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La Reina Continues to Lead the Way

La Reina’s commitment to student-centered learning inspired Principal Maggie Marschner to introduce the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework during the 2019-20 school year.

“We were drawn to UDL because the research behind this framework is foundationally in line with the mission and vision of our founding Sisters of Notre Dame,” says Marschner. “A universally designed lesson and classroom works to reduce barriers to learning, providing an inclusive environment and experience for all students, including those that are exceptionally gifted and those that learn differently.”

La Reina educators are professionals who are given the freedom within their classroom to explore a wide range of pedagogical practices to engage their students. Teachers have continued to grow and refine their pedagogy and particularly through this past school year, they looked at it as an opportunity for innovation and improvement in their practice, notes Marschner.

“This is very important as we look to address students’ current learning needs in an ever-changing and shifting technological landscape,” Marschner adds. 

La Reina’s teachers stand on a long history of traditional educational practices and experience while also having the confidence to continue exploring and growing in their profession. Their ever-present goal is to provide a transformative experience where students learn the skills of adaptability, flexibility, resilience and motivation. This academic excellence has been the cornerstone of La Reina since its founding and will continue to be the bedrock of its educational principles and vision. 

“We are excited that student achievement data in the two years since La Reina embraced and implemented UDL demonstrates its effectiveness,” says Marschner. “Standardized tests taken during the school year just completed found our sixth graders achieved results in writing and vocabulary at an eighth-grade level and our seventh graders scored at a high school level.

“According to our PSAT test results, our eighth through 11th graders scored higher than their statewide peers in all testing areas: math 11%, reading 24%, writing and language 26%.” 

Through collaborative conversations and inquiry around data, always keeping student need and wellness in mind, La Reina’s educators continue to refine their pedagogical practices. While many schools are concerned about the COVID-slide, La Reina educators are confident that by utilizing proactive lesson design and continuing to build on the innovative practices developed throughout the past two years, they will be able to meet the needs of current and new students. 

La Reina’s faculty share how UDL has impacted classroom instruction and student education.

“When students learn this way, they increase the number of brain centers learning from two to five or more. I have found that overall student math anxiety decreases, ‘stick-to-it-ness’ increases, and we enjoy our learning together more. UDL methodology builds connections in brain areas unrelated to the subject being taught, thus skills learned in math or science also help them with music, analyzing, memory and even dancing,” —Hannah Robinson, Science Department Faculty Member and UDL Co-Leader and Trainer

“By setting goals based on where the students are, I can craft creative learning activities for different cognitive modalities. UDL is good teaching. It reflects intuitive and perceptive aspects of the art of educating. It enables me to be more than a lecturer; I am a mentor to each student on their unique educational path,” —Kris Chisholm, English Department Faculty Member

“UDL has given me intentionality when planning my lessons. Through a process of goal development informed by essential question survey and pre-assessment, I am able to design lessons that target individual learning needs. Part of the process includes students making goals for themselves, and when possible, they are given a variety of options to demonstrate their learning,” —Nikki Blake, English Department Faculty Member

“I have been able to transcend my lesson planning, as UDL leads me to shine a light on each students’ abilities and attributes. By focusing on what inspires and motivates my students, UDL has created a learning environment that is modern and evolving. In my classroom, UDL allows students to take an individualized approach in their expression of content mastery,” —Alec Gasca, Social Science Department Faculty Member

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