Fraser teacher discusses importance of personalized learning structures

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 29, 2021

 Leon

Leon

FRASER — A longtime Fraser Public Schools teacher is using her diverse background to share statewide her vision for a more personalized learning system.

Tanya Leon teaches English to seventh and eighth graders at Richards Middle School, and has worked in the district for 11 years. She is also an Apple distinguished educator, ISTE certified educator, and a private personalized learning and technology integration coach.

Recently, Leon became involved with Michigan’s BRIGHT podcast series. Launched by Michigan Virtual as a means of highlighting stories of hope and innovation in statewide classrooms, she has spoken on how the experience of teaching has vastly changed since she began in the profession 13 years ago.

She attributes her teaching evolution to a “the more I learn, the more I adapt” model.

“I think the foundation for my methodology and pedagogy is student-centered learning and understanding that every child needs something different in order to be successful,” Leon said. “In today’s classroom, this means a variety of different considerations, including leveraging technology, flexible classroom furniture, an adaptive learning platform, mastery-based learning, addressing accessibility, and student voice and choice in content, path and assessment.

“I want students collaborating, designing and choosing what to read and how to demonstrate that they’ve learned a new skill. Personalized learning is all about meeting students where they are and letting them choose where it takes them, so I have zero desire to lecture and test, and I care instead that I guide students to be curious, to discover, and to create products that are meaningful to them.”

As an Apple educator, she has worked in a district that for the past eight years has a 1-to-1 student-device ratio. That leveraging of technology in which she refers was instrumental during situations like the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when learning and teaching took a major twist.

“I am hopeful that this dive into the deep end of blended learning because of COVID-19 has helped to remove some of the apprehension that some schools or teachers have had regarding incorporating the power of creating with technology in the classroom,” she said. “As a personalized learning consultant, I’ve seen so many schools struggle to get over the initial integration hump, but once they move past the logistics and adjustment of integrating technology, the possibilities for empowering learners are limitless.

“These devices help remove barriers, differentiate instruction, connect students, and produce engaged creators that will help shape our society moving forward.”

As for student misconceptions as it pertains to learning patterns and children being of a certain age, she referred to how personalized learning essentially means that not all students are going to be on the same academic level — even if their ages or grade levels are identical.

“The current grade model is the way we’ve always done school, but the reality is that some students need more or less time than others based on a variety of different factors, strengths and needs,” she said.

More of Leon’s views on personalized learning, revamping educational ideologies and developing authentic, real-world skills can be found at www.michiganvirtual.org.