A Synopsis of the Work of Susan F. Tierno, M.Ed.
In 1994, The National Children’s Educational Reform Foundation, Inc., was created and founded by educator, steward, and social entrepreneur, Susan F. Tierno, M.Ed. She served as CEO and Executive Director from its inception to 2005. Located in Danbury, CT, the Foundation was a national 501(c) 3 corporation. The organization’s mission as a non-profit was to create, promote and facilitate focused federally funded partnerships with bilingual departments in school districts. This partnership was built around a comprehensive specific sole-source model of programs for parents, their children and the teachers who worked with them. As developer, Ms. Tierno’s stewardship was, and still is to help children learn how-to think, help empower the families of these children to grow and develop their roles as powerful parents.
Since the establishment of The Foundation, Ms. Tierno initiated Think & Learn: A Comprehensive School Reform Model, a groundbreaking set of cognitive training programs for ELL kids, their parents and their teachers. The Foundation’s mission was also designed to create, promote and facilitate quality teaching for thinking and learning through professional staff development. The intentional pedagogy designed by creator, Ms. Tierno demonstrated how to apply and transfer thinking processes through a systemic 5-step model in critical thinking, criteria-building, decision-making and problem-solving for all ages and grade levels. Passionately implemented the programs were positioned on a system-wide basis in bilingual schools and their selected teacher classrooms within Hartford, Connecticut and Dallas, Texas, Richardson, Texas and Washington, D.C. School Districts. Think & Learn became a proven reform model. According to the teachers and parents of children who participated in this model, the program transformed at-risk student, minority and ELL students into effective, productive thinkers and learners. Data gathered and synthesized during the last four years yielded 20% improvements in comprehension, our most critical literacy issue today.
Today, Ms. Tierno has received certification in NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT from Georgetown Policy Center at Georgetown University. She has now founded and created a new and exciting national education charitable nonprofit; Let’s Think-kids Foundation, Inc.
The Let’s Think-kids Foundation is a national educational nonprofit focused on serving ELL and at-risk minority youth and their families. Through partnerships with schools and school districts whose mission is to focus on at risk families, via parent trainings, at risk and ELL children with powerful project based writing programs and teacher training for today’s teacher’s of at-risk and ELL students. The new organization’s focus is to help students develop critical thinking skills, become creative thinkers and excel as readers and writers.
Ms.Tierno is also an on-line professor for Post University Waterbury, CT and it’s Master’s of Ed. Program, focusing the new generation of teachers on the issues of today’s classroom and tomorrow’s future education. From theory to practice her devotion to help teachers and trainers never lose their passion for Education.
Adult Learning Philosophy
When I bought a home in the 90’s, I diligently made sure that all of the electrical appliances, furnace and air conditioner worked efficiently and effectively. I discovered that it was my charge to make sure my three-story home was comfortable. I found the thermostat and set it at 72 degrees for year round comfort in New England. Perfect, I always thought, as I walked by it. After the 8th year, the thermostat went awry.
I called in the company and they installed a new, more upgraded, more efficient thermostat. I soon discovered, that the thermostat at certain times would note that room temperature was dropping below 72 degrees or rising above 72 degrees. At that point, the new thermostat would explore some other temperature that might more efficiently or economically achieve the goal of heating or cooling my house. How could this be, I thought? I thought I was supposed to do this? I soon however, became quick to enjoy moving on to thinking about other thinking, while the thermostat functioned with its little brain all on its own.
Reflecting, I began to think how fast the world has moved. I began to see that not just children, but all adults, at all ages, have been adjusting to an unprecedented information age. But it’s not just about the information; it’s about how we have had to learn how to process the information. Why I can listen to my newfound best friends and global thinkers, Fareed Zacharia or Thomas Friedman. I can read Fareed’s articles in Newsweek during the week or find Friedman on the blog on an I-pod. I can confer with both on their web site or facebook or twitter on CNN or just sit and read another chapter in their book, using my KINDLE, which is sitting on the edge of my easy chair.
Add to this, recently I began to notice that I can do what Kinko’s does for me. Our information age has more than faxes for transmission of documents, scanning and downloading now are in our hands. I-phones and I-pods are better than boom boxes and cell phones. The I-phones almost, yet not quite, overtake Blackberries. And well, I have even thought, with all of these items there isn’t much to think about. I began to draw a few conclusions, today’s adult learners have to adapt and move to new systems of faster and more efficient ways of staying 72 degrees more than could possibly have ever imagined.
The issue of adult earning translates to most of the body of my career. I have for many years thought that (our survival) as thinking adult learners seeking to adjust to the 72 degrees in the marketplace is to embody the learning of how to think and how to learn. Thinking is more than defining and solving a problem. Problem solving is not just identifying and correcting errors. It is thoughtful and insightful reasoning that can drive actions and change. Reasoning is more profound than knowledge. To question someone else’s reasoning is not a sign of mistrust but a valuable opportunity to learn. These thinking skills delineated above and processes were taught to my staff for many years when I held my own business. These thinking ideas and processes were taught to my bilingual teachers in our project for many years. These thinking ideas and processes were taught to our Hispanic parents for many years in our projects. We worked hard to think more efficiently and more effectively
This brings me to further personal thoughts on andragogy and how it can help adults in the world marketplace adjust to get to 72 degrees. An adult reading, thinking and working alone has produced impressively great outcomes, over our history. An adult working, thinking and interacting with experiences has produced equally profound outcomes. So too, working together with others, and even more diverse others, has produced even more profoundly positive circumstances. This only happens, I believe, if alliances are built and engaged with process, action and reflection. A very Freirean principle, it was one I learned in experiential work with the Aymara Indians in South America, 37 years ago. Combine the group, community, or team with activities that require them to create new ways of working and thinking together. This appears to be how to impact a whole team, such as in business, or in the case of a school, as a professional learning community. Best practices include listening activities, team-building activities, dialoguing, games, direct instruction and guided self-directed learning.
Moreover, my experience as it relates to forging alliances with teachers, has yielded powerful growth exponentially to what is now termed professional learning communities. This, however, became possible only when a consensus as it related to a willingness to collaborate together for the good of children or their parents. My experience also demonstrated that individuals wanted self-information. I found that when individuals were assessed with instruments that help them to self-inform as to how they individually receive, perceive, organize, analyze and evaluate information in the world today. While we all may filter information differently, the adjustment is how we can dialogue, collaborate and come to consensus about our thinking; another 72 degree adjustment.
A small group of adults, when effectively working together is powerful when people begin to ask critical questions concerning the focuses of decision-making around which they are working. These then are the adults, as a community that can adjust. Today’s learning organizations have much change process to work through. It is my belief that all organizations, be they government, business, community colleges or schools, all are going through adjustment in order to get to 72 degrees.
Given my philosophy on 72degrees, I believe not a classroom of today’s kids (or adults in community and on-line colleges) is without a wide, diverse range of learners needing to learn a wide range of skills and strategies. I come to the Bilingual/ESL classrooms with a focus on learner-centered outcomes, strong comprehension building and differentiated scaffolded activities that all demonstrate assessment in thinking skills. As a teacher of today’s second language learners, I understand how children and adults think and learn. From working in bilingual classrooms over many years a myriad of print rich models are real staples in my classrooms. Anchor charts with language learner’s thinking, ‘sticky’ notes, and reading communities with 'accountable' talk are critical to the process in my classrooms. ALL of my learners succeed no matter what age or language. Hands-on and minds-on differentiated instruction with leveled thick and thin questions to help learning and how students learn at all levels. Add to this, puzzles, word sorts, turn and talk, pair and team learning Second Language Acquisition dictates small phases that scaffold and build on the next steps in language and thinking production is used everyday. Project-based writing with non-fiction supported further through the use of technology in the learning context. These strategies and best practices work well for all learners.