In part 1 of this 4-part interview, TheEduProject CEO Lacrecia Terrance reflected on being a new teacher. She quickly realized she had to start by focusing on classroom culture and culturally responsive practices.

– Welcome to another PLtogether Lounge Talk. I’m Adam Geller, Founder and CEO of Edthena, the video coaching platform for streamlining feedback to teachers. Today, we’re talking with Lacrecia Terrance, she’s the Founder and CEO of theEduProject and also a national faculty member of PBLWorks. Lacrecia thanks so much for joining us.

– Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here.

– Well, I’m excited to have people learn a little bit about theEduProject. Mainly because they may have heard, the kind of phrase PBLWorks and you’re national faculty member. That’s a big deal, but you know, what is theEduProject?

– Well, I’m glad you asked. So theEduProject is a educational institution. I shared at one point in time, we were saying that we were an Educational Consultant Firm and we are so much more than that. And so we’ve kind of transitioned over to education institution. And so what we do is we offer services that help students and teachers grow together, right? And so we, we have workshops that we focus on, you know, coaching teachers in specific areas such as project-based learning, we have restorative practices. We do DEI, which is Diversity Equity Inclusion. And we also work with a culturally responsive teaching practices and just kind of growing, not kind of but we are helping students and teachers grow in those areas academically, as well as becoming ownership learners of their own learning. And so we’re just excited to be in that, in that journey of helping teachers to grow in that and specifically in those areas.

– You know, what I like about that description is there’s certainly that menu of you call them services, right? But let’s say areas where you can support it. Wasn’t just about the ways to support the teachers. It was about the ways that you can support the students. And I know that you have one initiative in particular that was designed to kind of reach out and connect with students. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about that.

– Yes. So HomeEdConnect is that is the service you’re speaking of. We started that right at the very beginning of COVID schools being shut down. We had actually parents were reaching out to me and I wanted to know what could we do. So I reached out to other educators and we have educators from around the nation that just started volunteering. And what could we do? What could I write? What can I do to help parents not be so stressed and help teachers not be stressed in this during this time. And so in that we launched HomeEdConnect and we started offering free resources, as well as lessons. We created plans, we had Q and A’s for teachers Q and A’s for parents, as well as students. When students were struggling, we gave them time schedules. I know it was like parents became teachers at the time. And so we wanted to soften that blow and that’s how HomeEdConnect actually launched. And so we did Wednesday night lives. We’re getting ready to launch season two in that soon but we did live where parents can ask questions. We took the huge nuggets that were really a concern to students and parents. And we just had a big discussion around that. And we gave strategies of how you can make that better and work from home with you, with your child.

– Well, it’s exciting that it was a solution that kind of came out of the, let’s say the chaos of the pandemic but also something that’s continuing, as we do think about you know, coming back into schools full time this year. I know one of the topics that’s, well, one of the phrases even that we’re hearing a lot is social, emotional learning. Now that of course has been important for a long time but it’s been pushed up the list as a awareness area for school leaders and educators alike, I guess you know, help, you know, maybe a little bit of a definition for those that may be unfamiliar, but I’m curious like how should we be, you know kind of preparing for this year cause that’s a big category and you know, whats maybe like a, one small step people could be taking are focusing on if they’re starting at the like, okay I don’t have a plan for that yet.

– Right. And so that the first step would be, I would say is just to create those atmosphere where cultural, culture is at the front hand of it I should say or the frontline of it. One of the things that I had to learn in my educational journey after 20 years and culture is everything. Culture will help raise academic achievement, culture where we will close those gaps that we are expressing during this time that, you know so many inequities are happening right now. So many, you know, we’re seeing the true gap of where students are. But social, emotional learning as well as culturally responsive teaching practices all of those are gateways in making students feel like they are part of the classroom. It’s time to give them that ownership of loving learning, give them the ownership of researching and finding out who they are and what type of learner they are. And that is going to be that first step in moving, moving students forward in this education journey.

– I like how you described that as, you know you use the word culture, right? To describe what was happening in the classroom, right? It wasn’t thinking about this as 150 point based solutions for 150 students. If you’re in a middle school teacher or a high school teacher, it was really thinking about that classroom environment as an anchor for building the springboard for, you know a community of students to be learning together.

– Absolutely, absolutely. So when I first started teaching, I started teaching in Dallas, Texas, and I was teaching at a Edison School. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Edison Schools which was a very great experience learning how to first teach for the very first time. But I was teaching math and science and coming from Louisiana. You have this little hometown girl who’s just been, you know, really submerged in one way of teaching, one way of learning for so long. And then I was thrown into a classroom. I shouldn’t say thrown because it became the best experience ever. But I was putting in a classroom with 98% Latino X students, right? African-American girl, classroom full of Latino X students. And I had to find a way to make my culture so rich. Increase the rigor, increased the structure of my classroom where students were learning progressively, you know and me not be a hindrance to that. And so I had so much to learn and I started with culture. I started with learning who my students were, allowing them to talk to me and tell me who, you know about their lives. And I started incorporating those things into my teaching. And so when I saw that was the ticket, that was a gateway to rich in minds. I never stopped. And that was almost over 20 years ago, you know.

– I appreciate you taking us back to that moment. It helped me kind of envision the, the importance of recognizing how each of us, you know we come from different backgrounds and, you know recognizing that as an opportunity within our classroom to as you said, build the culture and have a shared platform for learning together. Lacrecia, we are going to take a quick break and come back and talk about project based learning. If you are out there watching this video on some social media share or somebody sent it to you in an email. Make sure to head to PLtogether.org to hear the rest of this conversation as well as many or others. Lacrecia, thanks so much for joining us.

– Thank you.

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