Spreading SOLE

February 11, 2020

As a classroom teacher, I was always searching for a tool that brought everything together: content, management, organization, etc. I felt like the more I searched, the further away I got. There was just nothing out there, at least for me.

If only I knew then what I knew now. In August I was introduced to the inquiry-based tool: StartSOLE. It was the answer to all of my dreams! StartSOLE puts the ownership of learning in the minds of the students, embeds a variety of educational pedagogies, and allows the educator to earn Act 48 credit. Wait? And, it’s FREE! I was sold, and I knew my fellow colleagues would be, too!

Recently, I transitioned to a Curriculum and Online Learning Specialist role at BLaST Intermediate Unit 17 in Williamsport, PA. While I wear many hats at the Intermediate Unit, my primary role falls in STEM and innovation. One of the first professional development trainings I attended in my new role was a discussion about StartSOLE with its founder, Jeff McClellan. Immediately after the training, I knew that this tool was something I needed to bring back to the educators in our region.

I started my SOLE trainings with a basic introduction to our Curriculum Coordinators and our principal cohort. Eventually, many districts were interested in whole-building training. As the awareness started to spread I needed to build capacity. Our Intermediate Unit reaches nineteen districts, but geographically we are about twice the size of the state of Delaware! I looked to our teacher leader cohorts: our Pennsylvania Institute for Instructional Coaching (PIIC) coaches and our Innovation and Technology Collaborative (ITC). Each group received training on StartSOLE and some turned around and led by example (and small group training) within their home districts.

Below, you can see how we have used StartSOLE within our region to support our educators.

Cohort of Educators How StartSOLE Can Support
  • K-12 Teachers
  • Autistic Classroom
  • Student Teachers
  • New pedagogy
  • Transition to student-led classroom/instruction
  • Develop research skills
  • Reinforce social skills
Counselor Cohort
  • Classroom visits
  • Lunch bunches
  • Data-collection for their own professional learning goals (ASCA)
  • Socio-emotional learning
  • Principal Cohort
  • Curriculum Coordinators
  • Faculty meetings
  • Professional development/In-service
  • Awareness of pedagogy for walk-throughs or evaluations

As the training continued, I realized that I needed further support and feedback on my own sessions. Jeff McClellan was the perfect person! In the Fall, Mr. McClellan visited one of my sessions to provide some feedback on my delivery of StartSOLE. Following that day of professional learning, we visited classrooms within my region to see the teachers in action. The feedback and the powerful conversations that I had with Jeff and witnessed between teachers and students propelled even more StartSOLE growth within our region.

StartSOLE transforms instruction. It opens the minds of educators while opening the hearts of students. Teachers become students; students become teachers. It has created a positive movement within our districts, who is saying it could not take off in your districts? All it takes is an open-mind, a little bit of thinking outside-of-the-box, and a willingness to try.

Rebecca Gibboney is a Curriculum and Online Learning Specialist at BLaST Intermediate Unit 17 in Williamsport, PA. She is an education advocate and change agent who strives to instill hope in educators and students around the world.

Rebecca Gibboney
Author Rebecca Gibboney
2020 February 11