Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:00:00]:

Welcome advocates to another episode of the Eakins Equity podcast. A podcast that focuses on supporting educators with the tools and resources necessary to ensure equity at their schools. Today's special guest is Mister Darren Reed. So without further ado, Darren, thank you so much for joining us today.

Darren Reed [00:00:18]:

Hey. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:00:21]:

Hey. Listen. We've been talking for a minute before we hit record. And that's one of the things I love about doing these interviews is I get to know the my my guess. I don't like to just hit record as soon as we connect. You know? I it's really important for me to chop it up a little bit. Kinda develop some sort of a report. So I'm excited because we're touching on a topic that I have not covered. Bleed out in over 300 episodes, and I have not gotten to this conversation station. So before we get into it though, I would love for you to share a little bit about yourself and what you currently do.

Darren Reed [00:00:51]:

Yeah. Absolutely, man. It's so exciting. And, you know, it's hard to believe it was just last year that I was saying I was hitting my 30 year in education mark and it's blinking eyes my 31st year and just like that. But I'm a lifelong educator. I spent gosh, used to be more in public education, but now it's most in private sector I've been a teacher school leader. In 2008, I moved to, the online space in k12 inc, k12.com, the leader in online learning in the k through 12 space. They were looking for educators, proven urban educators to help inform this changing demographic in online schools. It was no longer the homeschool population every kid in America cross section of all of them were attending these institutions. So I came on board and really helped do some cool things there. Early on in that work, to help build some of the country's first blended and online schools, which married, the best of face to face and and online into blended schools. We did some great schools for overage under credit students in Chicago and San Francisco and San Jose. It was just an exciting time over my gosh now, almost 15 years at K Twelve Stride. I've had a variety of roles. I've oversaw the largest region in our country, in our company, the east region where oversaw 16 states, dozens of online schools partnering with districts and 501 C3 boards to deliver to deliver education for the students across the state. Schools as large as, you know, 18,000 students in Ohio, you know, 400 in another state, but, exciting. And as we talked beforehand, you know, now I am leading the Stride Professional Development business here at Stride inc. We are have now extended beyond just the online learning space and really have amassed, you know, taking what we've amassed over 2 plus decades to into the larger education space. And really as a traditional public educator, we're really able with our resources to do some really cool things in the education space beyond k-twelve online. And I can talk a little bit about some of those having been a lifelong educator. There's a lot of wonderful things about public education, but it can also be bureaucratic and slow to innovate times as we know. But to be able to partner with both straddle the public and private is able to advance some really cool things. So I'm excited about that. Then, of course, my whole work has been around equity and serving underserved communities, so I'm really excited about the topics.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:03:12]:

This is gonna be fun because, you know, it's it's I I can think back to my days as a student teacher in college and everything. And, you know, that was a different time. So I'm not that old, but it was it was different You say you're 30 30 31 year deep. I'm I'm about 15. So so but but at the end of the day, I I I I think we could both agree that, the times of professional development and and preparation, teacher preparation when it comes to the undergrad side of things in college has changed. It's it's, you know, we have a lot of things that have happened. Technology has been advanced. However, we got teacher shortages I just read an article this morning, as a matter of fact, Las Vegas is closing schools down. Because of of shortages in teachers. So I I wanted to kinda talk to you about that. Kinda like, what is your take? What are scene in regards to teacher shortages.

Darren Reed [00:04:10]:

It it's it's a scary time. And and, you know, unusually when you get to Christ, the time is also time for opportunity, but but the the numb hard numbers are scary. Mean, we have as we, you know, we're Eakins, you know, you have a whole generation of teachers who are exiting the profession who've given their life to it. And downside is we don't have as many potentially coming in. Those ones, they do come in. You have just a natural, you know, generational differences about how many careers switches you have within the generation alone. So it's not like folks are staying throughout their entire career in one profession. So, but even in addition to that, teachers aren't feeling supported for a lot of ways, prepared, adequately compensated. So we have a dire knee, a dire situation. There's some data that says that 55 percent of teachers in last year said that they are prepared to leave the profession citing lack of support, compensation as key issues, and that was up 17% from the year year before. And then as we talk, you know, 1st year teachers are among the quickest of even in that group to leave, they're leaving at a 44% rate within the 1st 5 years. And so you put you add on it together, and it's just a dire time. And I would argue at a time where our country probably needs them now more than ever given everything that our kids need and what our country where our country is. So it's a tough time.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:05:29]:

Well, okay. Okay. So this is not an episode that's just all education is is in dire straits. I I I'm one of those individuals that I like to have some strategies. I I like to present some okay. We just sent you some stats folks are listening. I don't want folks to tune out. We we're gonna help you out. Right? So, Darren, I I wanna I wanna pick your brain a little bit because you you you're supposed to specifically talked about 1st year teachers, even within the 1st 5 years, I think you said the stat was 44% are are headed out. Well, let's talk about some ways that if I'm a school principal administrator, even district level, what are some ways that we can try to maintain our teachers.

Darren Reed [00:06:12]:

What are your thoughts? No. I I I that's a great point. And it's it is about the solutions. And, you know, I don't even think before that, you know, it's about how we prepare our educators across the country. There's a lot of new, teacher prep programs, certification programs, that are that are popping up to, you know, to help encourage teachers to come, etcetera. But no matter what the pre service program is, college institution, teacher certification program, teachers need extensive time in the classroom. Right? It's I mean, we we talk about any sport, any career, your proficiency outside of the theory is is what's most important, right? Proficiency doing the job. And unfortunately, a lot of times, or pre service teachers or those in their senior and junior years, they their only time in the classroom that might be student teaching. Yep. And I remember my student teaching. It was, you know, a good experience, but if that was the only time, and then I'm thrust into a a lot of teachers just aren't prepared. So I think you know, giving teachers as much time to be in the field as possible in variety of different school communities, I think is important. You know, I've had a fortunate to work in affluent school communities, underserved communities, and it's night and day. And it's all strengthening my tea my skills as a teacher. So I think that's first. But once they enter the profession, I think it's how you onboard them and get them acclimated. Right? Sometimes it's Hey, we need a body laid out, but but no. And and I I say that, Jacquelyn, but a lot of districts do a good job. Right? They say, hey, we wanna support our 1st year teacher's I think more can be done, right, sign mentors to them, place them appropriately, give them adequate strong start in professional development. And and a lot of a lot of places do that. I think you can't get enough of that. Those are the first things, particularly for 1st year teachers. The 1st year is always like this, as you know. But what do they have along, you know, in their toolkit and resources to handle those dips throughout that 1st year?

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:08:05]:

You know, I'm glad you brought that up, and that's something I hadn't thought about is having more time in the classroom as a pre service teacher. I know a lot of schools not even schools. There's a lot of organizations that are Eakins like alternative cert type of programs where, you know, maybe I'm a I'm a STEM background. I wanna look into getting into to teaching on that level. And those programs are awesome. And I'm not taking anything away from it. But I do wonder how much classroom time are are those individuals getting. I know at at some of the schools that I've worked around and support it, the teachers were in that space currently working on their licensure.

Darren Reed [00:08:44]:


Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:08:44]:

Right. And I think that that's a great way to learn on the job. Yeah. Like you said, I mean, theory is great. And, you know, I I learned a lot of theory and all that stuff. And then when I went I my first teaching job was in the Virgin Islands

Darren Reed [00:08:57]:

Oh, wow.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:08:57]:

And it was great. But, like, a lot of the theory just didn't necessarily apply. It was, I mean, you had to be culturally responsive. Was was was a big deal for me. So thank you for helping things up.

Darren Reed [00:09:09]:

And and I think you hit right on hit. Right? Culturally responsive. You know, we I'm so glad you mentioned that because, you know, I used to do a training with educators, and I would say, you know, in our wizoo activity, I'd say, let's say you plan to, you know, trip around the country, some around the world, to a place you've never been, and they would talk about how they would prepare for this their visit. Learn the language, you know, get the customs, all these things they would lay out. And I was like, why would you do that? He was like, we wanna be respectful. We wanna hit the ground running. We don't And I was like, how many of you live in the community where you teach? Right? And and they were like, oh, man. That's, you know, and and and that's for all communities. It's not to fault any teachers, but I think we there's an assumption that school is school, but schools are unique to every community in which you are in and so helping teachers understand where they're gonna work, how you could acclimate it, how you because, you know, get out of your own way. Right, just by knowing what's what's in front of you. So that that's key for new teachers as well.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:10:07]:

That's a good point. School is not school.

Darren Reed [00:10:12]:

Every school

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:10:14]:

is every school is different. Okay. Well, then how do I prepare a teacher who doesn't know where they're gonna be placed.

Darren Reed [00:10:21]:


Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:10:21]:

Right? They don't know where they're going. They just know they got their certification. Now they're putting apps everywhere. To find a job. Is there something or suggestion that you might have in regards to getting a little bit more specific in preparing our teachers?

Darren Reed [00:10:37]:

That that's a good question. I don't I, you know, I don't know how much I've thought about it other than when I was a prince, but we did a lot of school community engaged Right? But, you know, that's, again, once you get get on-site. But I do think that, you know, it's it's it's partly the teacher's responsibility, but it's also the school leaders as well. You wanna set them up success as much as possible. So it is things like educating them about the community, bringing community members into the school. Tapping community organizations into the school. And and I'll say this, you know, there was a time in my career that I thought it was tougher to work in an intercity at risk school where I had worked until I worked in a very fluid school school community where, in fact, I was at a school where Colin Powell grandkids were when I was assistant Prince early on it. And it's a difference, right, when you have parents who are, you know, knowledgeable and not that they aren't everywhere, but who really understand, hey, you work for me as a taxpayer here. And and and I think every parent want to be able to create a private school experience within their purse, you know, their public school, if they know how to do that. And if you're the, you know, first your teacher and you don't understand it, you're thinking, who? I'm in the easy school, quote, unquote, you you have another rude awakening. And I've seen that experience drive a teachers his way as well. So I think it's incumbent upon teachers to, first, do your homework and say, hey. Where am I going? What's the school community? But also helping prepare those teachers from a school and district level to what kind of community you're in and how we do things around here.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:12:01]:

You know, that's one of the things I do. So I have an assessment that I provide, and I and I ask all of the folks that, you know, who's involved, you know, hey. Do your teachers and staff know the historical context of the school setting. That's fair. Because, you know, when we see to attend, it's like, okay. I worked on a reservation. And out here on a reservation, there was a a Indian boarding school. And so a lot of my kids live with their grandparents. And so when it came to attendance, there were some challenges there because of the grandparents' experiences going through the boarding schools. So the the very important piece as a staff member is we need to understand the historical context behind some of the situations that we're dealing with in our schools. If they don't have that background information, that's gonna cause some challenges.

Darren Reed [00:12:53]:

That's that's a very good practical solution to that that that problem. And and, you know, I think a lot of times we talk about equity inequality. And a lot of times, it's, indirect. It's unknown. We do it by mistake for that very reason. Right? It's like, we think everybody needs this. But if I actually knew a little bit more, I would realize, oh, they need something completely different than what I'm giving, and it's not about effort. It's about targeting what they specifically. And that's great, great solution. I have to follow-up with you on that one.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:13:20]:

Well well, I I got you. I got you. Let me know when you're ready, and and we'll we'll we'll make something happen. So, okay, let let me let's talk about this for a second because wanna Eakins circle back to the idea of retaining our our staff, when it comes to teachers. And I I hear this all the time. I hear my principals, my administrators, they always say, well, I know we need to give P. D. To our teachers, and we know it'll benefit them. However, they're already bombarded with weekly lesson plans. And and in some states, you gotta do a whole year plan and submit it in public and all the, like, all these different rules and regulations. They're trying to learn what culture responsiveness is, what the latest, greatest SEL, or whatever it is. There's all these different responsibilities that they have, Yep. So the idea of encouraging staff members to participate in professional development can sometimes be a challenge What kind of response would you give to the individuals who who bring those those conversations up?

Darren Reed [00:14:18]:

Man, having been in this role now, we we've done a lot of serving and studying school leaders and teachers. And we, you know, we we've done this particularly this past summer. We did a lot and we asked teachers and school leaders to describe PD past and present. And a lot of it, unfortunately, not the descriptors are the same, right, from 30 years ago to now, and it's around PD is episodic. It's costly. It's time consuming. Pools teachers away. It's one size gets all, you know, get gets all it's antiquated. But but, you know, in credit and to to school leaders as well, sometimes the data tells us school wide that, hey, we all need this. Yeah. And it's there there's a place for that. Right? It doesn't replace it, but there's now with technology. If we leverage it the right way, we can now tailor and target PD to the teacher's needs. And that's why I'm so excited. And, you know, we talk about my passion around almost full circle, you know, as professional development years later to say, wait a minute. We can literally serve up. Oh, you need target and destruction? Man, you get that when you need it. Not only do you get it targeted, we now strive professional development center just say, like, as an example, and there are other companies out there doing this, but it's on demand professional development that can be accessed It's mobile friendly on your phone, your laptop, you can start, you can stop, and that's what teachers need. They don't have the time. Not only they have the time, they don't wanna get out classroom, but they can still do that. And then when they are comfortable, when they are relaxed and they can learn on their own time, they can get professional development hours along the way, And the cool thing is that it's a growing library. So it's gonna have content in every area, and it's content and courses created by educators for educators. And as I always like to say in education, the answers are in the room. No. Any school in America, somebody's figured it out. And the problem is is we don't always have time to, you know, opportunity to connect with them and find out what they figured out. But this allows them time to do that. So I would just say profession development that is beyond time and space. Right? That's what technology allows us to do. We talked about online school. And teachers that we're seeing are absolutely loving that. And it helps districts innovate and diversify their approach to PD. Last thing I'll say is we had a principal say No. This is cool. I already have PD. Then these came back and said, wait a minute. I don't have PD that everybody can get on their own. Yeah. And so there those lots of opportunities like that and teachers I am finding are just loving that. And and, of course, it has to be dynamic. You don't wanna give them a PDF or a PowerPoint, just read over on that they're watching, but something that's interactive where they can learn in in a cool way.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:16:57]:

You know, I I was talking to an individual not too long ago and one of the, you know, for my rural people, like, my folks said, like, you were you're out in the sticks, and to get people to come in, it it can be a challenge. And so I can I can see how this can benefit my schools that are in rural situations, I could see how this could, limit or mitigate a lot of the burnout that a lot of teachers are, I mean, just overwhelmed? Yeah. And you're saying I heard I heard you say something like I can target what specifically I need in order to, you know, so is is there support? Like, are there courses that might involve lesson planning and and how to how to properly lessen plan or how to grade, how to create rubrics, and are are those Eakins of some resources that I could I could find?

Darren Reed [00:17:45]:

Yeah. Absolutely. We have we have courses for to help new teachers. We have courses for targeting instruction, how to build engagement for teachers who teach online, for teachers who teach you know, face to face. Wow. And the cool thing again is that everybody who's on our platform and the districts we work with, hey. We we love to see a course in this. So we have an entire priority lists. So and and, you know, as we talk, we work with subject matter experts around the country in addition to internally, and we are just it's going to be full database. And not only do you get the courses, right, we want this to be a one stop shop because, you know, it is as educators, you'll wanna go from this platform to another platform we say, well, let's say you took a course on targeted instruction, not only do you get our course and all the resources within it, but we've curated what we think are the top free resources on on the web related to targeted instruction. So it's all there for you. So we have free resources, some paid, some, free And then last thing I say, because of Stride, we are a, large company and with a large education footprint. So this is not our primary business. So we're able to really provide it at an affordable rate for educators. Like, the goal that we our job is how do we help keep teachers in the profession? How do we support them? Because we need teachers, you know, so this is a an investment beyond just the PD aspect. We really wanna show teachers that we value you and there's ways you can do this differently.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:19:06]:

I'm I'm about to say. So so the Stride have a teacher shortage.

Darren Reed [00:19:09]:

Yeah. We're we're not immune, unfortunately, but we are we are doing a lot. And I think the fact that you can be online in in different spaces helps us retain a lot more. So that's helpful for us.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:19:21]:

Now you you kinda alluded to what what my next question was gonna be because, you know, I'm being the equity guy. People call me the equity guy, so I'll I'll embrace that. That's fine. However, with that question, the question I have is is in regards to can it be affordable for I mean, again, we, you know, we talk about salaries sometimes. It teaches salaries and even school's PD salaries and title 1 funds and all these different fundings that might be available. That's that's, you know, I'm a throw it out there as far as as the affordability in regards to the PD that's online that's readily available.

Darren Reed [00:19:57]:

Yeah. The biggest issue, you know, we have teacher appreciation we get, which seemed like it was just yesterday in May, and we as a company do a lot of things. And I was on, I think another podcast is how many asks about teacher, you know, how do we recognize teachers? I was like, you know, as much as we, you know, I used to wash their cars during breaks during teacher appreciation, you know, all the fun stuff. But 2 big things you can do. 1 is include them in decision making. I saw I heard a teacher recently say, we're the only profession. Where we've been trained as experts in this, but nobody asks us how to how to do things, which I thought was pretty powerful. So include them in decision making. Secondly, pay them. Right? The best way to show your your appreciation is invest in them monetarily. And there's some things happening around the country to help with that, and I know it's very local the impact of that, but that's big. But for us, what we've done is we've said, you know, and and, you know, without going into the details of what but you can get an average online course. It can several $100. Ours is, like, you pay $70 for the year and you get access to every course that we possibly have. Right? It's it's not it's our goal is and and to give you a sense, our goal for users is even greater than our revenue goal. Like, we wanna have as many teachers on the on here And we also not only courses offer courses, free resources, but we also provide access to a national educator community. Where we do problem of practices, webinars. We do an annual virtual conference called promising practices where we bring folks together. So And, obviously, I've never used the word cheap for educators because I remember what it's like, but it's comparatively. It's fairly inexpensive. And then we're working with districts who can underwrite that cost. So say, hey. Look. We're gonna provide this for all our teachers in our district. And if they do that, then they it's even discounted even more more for them. So we are excited to have the the resources to be able to do that and really help change the outlook on PD and and how people love it.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:21:49]:

And you have you have something going on for a year, right, when they're special. Yes.

Darren Reed [00:21:53]:

Yeah. I'm glad you mentioned that. So to kick off and and really address that teacher shortage, We really and I went to our CEOs, like, let's do it. Like, you know, we every teacher in the country who just graduated and started their 1st year, no matter where you are, they get a year free access to the Stripe PD Center. Full year. All you have to do is sign on into the code teachers win and you get free access for a year. The our goal again is to support schools and districts who are already onboarding these teachers but we really wanna give them a strong start to the school year. And and our goal is too. We also wanna learn from them. Right? Log on. So as much as if there's not anything else, that's a giveaway. We really wanna learn from them because it's gonna help us design what new teachers and teachers need down the road.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:22:37]:

Alright. And folks, we'll we'll leave links in the shell notes so you can get Get, get your hands on the access to that. Just to recap, you mentioned that one of the things that we could do in re regards to retaining our teachers, especially our first to, you know, within the 5 1st 5 years is to provide a little bit longer or more in-depth student teaching experiences We talked about professional development and onboarding, and and making sure that is accessible to our teachers, as are there any other tips or strategies that you want to to leave out there for those who are looking to retain our new incoming teachers

Darren Reed [00:23:15]:

I think the biggest thing is is give them support, and that looks in a lot of different ways. One one of the most powerful things I think you can do is provide young teachers with mentors It's it's seems simple enough, but what I found is most times those mentorships happen informally, both good and bad. Right? So I I think it's not just like, hey, we have a mentor program.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:23:37]:


Darren Reed [00:23:37]:

It's really creating an opportunity for teachers to identify what their needs are. Right? So in addition to your formal mentor program, how do you really bring teachers together with the time constraints, etcetera. But what I learned, you know, and I was fortunate to be teacher of the year, Newport News in Virginia 1997, but I would always say the majority of my teaching and, you know, comes from stealing stealing ideas. So it's really creating the ideas or the opportunity to see what other teachers are doing. And and, I mean, you know, we we talk a little joke about Avid Elementary as an example, right, the intergenerational dynamic that happens. Man, there's no better training for new teachers than that kind of thing.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:24:18]:

Yep. Yep. I love that. Listen, you have Darren, you have dropped some gold and and I'm I'm really am excited for all the things that you're doing and and what Stride is offering. And, again, folks, I'm leaving links in the show notes so that you can get more information there. But I'd love for you, Darren, to take us home with any final words of advice that you wanna leave to our listeners.

Darren Reed [00:24:39]:

First of all, I mean, any educators who are listening or even, you know, education topic, I just always say thank you to our educators. It's it's a, the profession that I loved, and the only reason I left the classroom was to have a larger footprint to impact teachers. And I've done that for 30 plus years, and you know, my my my my word is thanks to all of them. And and the other piece too is, you know, to add that in addition to all 1st year teachers getting for free, for back to school, every teacher in the country gets half off, again, of 70 out for the year as well. So, again, it's it's not about promoting the Stripe PD Center per because there are lots of opportunities to do this, but the same way we help transform traditional education through online, we really wanna leverage that technology to see we can improve teacher retention, teacher effectiveness by really putting the power of learning in their hands. So I'm I'm excited about that and glad that you have this opportunity.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:25:32]:

Alright. Well, if we got some folks that wanna connect with you, what's the best way to reach you online?

Darren Reed [00:25:37]:

Oh, yeah. They can reach me directly [email protected]. That's me. I'm always accessible. And then also, strypedicenter.com. You can reach out to any member of our team there. We love your thoughts on courses. And I will end here. If you're a subject matter expert in any field, if you are a teacher and have a dynamic lesson or if you've presented at a conference, partner with us. We love to turn your content into an online course. You know, we're the leader in online learning and, you know, we the partnership together, we get a lot of feedback on how the quality of our course So that's all on our side as well.

Dr. Sheldon Eakins [00:26:10]:

Awesome. Awesome. Well, Darren, it has truly been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time.

Darren Reed [00:26:16]:

Thank you so much.

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