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Empowering Students using
The Classroom of the Future
with Carmen Cangemi of Mater Brighton Lakes

10-19-2020

“Empowering Students” is the 91st episode of Charter School Superstars, and the second episode of its “Classroom of the Future” (COTF) series. In this episode, Ms. Cangemi, principal of Mater Brighton Lakes Academy, discusses leadership in her school and how her school has implemented the Classroom of the Future.

As Ms. Cangemi said, “Leadership is the foundation of our school.” So, it is no surprise that the episode begins with Ms. Cangemi discussing her school’s emphasis on leadership. Mater Brighton Lakes is a “Leader in Me” school. This program encourages school staff to help their students discover what makes them a leader. The faculty guides students in discovering new ways to help others, being role models, and finding their unique gifts. Ms. Cangemi believes leadership is not limited to people with specific characteristics. In other words, merely getting good grades or being extroverted does not mean a student is a leader. On the other hand, she says that leadership can be found in everyone—even in timid students. She says that another important aspect of fostering leadership in students is involving them in the school community and the decision-making process. In essence, she tries to emphasize leading from the collective.

Ms. Cangemi stresses by emphasizing leadership it gives students more self-confidence. It shows them that they are able to overcome obstacles. This ultimately encourages the student to have a “growth mindset.” Having a "growth mindset” means people are able to continuously improve themselves. Though it might seem to challenge traditional views of schooling, there is merit in teaching leadership. After all, this program tries to make students more well-rounded, both socially and academically, by teaching them invaluable skills they need after their school years.

Though the focus was mostly on students, leadership among the faculty is not a rarity. Successfully implementing a program like The Classroom of the Future requires leadership from the school administrators and, especially, the educators who use it. These educators had to have immense leadership to adapt to the teaching changes that The Classroom of the Future has brought. Educators have had to lead by example during times of a pandemic that has radically changed every facet of life.

Despite the unfavorable circumstances, these educators are teaching their students with more creativity and more passion. Ms. Cangemi describes one instance when a teacher in her school took her students on a “virtual field trip” using Nearpod. She describes how she walked into the teacher’s classroom, and saw the in-person students participating. She then looked at the classmate TV panel and noticed the same enthusiasm with students learning through remote live instruction. When the teacher told the class that they were going on a virtual field trip to Mars, the students were thrilled. Throughout their virtual trip, they were intrigued by the sights of the Red Planet. After their trip, they were able to write about what they learned and what parts they found most interesting. Their responses were displayed on the screen so classmates in the classroom and at home could read and discuss them.

Overall, Ms. Cangemi described this one instance as a neat experience that made it feel like they were all together, even though most of the class was learning remotely. Examples like this, which Ms. Cangemi reassures are not rare, help build a community where students want to learn. Even if students are attending remotely, they are included in this experience, which makes them feel like they are in the classroom. All of this is made possible by The Classroom of the Future and, most importantly, the teachers’ leadership and creativity.

Clearly, the educators are doing an excellent job. This leads to the end of Ms. Cangemi’s discussion. When asked what she would do if she could make a change to education with the snap of her fingers, she said she wished teachers would be compensated for what they do. She says that teachers consistently show their great leadership, especially nowadays. They also hold responsibilities both on campus and societally, as they are helping the community by educating the future. As Ms. Cangemi said, they are as important as lawyers or doctors. Teachers are leaders and they are an example of leadership to our students. Teachers are crucial to empowering our student leaders.

Listen to the full interview of how Mater Brighton Lakes is empowering student leaders using the Classroom of the Future with Carmen Cangemi here.

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