Dr. Rena Hawkins is the principal of Maple Elementary School in the Smithville School District in Missouri. She was recently honored by being selected as a 2018 Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals Exemplary New Principal. Rena co-hosts the Share Mo Edu Podcast with Dr. Eric Carlin.
I was lucky to meet Rena on a panel with Adam Welcome so I added a selfie of Rena and Adam. I loved her passion for teaching and learning so I just had to have a conversation with her. Below are a few excerpts from the podcast along with some great pictures and resources from Rena:
About you and your family
I met my husband in the summer 25 years ago and we’ve been married for 23 years. My husband is Jason Hawkins and is a Psychotherapist at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City. We have 3 children. Our oldest, Serena, 19, just finished her freshman year at Northwestern and wants to be a music teacher. Harley is 16 and is a true outdoorsman. He loves football, hunt, and fish. Elaine, 15, will be a freshman next year in high school and loves to sing and loves drama.
Journey as a Teacher to Principal
I always wanted to be a teacher and was a teacher for eleven years. I taught first, second, and fifth grades. I moved back and forth between Missouri and Florida three times in my life, twice as a child and once as an adult. My teaching experience spanned from areas in Missouri to Florida and back. After teaching, I moved into an instructional coach role for six years and one year as the K-12 ELA curriculum coordinator. Following that, I went into administration and was the assistant principal in Smithville for 2 years before taking over the Maple Elementary (K-2) as lead principal 2 years ago where there were 500 K-2 students.
Transitioning to Maple Elementary PreK-6
The Primary School just finished its last year as a K-2 school and is now a PreK-6 school. For years, K-2 children in Smithville were bussed to Maple Elementary. The district is in the process of building a new elementary school and all three elementary schools will open as PreK to 6th-grade schools in the fall. So my building is going through major renovations this summer.
One of our major changes opening as a PreK to 6th-grade school is we are starting multi-age co-teaching classrooms. We are breaking down walls between six classrooms and will have sliding glass doors between them. There will be multi-age co-teaching with first and second grades so the first graders will get to loop with those teachers for two years. We have done looping in the past, but the way we are doing looping with co-teaching models is new to us.
With the change in the model and a new school, I lost two-thirds of my teaching staff to the other two elementary schools. I belong to the Missouri Department of Ed’s Leadership Academy this past year where we had regional meetings and toured different schools in the area. I toured a school and saw co-teaching with the two teachers at the same grade levels. I came back to my superintendent and asked: “why are we going to open Maple Elementary with the same model when we can make a difference?”
So he suggested that I research multi-age co-teaching. Once the teachers got a taste of facilitating the leadership hour with another teacher in the co-teaching model, they liked it. I had a feeling that there were a lot of teachers interested but nobody knew who was going to be staying at Maple at that time. After much planning with the schedule, we decided to start with a first/second grade co-teaching model with 3 first grade and 3 second grade classes. We have a new curriculum and plan to go slow by starting small with a workshop model, team building activities, and social-emotional learning strategies. We are hoping with the looping that children will have strong peer models to help them lead the way.
2018-2019 staff…our theme was “Learning Under Construction”
Building the Classes and the Culture
The class sizes are small with 16 to 19 children so each class has its own classroom separated by a sliding glass door. In fact, the glass will be frosted half way up so they can write on it.
We decided to spend the time to build the culture since we will have new staff. We have late start Wednesdays for our collaborative planning time and build time for PD. We encourage our teachers to determine what support and resources they will need for their PD. We are a little crunched for time because of the construction so we are starting later after Labor Day instead of starting mid-August.
Our theme is Welcome Home because we have our new home with many of the primary children coming back.
Dr. Eric Carlin is the assistant principal at Maple Elementary who worked with me to pump the passion at Maple using monthly themes. We’re still working on some of the themes.
- #SeekYourSquad September or #Celebrate September
- #OptimisticOctober or #OpportuneOctober
- #Notable November
- #FindYourJamJuly or ?
- #AuthenticAugust or #AllInAugust
Share MO Edu Podcast
Over Christmas break, I was really active on Twitter and Adam Welcome reached out to me to encourage me to do more. He said I need to write more blogs and start a podcast. So Eric and I kicked off the podcast February 1st using the monthly themes and now there are over 20.
Share MO Edu is on Podomatic at http://sharemoedu.podomatic.com/ and on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/share-mo-edu-podcast/id1352067430?mt=2
Dr. Rena Hawkins is the principal at Maple Elementary School in the Smithville School District in Missouri. She is passionate about education, especially in the area of literacy.
Prior to becoming an administrator, Rena was a classroom teacher for 11 years (1st grade, 2nd grade, and 5th grade) and served in coaching or curriculum coordinator roles for 6 years, allowing her to impact student growth by supporting adult learners to understand and utilize best practice. Constantly considering “next” best practice allows her to learn WITH staff and students.
I was recently honored by being selected as a 2018 Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals Exemplary New Principal. Here is the information: https://www.facebook.com/smithvilleschooldistrict/posts/722069344658522
School website: https://www.smithvilleschooldistrict.net/ (this is the Smithville R-II School District Site)
Here is the website for Maple Elementary School: https://www.smithvilleschooldistrict.net/mes