When I think of phenomenal educators, Griselda Rutherford, a teacher in Washington D.C., comes to mind.  I met Griselda while facilitating a Growth Mindset Live Training workshop in her school district. Griselda took to the growth mindset, as she believes that all students are capable of remarkable growth, and began the work at her school. 

When Griselda got back to her school, she immediately began implementing Brainology and growth mindset principles.  Ms. Rutherford committed to a whole school and community approach, inviting me to speak to parents about the growth mindset.  She felt it was imperative that parents receive the knowledge that had transformed her thinking and practice as an educator in order to better support the work she was embarking on with their children.  Her commitment to fostering and increasing parental engagement didn’t stop there, she also lead other activities at her school, such as a parent-child chat and chew.

I have had the pleasure of witnessing Griselda’s commitment to her students while observing her teaching, evident in her emphasis on classroom engagement, individualizing and differentiating assignments, and tailoring lessons to best facilitate deeper learning and understanding.  During Griselda’s first year implementing the program, she taught a blended 4th and 5th grade class.  She not only taught her students that their intelligence is malleable and that challenges and hard work change the physiological makeup of the brain, but with Brainology, Ms. Rutherford fully owned her implementation, creating fun activities and games for her students. These activities were engaging and fostered a deep understanding of the growth mindset.  One such activity was where students created a paper mache brain.  They painted the four lobes of the brain, and learned about how the four lobes can work together to increase learning through their Brainology lesson.

A few years later, Griselda moved to a new school to serve as a 5th grade teacher.  Wanting to ensure that her new colleagues and students had the knowledge that had transformed her practice and student’s academic experience, Griselda again, invited me to come in to speak to her colleagues.  With leader buy-in and support, they have also led growth mindset presentations with parents and are implementing the Brainology program. 

When I inquired about how learning about the growth mindset has transformed her practice as an educator, she said she is now more conscious about the language she uses and has made an effort to ensure that her grading and teaching practices better support growth mindset. She has strayed away from using words to describe students like ‘smart’ and focuses her praise more on what students do and the effort and time that they commit.  She also provides students with more opportunities to recognize the value of their hard work and commitment. 

The effect of these practices, coupled community engagement, has most recently become apparent through Ms. Rutherford’s standardized test scores.  Results from her student’s most recent standardized tests demonstrated that 96% of her students showed 1 year of growth on their reading assessment.  Griselda’s class on average made 1.8 points of average growth on the 4 point PARCC rubric from the beginning of the year to the end on Evidence-based Response Writing.  Lastly, on the Reading Inventory, 80% of her class met their growth expectations range.  As such, Ms. Rutherford’s score was a 4.0 on her state’s PAARC IVA.  She has been rated a highly effective teacher.

The impact that Ms. Rutherford is making as a stellar educator is certainly undeniable.  Her commitment to her continued growth as an educator, parent engagement, staff development, and student success are all reasons why she has undoubtedly made a difference to her community and students.

About the Author: Dr. Afiya Fredericks is the Program Implementation Manager at Mindset Works, where she currently manages the Mindset Works implementation in approximately 15 schools in DCPS. She has studied and researched the growth mindset throughout her academic career. A St. Croix native, Afiya enjoys traveling home and taking in the magnificent views.