Passion-Driven Teachers Study Personalized Learning: The Merakis

The MerakisIn my last blog post featuring a group of 6th Grade Teachers from Mercer Elementary, an organic group named Meraki surfaced. In fact, it surfaced so frequently; I wanted to hear more from its founder, Cary Harrod. The Merakis are a group of dedicated educators that get together, on their personal time, to learn about personalized learning. Cary opens her home to 18 teachers, most teaching 5th or 6th grade English Language Arts. The Merakis represent ground-up, sustainable innovation.

I want to bring special attention to the impact Cary Harrod has had on my life as a professional. When I began my career at Forest Hills six years ago, I was more “techie-focused” than “education-focused.” I understood how to write code, manage a server, handle large scale technical deployments, and I thought I understood what educators needed…until I met Cary. In my first weeks at Forest Hills, I began looking at the infrastructure with a critical eye. In response to tight budgets, I’ve always tried (and still try) to find efficiencies. I thought moving away from wireless projection to cabled projection could save the district significant dollars. Cary was an instructional technologist at the time, and I mentioned my finding to her. She sat in my office and tears welled up in her eyes. I was aghast and asked, “What’s wrong?” She said, “We’ve spent the past five years getting teachers accustomed to moving around the classroom, working with students individually or in smaller groups versus being tethered to the front of the room. Wirelessly projecting is critical to making this work.” I sat in my chair feeling like a heel. This interaction was a turning point for me. I knew that I needed to learn more and educate myself. Cary provided resource after resource to help me learn and understand. I did. I listened carefully to her wisdom and voraciously consumed resources she provided. The professional I am today was and is influenced by Cary’s work. Cary moved away from being an instructional technologist and into the classroom this year. Her dedication to education and particularly personalized learning continues. She’s the founder of the Meraki group. Here’s her story (audio only):

Attention Meraki Members:

If you are in the Meraki group, please leave a comment with your Twitter handle so others can follow you!

Tech Hack: Cary and I used iPhone’s Voice Record Pro to record the interview. This app is FREE and allows you to upload directly to YouTube for quick insertion into your blog. The app also allows for transmission via email, SMS, Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive, and iCloud. Naturally, Cary recommended to tool!


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12 thoughts on “Passion-Driven Teachers Study Personalized Learning: The Merakis

  1. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to yack about something I’m so passionate about, Christine. I’m not sure what we have in the Meraki’s is anything particularly innovative but I do believe it holds great promise for new ways of thinking about professional development. Just like what we know about students in our classroom, the more one “owns the learning”, the more invested and engaged he/she will be; teachers are no different. Perhaps you’ve unleashed something really spectacular here, Christine.

    1. Cary, I’m honored to do this article about your group. I love hearing about the passion and purpose spreading throughout the district. I believe when you come up with a new way for students to respond to reading, you’ve created an innovation. Innovation doesn’t have to be something dramatic, in my opinion. The brainstorming that happens within this group will undoubtedly result in innovations. It can be a simple tweak or improvement of practice! Keep on keeping on, Merakis!

  2. Proud Meraki twitter handle = @staceyreeder. Christine, thanks for sharing the great things this group is doing for students. What a passionate, open minded, dedicated crew of teachers! I’m lucky to spend time in their midst!

  3. Our Meraki group has been by far the most inspiring part of my 23 year journey. Twitter handle is @thedevineone. Christine, I’m enjoying your posts and passion. Thanks for being willing to spotlight some of the great learning and growth that is happening in our district. Cary, thank you for continuing to push us forward.

  4. Just when I think I’m falling, you all pick me back up again. Christine and Cary, this interview refreshed my soul. What a journey it has been, one I never want to be over. You all rock my world and push me in ways I never knew were possible. Thank you from this grateful heart!
    Hannah Hill

  5. Thanks Christine for spreading the word! Trying to create change in hearts and minds. Holly Sattler @sattlerayer6 @HollyS6031

  6. The truly “organic” professional development I have enjoyed while a part of the Merakis’ continues to inspire me as an educator. I can rely on the group members to support, encourage and share with me to foster my own growth mindset and that of my students.

  7. Just catching up….WOW! Reading about your epiphany, Christine, and the Meraki Group has my heart racing! What a superb reminder that organic conversations are powerful influences on our professional growth. Thanks for the tech tip, too!

    1. Mary Jo, thank you! The Meraki’s have been such an inspiration to me but most importantly their work has had a profound impact on the students. Take a look at one of the most recent posts about Learner Agency where I interview the kids. As always, I appreciate your unwavering support.

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