Forging new connections among educators to support first generation and lower-income students
At its core, The Pivotal Network is an initiative designed to elevate the best and brightest our nation’s public school system has to offer. The network supports and further develops high school teachers through a comprehensive array of program services and opportunities.
More importantly, our network introduces an innovative approach in which institutions of higher education can reach back and engage with secondary schools by bringing together a diverse and innovative ecosystem of stakeholders in the lives of underrepresented students. Our rich network distinguishes itself through our community of teachers, professors, thought leaders, and institutions all partnering to provide greater equity and access to first generation and lower-income students.
As we put into motion the programming we have outlined for our first cohort of Pivotal Educators, we are also interested in refining and co-creating the initiatives with our teachers and students. From our virtual community to our annual summit, the value of what we do is purely driven by all of the individuals the make up the “network”. The collective effort of these individuals is what gives The Pivotal Network life, and it explains why the “work” of the network is really the work of everyone involved.
We refer to both our virtual platform and the general nexus of those involved as The Network. The work that comes from The Network is the sharing of ideas and building of community. Here lies The Pivotal Network’s greatest asset – the connections made by our nodes.
The Network offer teachers, professors, and college officers the space to come together, converse, and share ideas. The Network serves as an online community meant to support and empower teachers. Pivotal Educators are able to exchange lesson plans, hear stories of best practices, get updates on college advising tips, stimulate intellectual curiosity within their subject areas, and feel a part of a greater mission.
What makes The Network rich, is its diversity in participants. Beyond just having teachers connect with teachers, they also get an opportunity to learn and share with college professors. Professors’ knowledge of college course expectations can help high school teachers set appropriate expectations, while the expertise of high school teachers can provide the professors with better insights into the academic preparation and the talents and challenges that their students will bring with them to college.
Professors – like the high school teachers – will also benefit from a supportive and engaged community of passionate and motivated colleagues to share a love of their subject and develop transformative pedagogical and mentoring practices.
Though The Network serves as a valuable form of professional development for high school teachers and college professors, The Pivotal Network also offers other extensive means of Professional Development for our Pivotal Educators, specifically.
The Pivotal Network helps the best get even better by providing Professional Development that is suited for the specific needs and achievement levels of Pivotal Educators.
We recognize that most professional development currently offered to public school teachers is tailored toward introductory or low-performing educators – as a means of ensuring everyone is reaching a minimum threshold of excellence. Meanwhile, hardly anything else is available to challenge and further empower the high-achieving, pivotal educators who have exceeded that threshold. This is where The Pivotal Network steps in.
By using The Network and the Annual Summit as mechanisms, we are able to deliver new opportunities, new challenges, and new insights for our Pivotal Educators to engage with and learn from. Our Professional Development will cover topics such as cultural competency, inclusive pedagogy, the college application process, high-impact educational practices, student college preparation, and more. We will also provide opportunities for facilitation training (in all of the areas listed above) so that Pivotal Educators can share their learning with peers and colleagues.
Most efforts to address inequities in access to higher education focus on elevating individual students through a meritocracy system. In the case of higher education, the assumption is that the education of an individual student from an underrepresented demographic (first-gen college, lower-income, or minority) will more broadly benefit not just society abstractly, but the particular segment of society represented by the student.
We’ve come to learn that, whether consciously or not, many of these students are aware of this assumption and feel a sense of obligation to “pay-it-forward” to the communities that afforded them the opportunity to go to college. It is not likely that we could ever alleviate this burden for students. However, we can facilitate their desire to give back by allowing the students of Pivotal Educators to become, what we call, Pivotal Messengers.
With the Pivotal Messenger Program, students are afforded the opportunity to return to their schools, share their stories, and connect with other students like themselves. The Pivotal Messenger Program (re)connects undergraduate students with their former Pivotal Educators. Through this program they are able to serve their communities as advocates and mentors, and assist other students through their college application process. Additionally, Pivotal Messengers may also return to their high school alma mater to share their experiences with teachers, and assist Pivotal Educators’ efforts to inform their peers about best practices.
Many educators can think back to a time when they’ve had to come out of pocket to cover the cost of supplies, lab kits, class sets, food, or other expenses related to their innovative lesson plans or activities. With limited resources at their disposal, Pivotal Educators are constantly having to make do with less.
The Programming Fund is a grant our teachers can apply for – on a rolling basis – to help fund their great ideas as the need arises. The award amounts for each grant request is given out on a case-by-case basis. Understanding that an educator’s income is limited, the Programming Fund, believes in the motto of there being “no request too small”.
Pivotal Educators may use the Programming Fund to cover the cost of various initiatives, programs, gatherings, classroom activities, or even other forms of professional development. By alleviating the financial barriers that fall within our means, The Pivotal Network allows teachers to explore new possibilities to expand their teaching practices and methods for supporting first-generation and lower-income students.
The Annual Summit serves as our flagship event. Each summer we bring together all of the nodes of the network – Pivotal Educators, Pivotal Messengers, Pivotal Professors, Pivotal Institutions, as well as thought leaders – to collaborate, share new ideas, and present their latest findings with the entire Pivotal Network in person.
Pivotal Educators are afforded the chance to gather in the nation’s capital for a conference filled with networking, professional development, facilitation training, and learning opportunities to further their pedagogical efforts, better serve underrepresented students, and even host workshops at their schools for their peers. The first Annual Pivotal Summit will take place during the summer of 2021.
… and more to come!