Gina Meinertz enjoys new role at Spring Grove Public Schools, hosts book talk next Tuesday

By: 
Jordan Gerard

When Spring Grove Public Schools added a new position to their staff, Gina Meinertz stepped up to the plate.

Meinertz’s role as transformational leader is a combination of the transformational coach role started last year and a new leadership component.

“The coach meets with most of the teachers in the building and they create a problem of practice, such as how they want to grow, how they want to do something different,” she explained. “The leader sees that they can help teachers with more time to accomplish tasks.”

Overall, Meinertz is helping Spring Grove develop their 21st century one-room schoolhouse model where different ages can learn from each other. 

The model has also allowed students to take ownership of their learning by doing more project-based assignments over worksheets and tests. 

Students are also responsible for how they manage their time, as elementary students can often choose which subjects to work on during the day and high school students (7-12) have a Power Hour replacing study hall.

During Power Hour, students can work on homework, assignments, ask teachers for extra help, work in group assignments or have Student Council, FFA, Youth Development and other group meetings.

Meinertz said that type of learning has allowed teachers and administration to define the “profile of a learner” and answer the question, “What are the qualities of a learner?”

“Students start to track their learning over time,” she said. “We also teach them service learning and ask how are they involved in the community? How are you representing yourself as learning and making choices in your life?”

The school is also using an online tool called “Redefining Ready,” a national initiative launched by the School Superintendents Association that will “introduce new research-based metrics to more appropriately assess that students are college ready, career ready and life ready,” according to their website. 

Meinertz is also helping Spring Grove create an “experience map” for Spring Grove showing where the district has been historically, where they are right now and what the vision is for the future of Spring Grove’s education. 

She hopes it will provide more clarity for parents and students to see what learning could look like in coming years. 

Additionally, Meinertz has flexibility to work with groups of students, such as students in an English class who need advanced work. She’s helping them create an interactive presentation.

Students in grades seven to 12 also have a service component added to their education. Using the United Nation’s list of sustainable goals, students are able to recognize what they can do locally to help the global movement. 

This could be anything from promoting clean water, donating to food shelves, helping the environment and more. 

Meinertz also wants to bring in real world examples of careers, such as a judge visiting a government and law class at school. It shows students the relevance their education has to the real world.

She also co-teaches in the classroom and helps implement teacher’s ideas.

“If we get to a rough spot, we can go back and make rubric for that, or take something out of the project. We can make adjustments,” she said. “We are listening to students and teachers, not just leaving them alone with it.”

With a full month into the job and seven months to go, Meinertz said she’s enjoying the job so far.

“It’s wonderful. I get to help everybody decide where they want to go,” she said. “The culture in Spring Grove and the curiosity and growth matches the position here. The community encompasses the role.”

Not only was the role a good fit for Spring Grove in general, it was also a good fit for Meinertz’s goals. 

Working as a principal for five years in Caledonia and as a Montessori teacher for the previous nine years, Meinertz said she wants to create learning experiences that have success for all students.

2Revolutions is the education design lab that granted funds to Spring Grove in order to have the transformational leadership position.

Book talk

Meinertz will host a book discussion on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. at school in the Learning Resource Center (formerly known as the Media Center). 

The book is called “In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School” by Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine.

The two authors received a grant to visit and research inside various high schools in the U.S. and look for educational models that enveloped deeper learning.

“They write in the book that learning isn’t a ladder, learning is a web, and you bloom and grow when you go to different areas, make connections and bring it back to becoming a more complete human,” Meinertz summarized. “

However, the two authors didn’t feel like they found it. Instead, they found pockets of teachers that encompass the deeper learning ideal. They discovered there are people who found that method.

The schools described in the book are not named, and they show different examples of learning models such as project-based atmospheres, following curriculum exactly, professors and experts teaching and finally, a public school.

Meinertz said she can use information from the book every day. 

Those wishing to attend the discussion on Oct. 15 do not need to read the book, but can do so if they wish. The discussion will focus on exploring deeper learning in high school.