• November 19, 2019

OC hires Jones to lead Professional Learning Center - Odessa American: Odessa College

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OC hires Jones to lead Professional Learning Center

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Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019 3:51 pm

Chief of Staff Robert Rivas said the college is excited to introduce the Professional Learning Center to the campus.

“The goal of the PLC is to engage Odessa College faculty in meaningful conversations and learning opportunities they can use in real-time to enhance their teaching practice. Teaching excellence is at the core of every experience in the PLC, and our faculty have truly embraced the model. We are thrilled to have Brian join our team and lead the effort to develop the PLC. Brian’s energy and creativity are the perfect match for this new initiative,” Rivas said in an email.

Originally from New Orleans, La., Jones moved to Odessa in 2002 to serve as music director for Life Challenge Church.

He then decided to go into education, so he started at Odessa College in 2002 and graduated with an associate degree in music in 2006. He went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s in music from Texas Tech University. Jones is working toward getting his doctorate from Abilene Christian University.

Jones was a teacher with Ector County ISD for three years and served five years as assistant principal at Nimitz Middle School and Wilson & Young Medal of Honor Middle School.

“I loved middle school. The experience was very unique in watching the students grow, starting off as sixth graders and by the time they’re eighth graders they have a plan so then they enroll in some dual credit courses along the way,” Jones said.

He added that he enjoyed working with parents, students and teachers in that role.

He added that he always had a desire to serve in an academic role as an assistant principal. Before stepping into his new role as director of professional learning, Jones was an adjunct professor at Odessa College teaching education courses.

In his department, Jones and the OC Global Team provides learning opportunities for faculty and staff at the Professional Learning Center. 

The center, which started in September, is for OC faculty and staff.

“What we’ve created is a unique system whereas we have ongoing learning throughout the day. We’ve created sessions specific to engagement, leadership, and how utilize technology as an accelerant to learning, and other sessions that are relevant to their practice,” Jones said.

He said OC has taken a strong position in making sure that its students are successful. The Professional Learning Center provides faculty and staff with a chance to improve so they can become better student success coaches, for example.

Faculty members also have an opportunity to lead those sessions. 

He said Odessa College has taken a strong position in making sure that its students are successful. The Professional Learning Center provides faculty and staff with relevant learning to improve their practice. This consequent aids in our students' success. 

“Our goal is to be deliberately developmental in our approach, meaning that if as a higher education institution we just become stagnant that’s the status quo, so we’re always thinking about how can we inspire; how can we create; how can we grow all of OC, not just our students but also faculty, staff and as a community of practice,” Jones said.

The department of Professional Learning has a staff of four, including Jones. Many faculty members help to give presentations and sessions in the PLC. 

Jones said the PLC is very student centered. They discuss strategies for student engagement, authentic assessment, the flipped classroom and more.

“We know that kids, again, if they’re in the classroom they can sit there and smile and take a bunch of notes, but are they really engaged? Are they really retaining the content enough so that they can have the purposeful student to student discussion …,” he said.

As an Advancement via Individual Determination demonstration site, AVID strategies are being being incorporated. Discussions in the PLC surround usage of AVID strategies in the content they teach. 

They talk about how to use strategies from the program in the content they teach. 

Overall, the sessions are meant to be relevant to what staff and faculty are teaching.

“… I’ve sat in professional learning opportunities at other institutions where it didn’t feel relevant. Now I’m able to curate; now I’m able to create; now I’m able to get interest surveys from faculty members and they are helping us create, so it’s more relevant to practice and it’s specific to what the needs are for the institution. So with my background being an educator in ECISD. I’m pulling some of the resources from my experience and I’m using that to build the PLC,” Jones said.

Jones said he has enjoyed leading the sessions when he’s conducted them.

"It's a fun process. I get the privilege of being able to serve in a role where I can facilitate those discussions. We have discussions about diversity and inclusion. We talk about sexism in the classroom. We have moments where we’re talking about emotional intelligence and how to have tough conversations when the stakes are high. How can I do that? How can I speak to the heart? How can I get to make this space safe enough so that they’re open to share without there being conflict or conflicting interests. So there are a lot of pieces that we talk about and we discuss because the goal, ultimately, is for their improvement so that they can grow, that they can learn and we can support them. The whole PLC was created with the intent to support our faculty. In turn, we’re going to see our students be successful because they have the tools that they need,” he said.

As we are building the PLC, we would like to have sessions available in the future that would be extended to ECISD and the community as well.

“That’s our goal. Our goal is to, as a community, we understand that there’s a unique partnership with ECISD and we support them and they support us, as well. The goal is to eventually open it up to ECISD and neighboring communities eventually. We’ve had employees from ECISD present at the PLC. We have been in discussion with AVID leaders in ECISD and they are willing to partner with us to support the continuity of AVID strategies,” Jones said.  

When asked about the difference between the Odessa College PLC and professional learning communities in the school district, Jones said that the concept is similar, but the design is different.

“Ours is a bit different in that we are looking at it globally, as a community of practice. … We’re sharing together … We’re not looking at a specific index (regarding TEA accountability indexes). We’re not looking at a specific data set. We’re looking holistically … institutionally what are our specific outcomes and what do we need to work towards to support our faculty so that the students are successful,” Jones said.

He added that faculty and staff is not required to attend, but there are incentives to encourage participation. 

“We’ve incentivized it here at OC, meaning that we want to them to be a part of the community. So what we’ve done, we’ve created a tract-based system meaning if you attend 10 sessions of the PLC, you could receive a $500 stipend …,” Jones said.

“We’ve had a great response. Our goal is to promote teaching excellence by providing a comprehensive instructional support system for Odessa College,” he added.

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