VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Edjacent is a new organization based in Virginia Beach. It is focused on teachers, parents, administrators and more, to make sure they design their own legacy when it comes to teaching our children. They reach that goal through teaching each other.
“We really feel like the people who are closest to the learning, the child, the child’s teacher, and their caregivers are the ones who should have the strongest voice in what their education looks like. And so, really, our mission is to really help educators to feel a strong sense of identity and purpose and know what they value so that they can properly kind of navigate the challenging world of educating students, to be able to say, ‘This is what matters to me so I can prioritize. I can be resilient. I can be courageous when it comes to it,” said Meghan Raftery, chief design officer of edjacent.
The organization welcomes educators from all over Hampton Roads, and nationwide.
“Educators need to feel like there is something coming that is better than what was, that we’re going to make the difference that we sought to make when we became educators,” said Raftery.
Edjacent has what it calls “designers” which are educators that are laser-focused on empowering and sharing their knowledge with clients.
“What we believe in is that educators are artists, and so each of our designers is an artist in their own right. They have something that they do well that they believe in deeply, and so they each have their own, kind of, approach and client base. So, some of our designers are really student-facing. So, they make content that is directly for kids. They might host camps or have virtual classes or something like that. Some of our designers work directly with other educators, so they’re teaching them skills they can learn in the classrooms, and then we have some designers who do some development directly for parents. So, maybe curriculum development, or for home schools, they might be helping to coach parents that they’re making key decisions in school, things like that,” said Raftery.
Melissa Smith is one of the designers. Her bio spells out her main area of expertise, “She empowers participants to reach beyond their comfort zones to reimage and redesign their educational systems for equity. Melissa’s approach to coaching and leadership development helps educators notice, name, and disrupt systemic barriers to equity and enable inclusion within themselves and their organizations.”
Smith told WAVY.com, “As educators, we just went through a very tough situation with the pandemic, and sometimes we lose pieces of ourselves, we lose the passion, so remembering why we became a teacher, remembering what it is that brought us to this profession and understanding how that helps us nurture the children and the students that we work with, and then also really digging in to how does my identity show up in my classroom and in my school and in my division? And understanding how that sense of self cultivates learning opportunities and experiences in their sphere of influence. That is really important for us.”
Authenticity is a big part of the coaching at edjacent.
“Part of this is we really have to really ensure that our teachers and our educators feel that they can be authentically themselves in their learning environment so they can then put that forth to their students,” said Smith.
The founders of edjacent say they feel they are a complement to current education systems, but rather than focusing on certifications, educators can learn from those in the same environment as them.
Those who live similar struggles and victories every day.
“We really feel that teachers who are empowered, who are strong, who are supported by one another are going to be exactly who parents want in front of their children in their schools. So, we’re really encouraged by the idea of building up teacher efficacy is really going to lead to student growth. That’s going to build better relationships in schools and between teachers and families. So, we kind of start with the teacher and we know there’s a ripple effect that comes from that,” said Raftery.
You can join edjacent for a fee of $20 per month of $240 per year.
“What that gets people is access to our community space. We have a member portal on our website where we offer information exclusively for members, but also we offer one-on-one coaching and curriculum that helps people to understand this idea of self-development and what that looks like,” said Raftery.
There is also information you can learn from the site, and edjacent’s social media, which is free.
Edjacent’s first in-person event is Thursday, Aug. 19 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, or MOCA.