OUR PEOPLE: Teacher Elizabeth Wilson Leads Workgroup that Help Guide Students to Create Clear Views of Their Big Picture

OUR PEOPLE: Teacher Elizabeth Wilson Leads Workgroup that Help Guide Students to Create Clear Views of Their Big Picture

Published on Mar 31, 2016


I believe in people.  I know the messy road ahead for all kids in middle school calls for adult advocates, and I coordinate advisory groups in my school because I know they can be the formula for seeing students thrive both socially and academically.  Now in my third year teaching in Hartford, I took what I learned beginning my career in private schools and realized urban students deserve the same focused level of attention.  My impact and importance in students’ lives is real and it comes from a place of honesty and trust. I want to be there with them, during all their ups and downs, making sure they see their valuable place in our world.  As a Spanish teacher, I bring a perspective of recognizing how culture and language is intertwined with learning and motivation.  As a world traveler, I have seen how fragile social environments can be uplifted by systems of support.  I am moved to see our students begin to take charge of their lives, and participate as the strong-minded citizens we know they can be.        


Big picture. There is not a single more important concept in schools today than working with students to create a clear view of their big picture.  The support of at least one caring adult goes a long way in nourishing the interests of students and being there as a liaison between authentic learning and self-realization.  Student Success Plans, or SSPs, are one way students are building strong relationships with their schools, their communities and themselves. 


Academic achievement, college and career readiness, and social/emotional experience are at the heart of the SSPs, that when put together form a genuine portrait of the whole student. Since students work to build their own plan, they begin to value the role they play in their own lives.  “Personalized learning centered around each and every student” sounds almost idealistic, however, Dr. Narvaez is not being unreasonable with her charge of building a relationship so strong that each child is empowered to fulfill their goals.  SSPs follow our students through their middle and high school years.  They are filled with social contracts, activities prepared with advisors, counselors and mentors, academic, college and career goals. These artifacts, and the reflections that come with them show evidence of resilience, competence, and ownership.      


The loop of goal setting, finding support of those goals through artifacts, and reflecting on growth is what ultimately drives students.  By deliberately envisioning their futures, academic and social success can be reached by all students.  At The Environmental Sciences Magnet School at Mary Hooker, the use of advisory groups is the avenue through which students build their SSPs.  The entire support staff and faculty is on board to be in small groups weekly to provide a familial setting where students can have a voice and feel emotionally safe.  A culture shift in schools has come to recognize the critical need of seeing the whole person underneath each of our kids.  Student led conferences, in conjunction with SSPs, create bridges between families and schools as a means to remind the young people in our city just where they are headed and how they are going to get there.    



By Elizabeth Wilson, Spanish teacher, Environmental Sciences Magnet at Mary Hooker

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