an example, Tabitha Sanchez, a 2013 graduate, is already in New York preparing to begin her collegiate career at PACE University.  While a student at Minarets, Tabitha began blogging in her English classes and started her own book blog.  This lead to her developing a large professional network that included many in the New York publishing community.  She knew she wanted to be in publishing and that New York was the place to be.  And while a student at Minarets, she was able to carve out a professional niche that got her career jump started early and set-up her university direction. 
    Cody Smith, a 2012 graduate and current Fresno State student, was looking for part-time work earlier this year in Fresno.  He applied to be a salesperson at a local car dealership.  And although he didn’t get that job, they asked him about experience that he mentioned related to technology skills.  They ended up hiring him to do web development and social media marketing.  According to Cody, he was only able to get this job due to the skills that he gained while being a student at Minarets. 
    There are dozens of unique examples like the ones above.  Many of our current students have already started their own businesses, are presenting to adults in professional situations, publishing their works on-line and more.  These represent only the beginning of what our students will be doing in the near future. 

Staff

    Minarets has attracted top quality staff to our program from day one.  Many of our staff members came to us as accomplished, award-winning and recognized professionals.  However, Minarets is a place where one’s professional skills and views expand immensely.  Indeed, Minarets is the ultimate place to have real-time, daily professional development that will literally transform one’s career.  Because of the technology, the high expectations, the individualized relationships and learning, as well as the competitive nature of the staff, Minarets staff members grow professionally in so many ways.
    Whereas most schools send teachers to conferences, we challenge teachers to present or facilitate at them.  Indeed, about 3/4 of our staff last year presented or facilitated professionally off campus to other educational professionals and leaders.  Therefore, the Professional Learning Network of Minarets staff members is expansive.  Our teachers become leaders in their field and are then sought out to present more.  They are often even offered new professional opportunities.  They also bring back great experiences to the students, staff and community of Minarets.  The highest form of learning is teaching so our teachers are not only teaching on campus but off campus as well.
    This represents many exciting things for Minarets.  We need to realize that this is also going to create big opportunities for Minarets staff members.  And because of this, some will leave to pursue these opportunities.  Just like for our students, we need to embrace the fact that our staff are lifelong learners who will follow their individual dreams and passions as far as they take them.  There was a day in education where teachers taught at one school and in one room for 40 years.  In some cases, that will still happen and there is nothing wrong with that. 
    However, the world is changing and this will not be the same for many of our educators who come from the professional incubator of Minarets.  Even before coming to Minarets, educational veterans like Kristi Mattes, Michael Niehoff, Jon Corippo, Bob Kelly and Patrick Wilson taught on several campuses in many different districts. 
    Former Ag Teacher and FFA Advisor Austin Large came to Minarets as a young teacher, made a tremendous impact on our campus and in our community and then was recruited by Texas FFA for a leadership position.
    History teachers Chelsea Milliorn and Bob Kelly both came to us just two years ago and now they are presenting all over the country and even internationally. Our Ag staff presents and leads all over the state.  Our English teachers are held up as examples of Digital Learning Leaders and Project-Based Education experts throughout a variety of professional networks.
    We need to embrace this unique quality of Minarets.  For the students, it’s a natural thing to expect, pursue and celebrate.  We have to do the same on the staff side.  Yes, it’s hard to let good people go.  However, this is part of the bigger educational community these days. 
    Minarets trains people to take risks, dream big and do great things for as many people as possible.  This means that we will be a unique place that is an incubator for all educators.  If done right, Minarets should change all students and staff for the better.

MINARETS INCUBATOR PROFILE - BY DAVE CICOLETTI

    At Minarets, professional development was not just a sidelined aspect of my teaching position but instead it was the essence of my work there.  I was given state-of-the-art technology/communications tools and consistently coached to integrate new programs, develop classroom formats and learn effective, real time systems of grading and feedback.  Also, I was encouraged not to simply participate in teaching conferences as an attendee,  but to distinguish myself as a session leader. Indeed, I was out of my comfort zone a lot at Minarets; the demands were high, but the risks I took and the creative opportunities I was given paid off personally and professionally.

    Over the last three years, I’ve taught Digital Publications, AP English and Project-Based Learning classes to 11th and 12th graders. I’ve successfully presented digital composition sessions and conducted trainings at Computer Using Educators (CUE), National Education Association (NEA), California Teachers of English (CATE) and several other conferences.  Networking with educators and programs, I’ve discovered that the skills and expertise I acquired at Minarets are in high demand. Recently, I’ve taken on new roles as Lead Teacher for our local North Fork Middle School as well as part-time AP English Instructor for Apex Online Learning High School out of Seattle, WA.

    It is obvious to me now that the dynamic environment at Minarets has made me current, capable and confident and has opened up doors in the teaching profession that I never knew existed.   Minarets High School is an unforgettable place where teachers, along with students, can “graduate” from, prepared to take on a new worlds of opportunity and challenge.

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