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Gordon: Climbing the 21st century mountain

Community Voice

In the month that I’ve been in Glen Ellyn School District 41, people have asked me how things compare with my old district and why I wanted to come here from the Denver area.

It’s easy to come up with comparisons between the two districts and the two regions. My old district, Adams 12, has 43,000 students in 50-some schools from preschool to high school. Pockets of that district are similar to District 41; pockets are very different.

Summer in Colorado is bone dry. Summer in Illinois seems pretty rainy. One difference I notice every day as I learn my way is that in Colorado, I could just cast an eye to the nearby mountains to learn my direction. In Illinois, it’s not so easy.

But for educators, the “mountain” that gives us direction is the same wherever we are. Across the country, 21st century learning is the summit we all want to reach.

Educators are figuring out how best to help students develop the intellectual muscle to tackle the new Common Core academic standards and traverse the obstacles that contribute to persistent and perplexing achievement gaps.

No matter where we teach, no matter what type of students we have, we keep our eyes on that mountain.

The proactive attitude and progressive tools District 41 is bringing to the task attracted me to this district.

In Adams 12 and here in District 41, the goal is the same: to create thinkers who can respond to the problems of today and, more importantly, the problems of tomorrow.

I think often of what education writer and researcher Tony Wagner says: “The world no longer cares how much you know; the world cares about what you can do with what you know.”

In a few years, our kindergarteners will be confronting problems and holding jobs we can’t even imagine today. If our students can become critical thinkers, productive collaborators and problem solvers, innovators and confident learners across disciplines, they will thrive in the 21st century.

Preparing them to climb that mountain is the commitment District 41 has made. It’s my commitment too, and it’s why I’m so excited to be here.

Paul Gordon is superintendent of Glen Ellyn School District 41

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