Assistant Superintendent News

Welcome Back Message to Teachers

Dear Johnston Teachers and Staff,

This year marks my 29th year in our district. Throughout that time, I served as a teacher for 22 years at our high school, and then became the  Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning at both Ferri Middle School and Johnston Senior High School. I later had the distinct privilege of rolling out our district's first full day Kindergarten program as the Principal of the Early Childhood Center. This administrative experience is where I was able to witness the initial joy of learning through the eyes of my kindergarten students. Currently, as JPS Assistant Superintendent, I have the responsibility of ensuring a viable Pre-K-12 curriculum which will afford all our students clear gateways, and opportunities for each child to gain success in college and career paths. My overarching goal is to develop a district-wide culture of continuous improvement based on best practice and research. Regardless of my educational role, I believe that communication, transparency, collaboration, and mutual respect all need to be present in every learning setting. 

In order to accomplish this successfully, it's important for us to gain a better perspective of one another's roles, what is taught, when and how it is taught, and how do we know our students get it. Curriculum mapping will help us to gain this perspective. Three years ago, our district adopted a curriculum mapping software called Rubicon Atlas. Atlas will allow educators to not only see what is being taught inside one another's classrooms, but it will also let us see if we missed anything important along the way. Together we will make the necessary changes in curriculum and instruction needed to enable our students to be more successful in college and in careers that they choose.

As educators, it is imperative for each of us to gain an understanding of our students' perspectives. We need to become explorers uncovering facts that our students already know, and figuring out what their misconceptions or preconceptions are (as well as our own). We then must work to correct the misconceptions, reteach or teach again differently, find out how they learn best, and have them find out the same. And once our students learn new information, check to ensure that they don't revert back to their previous misconceptions.

Consider ways that you can create opportunities in your settings for your students to collaborate with one another. Everyone learns differently--even adults! We need to use strategies to hold our students accountable for their own learning; to give them opportunities to form a deep conceptual understanding of the content in order for them to make connections and transfer their knowledge to other contexts. We have to show them the big picture--so when they advance, they bring with them the skills to meet their new challenges.

Changes in the world economy have dramatically influenced the type of worker sought by today's employers. The United States is not meeting the pace and needs of those changes. As educators, we all need to be mindful of the urgency to rise to these challenges.

I encourage everyone to truly get to know our students this year. Ensure that they have clear gateways so each and everyone of them is able to achieve success and self-confidence. We all play a vital role in that outcome--and on a bigger level the success of our great nation.

I am very proud of the work that our educators (with the support of our community and parents) do here, and in the efforts that we have already taken together to ensure the success of our students. We should all take pride in these accomplishments.

In short, teach with your heart as well as your head and hand and you will never go wrong. When we show our love for what we do, our students will feel this passion and work harder for us. When we respect and value each other's contributions, we promote not only our students, but we also promote our great profession.

So, welcome back. I look forward to another year together. There are more great things ahead for our district, and I am very excited to be a part of that work.


Julie-anne Zarrella

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