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Getting Smart Podcast

Jun 26, 2019

Today, the Getting Smart team is speaking with Rebecca Midles, the Executive Director of Implementation of Mesa Valley County School District 51. She is an internationally recognized leader in designing systems that work for all learners. She has guided and led schools and districts to a Performance-Based Learning System as well as provided support and coaching to instructional leaders, site leadership, and district leadership. She has launched an innovative school and mobilized two school district change efforts that have become nationally important models.


The Getting Smart team has long appreciated her contributions to competency education, and this summer she is formally joining them to extend her impact through system and learning design work with the team!


In this episode, Rebecca talks with Tom Vander Ark about designing systems that work for all learners. She speaks about her career and the transformative work she has done from Highland Tech High in Alaska to Lindsay Unified in California to District 51 in Colorado. Rebecca also gives her vision of what powerful learning looks like for students of all ages; her thoughts on what educators should be doing to build up their knowledge, skills, and disposition; and the key tenets to transforming schools and systems.


Key Takeaways:

[:14] About today’s episode.

[:44] Tom welcomes Rebecca to the podcast!

[:47] When did Rebecca decide that she wanted to become a teacher?

[3:58] When did Rebecca finish her Master’s? What work did she do after that?

[5:28] Rebecca tells the formation story of Highlander.

[8:02] How did Rebecca get from Highlander in Alaska to Lindsay Unified in California?

[11:50] How many years was Rebecca with Lindsay Unified for? And what were some of the major takeaways she learned from working there?

[13:02] Tom speaks about Lindsay and some of the incredible changes they have helped create there for learners.

[14:47] What were some of the changes that Rebecca saw when she visited Lindsay again?

[16:26] What attracted Rebecca to work at Mesa Valley Country School District 51 after Lindsay?

[19:32] Did Rebecca see similar efforts at D51 to that of Tom’s work in Lindsay?

[23:03] Rebecca gives her vision of what powerful learning looks like and what she would like to see a week of school looking like for her own children.

[24:22] When Rebecca thinks of high school students, what would she hope to see school looking like for them?

[27:44] What should educators be doing to build their knowledge, skills, and disposition for the work ahead?

[30:24] Tom and Rebecca discuss keys to transforming schools and systems.

[33:35] Tom thanks Rebecca for joining him in this podcast!


Mentioned in This Episode:

Rebecca Midles (LinkedIn)

Mesa Valley County School District 51
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Highland Academy Charter School (Highlander)

Quality Schools International (QSI)

Lindsay Unified School District

Virgel Hammonds KnowledgeWorks
Washington Elementary (Lindsay Unified School District)


For More on Building a Performance-Based System in Mesa County Colorado, Check Out:
Episode 196: “5 Reasons High Schools Should Help Young People Find and Make Their Unique Contribution”! Or, if you’d like to learn more about Lindsay Unified, you can listen to Episode 176 for a discussion with Superintendent Tom Rooney!


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