Speaker challenges APS staff to think differently

Published 4:23 pm Thursday, August 24, 2023

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Speaker and author Ross Bernstein had one overarching request of Austin Public Schools teachers, staff and administration on Thursday.

“I want to challenge you to think a little bit differently,” he said repeatedly during a 15-point presentation that crossed lessons from the sports world into education.

Bernstein, the author of nearly 50 books on sports, presented to staff of APS Thursday afternoon as part of the school’s Workshop Week Staff Kick-off held in Knowlton Auditorium.

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Sprinkled with humorous anecdotes from his own life, Bernstein challenged the staff to find their own place within the upcoming school year as well as their profession as a whole.

“There really is no right way to teach,” he said. “Finding your own way — I think that’s what makes you a favorite teacher.”

Throughout Bernstein’s presentation, he told stories that included Minnesota Twins great Harmon Killebrew, legendary hockey coach Herb Brooks and his own time with the Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team and as the school’s mascot, Goldie the Gopher. Bernstein encouraged staff to dig deep in order to not only find a positive place for their own efforts, but to also be good leaders for both other staff and the students they work with.

At the same time, he asked what they are doing to foster enthusiasm in those around them.

“How are you creating buy-in?” he asked.

Austin’s 2023-24 school year starts Monday, and Thursday’s event was a chance for staff to come together for one final push toward the new school year.

“It’s setting the tone,” said Superintendent Dr. Joey Page following Bernstein’s presentation. “It’s so important to come together and really celebrate what’s happening in their journey.”

Page said the event and the work leading up to the school year is also a chance to strengthen and bolster recent district efforts to implement new plans for its educational model, including the Packer Profile programming, which according to the district’s website,” … identifies the community’s shared aspirations for students and what it means to be a graduate of APS. It reflects what our students, staff, and families desire each day for our students and support their preparation to become college, career, and life ready.”

At the same time Page said it’s also an opportunity to unwind before the district really kicks off for the new school year. 

“It’s been a long, hot week,” he said. “It’s nice to run through the finish line and do it together. Have some fun.”