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Learner characteristics bring D-41 into the future

Not quite five years ago, the Board of Education adopted a new vision: Ignite passion. Inspire excellence. Imagine possibilities.

This vision grew from a process that identified our most deeply held beliefs, values and hopes for the community’s children. The stakeholders who created the vision thought about the new global society our children will enter and felt strongly about the importance of helping children develop keen intellectual, creative and collaborative skills, along with other characteristics that represent high levels of thinking and behavior and are the lodestones of learning in any setting and in any era.

Since then, we’ve made great progress toward creating a future-oriented educational system – one of the most important shifts that has taken place is the adoption of the District 41 learner characteristics.

For a while after we developed our learner characteristics, they lived mainly on a piece of paper. We knew we had something good in these 30 “skills” and “attitudes,” but we weren’t sure what to do with them. But then we began a systematic process to leverage their power by creating guidelines and expectations for embedding them in instruction.

Now, these characteristics have come vibrantly to life in our district. Teachers are finding varied and inventive ways to incorporate them into the classroom and are sharing these ideas freely with one another. Students are embracing them and expressing them through videos, posters and even rap songs. Recently, one of our principals talked about the “positive impact that the Learner Characteristics have had on the students” in her school, sharing examples of students demonstrating them in class, on the playground and in extracurricular activities. A first-grade teacher said, “We incorporate the Learner Characteristics in everything we do ... it’s just how we are in our classroom.” Our PTA Council begins its meetings by highlighting the Learner Characteristics to help make sure that parents recognize their importance and are alive to the opportunities they bring to family life.

All 30 District 41 learner characteristics are posted on, and here are a few of them: being resilient in the face of challenges, optimistic, collaborative and intrinsically motivated; and being able to solve complex problems, think critically and reflectively, advocate for oneself and others and assume responsibility for learning.

In District 41, our learner characteristics are the fabric through which we weave our hopes and dreams for our students and our expectations of each other as professionals, forming the intellectual foundation of the world-class district we strive to become.

Ann Riebock is superintendent of Glen Ellyn School District 41

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