Who we are.
We are long-time public school educators. Both of us started teaching over 20 years ago in the largest public high school in Vermont, Champlain Valley Union High School. We were team teachers in a 9th grade humanities program for six years, then taught 10th-12th grade humanities, English, and social studies. About ten years ago we became interested in differentiated instruction and spent a year working half time and on sabbatical half time, with a focus on systems and structures that would help differentiate more effectively. Our research quickly led us to standards-based learning. We realized that without clearly articulated learning targets, it was tough to differentiate in a way that improved learning for all students. That's when our obsession was born.
For the past decade we have taught part time, and worked part-time to support our school's, district's, and state's transition to standards-based learning. It has been a challenging yet rewarding balance that has allowed us to continue to experiment, refine, and practice what we support and write about. We have blogged about the difficulties and rewards of implementation, and in 2018, published The Standards-Based Classroom: Make Learning the Goal (Corwin), a book about the practical changes that teachers can make in their classrooms to begin, continue, or refine their journey to standards-based learning.
We believe so strongly in the power and potential of standards-based learning to change education. There are pockets of success stories all over the world--some individual teachers or programs within conventional schools; some individual schools within conventional districts; some brave districts or even states. But there are just as many stories of teachers, programs, schools, and states who have tried to do the right thing for their learners without success, due to politics or pressure or money or rushed or ineffective implementation.
Getting this right at the classroom level is huge and will change lives. But imagine if we could get it right at the school level and the district level and the state level and the national level. Imagine the lives it could change then. The more teachers and schools that find success in implementation, the more likely other schools and districts and states will take the risk to try.
All of this change and potential starts at the classroom level. We need to get it right with our students. We need to show them that learning and engagement improves when our targets are clear, our instruction is intentional, our assessments are targeted, and our communication is accurate. And if we can get it right at that level, our students--and families--will start demanding better learning at all levels.
- The Standards-Based Classroom: Make Learning the Goal : Corwin 2018
- "Keeping it Simple with Standards-Based Learning": Corwin Connect, Sept. 21, 2018
- "Proficiency, Personalization, and a Cocktail Napkin": Learning Personalized, 2019
- "A Shift from Teaching to Learning": JumpRope, 2014
- CVULearns Blog: 2014-Present
Emily Rinkema lives in Westford, Vermont with her husband Bill Rich, her dog Frankie, and Jack Reacher the Cat. When not teaching or supporting learning, she loves to write short fiction, quilt, fly fish, and spend time with her family.
Stan Williams lives in Shelburne, Vermont with his wife Naomi, and children Sam and Lily. He loves coaching soccer, watching the Steelers, and dreaming about living in Costa Rica.