Ignite 1.0 Inspires Regional Educators to Embrace the Power of 'What if' . . .

James M. Loy, Miami University

“What if?” can be a magical question. It can spark original ideas filled with potential and possibility, especially for those with the imagination and determination to see what might lie ahead. For educators, this ideal is often about overcoming conventional approaches or systemic limitations, and by envisioning new ways to help students, and each other.

It was also the question proposed by the Middletown City School District (MCSD) during the inaugural Ignite 1.0, which brought together diverse educators from across southwest Ohio to reimagine the future of education. 

Conceptualized by Marlon Styles, MCSD superintendent, Ignite 1.0 provided a platform for area superintendents, technology directors, curriculum coordinators, elementary school teachers, and more to share their own philosophies and perspectives within a public forum. 

The purpose was to inspire more educators to ask: What if we took a chance? What if we cause change? What is my “What if?” 

Robyn Jordan speaking at Ignite 1.0Robyn Jordan, Middletown City School curriculum coordinator and Miami University educational leadership (EDL) doctoral student, was among the 12 featured speakers. Her talk implored educators to stop being afraid of failure and to start taking more risks.

She also offered a vision for what education could become if only schools would embrace more innovation and student-centered learning. 

“Students from any district, regardless of where they live, could take courses at any school through the use of modern technology,” Jordan said. “They could collaborate with their peers from all over the state. Students could choose their own learning pathways with flex schedules. They could work collaboratively with their peers to redesign their own schools. They can conduct their own action research projects to improve systems and processes.” 

“What would happen if we built our schools around student voice and agency?” she also asked. “Kids will take ownership of their own learning and they will rise as a result.”

Jordan also praised the event’s positive energy and the unique collaborative environment, which was echoed by Joel Malin, Miami University EDL assistant professor.

“It’s really important to listen to and learn from educators regarding what is working and what types of shifts in education may be needed,” Malin said. “In recent years, there are some pretty big concerns that educators’ voices in the policy process have been diminished, and there are consequences. In this event, educators’ voices were front and center. And they delivered. This event makes me even more excited about PK-12 education in this region.”crowd at Ignite 1.0

Also representing Miami University was EDL doctoral student and Sycamore High School Assistant Principal Ashley Warren, who expressed a need “to push the envelope with education” and to avoid the pitfalls of forever following the status quo. 

She also expressed the pivotal role Miami played in encouraging her to share her story.

“The Miami EDL program has always inspired students to take action, whether it be in classrooms or on a larger scale,” said Warren. “The importance of Miami students participating showcases exactly the values Miami has toward education: leading the change that needs to occur, challenging current practices to become best practices, and centering students around the decisions that should be made, rather than the decisions that are easy to make.” 

“If I hadn't gone through the Miami program,” Warren continued, “I don't know, frankly, that I would have had the courage to participate in such an event. Honestly, I was able to find my voice through Miami as an educator and am beyond grateful.”