Katherine Smith Elementary School
San Jose, CA
Aaron Brengard is re-imagining education. A teacher for more than 15 years, Brengard became the leader of Katherine Smith Elementary three years ago with one goal in mind: Every teacher and staff member would unite in the belief that every child should be ready for college and career.
Brengard visited Napa New Technology High School, the first NTN school that opened in 1996. “I will never forget our tour guide. His name was Carlos. He told us he gave tours to get better at public speaking. He clearly demonstrated a growth mindset that I had not seen in our students – something we now call agency. I wanted to create students like Carlos,” Brengard said.
To accomplish this objective, Brengard and his colleagues worked with New Tech Network (NTN), a leading design partner for comprehensive school change. NTN works closely with districts and schools to create innovative learning environments. Through a proven school model, a project-based learning platform, and powerful professional development we coach schools toward lasting change and ongoing improvement.
“The New Tech Network design is not a cookie cutter approach,” he said. The NTN model and support is about providing good questions and resources, not answers. This allows us to create a 21st century school that meets the unique needs of our community.” According to Brengard, “The
most reliable way to predict the future is to create it” (borrowing a quote variously attributed to Abraham Lincoln, Alan Kay and Peter Drucker). That’s exactly what he did when he and Katherine Smith Elementary joined the New Tech Network.
Brengard explained how he and the leadership of Katherine Smith Elementary chose NTN as a partner. “Our work began in the 2012-13 school year with the intentional transformation of our school’s culture. We created a school where students love learning.”
Brengard realized that communication was a key factor in college, career and life success. Katherine Smith faced challenges with 82% of students on assisted aid programs and almost 60% of the students classified as speaking English as a second language.
According to Brengard, with the adoption of new standards and upcoming revisions to the way students are “tested,” Katherine Smith courageously stepped towards the new demands. “We created opportunities for deep learning where students think, learn, work, communicate, collaborate
“Students gained hands-on experiences, solved complex problems and connected learning to future college and careers goals. I know that students need to learn how to work with one another, and they’ll need to build upon their knowledge, think critically and know how to communicate.”
Brengard added, “When we began, we were an outlier in our district, doing something innovative. We did not have structures set in the district to support our work on agency for instance. Academics are important, there is no question, so is engagement. NTN brings this to us. We are able to meet other teachers, leaders and coaches that inspire us to think about us.”
“The resources and customized coaching are critical and help support the adult learning. However, the most important support is networking. Having the opportunity to work with like-minded educators across network pushes my work in a different way than is possible locally.”