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Brian Nichols, M.Ed. ’03, takes home national leadership award

Brian NicholsThe Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development  (ASCD), a national nonprofit organization formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, has named Brian Nichols its 2010 outstanding young educator. He received a check for $10,000.

Nichols was nominated for the award and was among a pool of candidates interviewed by the award committee. His award noted his success turning around low-performing schools by using data, collaborative leadership, innovative strategies and teamwork. He helped Hidenwood, which had long struggled with state Standards of Learning tests, exceed state and federal student achievement goals for the past two years. Nichols said the process began by "building a strong sense of what we're about, which is to motivate, educate, and advocate for all children."

ASCD Executive Director Gene R. Carter said at the awards ceremony Nichols "strives to not only provide students with top-notch academic programs, but also prepare them to become caring, successful, active citizens who contribute to their communities."

Nichols has a history of turning around low-performing schools through a mix of strategic use of data, collaborative leadership, and innovative education practices. "Hidenwood has progressed from a school on a federal watch list to a school that everyone wants to watch because it's exceeded AYP benchmarks for two consecutive years and embraced 21st century learning technologies," says Nichols.

Nichols has used technology to improve instruction and effectively communicate with his school's various stakeholders. He and his staff have created a virtual data wall that teachers can access at all times to track individual student progress across an array of indicators, from formative and summative benchmark assessment results to student participation in afterschool activities and leadership groups. The wall drives regular data-focused and collaborative conversations, during which teams develop individualized instruction and support plans for students who aren't meeting benchmarks. Meanwhile, the school's Technology Academy merges project-based learning with technology integration to help students become problem solvers and global citizens. Nichols also maintains a Hidenwood Twitter feed and produces video updates to keep parents and community members engaged and informed.

Nichols's approach as a professional development leader at his school models what he expects of his teachers. His staff members never receive the exact same professional development. Instead, they participate in differentiated professional development opportunities that take into account their current knowledge and skill levels and are tailored to meet student needs. Nichols also empowers his educators to become professional development leaders themselves by conducting observations and walkthroughs of each other's classrooms and sharing their strengths.