Steve Oates, a veteran teacher of 1st-graders, has been leading an initiative to bring play back to kindergarten classrooms in North Carolina’s Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school district. The effort to make the district’s early-learning environments more engaging for children and hence, more effective for their learning, is at the heart of Oates’ work overseeing 45 elementary schools and their principals in the 54,000-student school system. And the district’s pursuit of more play-based learning has taken place at a time when many districts and early-childhood centers have shifted to more structured, academic environments. Despite his heavy load of responsibilities, Oates logs lots of hours in the schools he oversees, meeting with principals and teachers and checking in personally to ensure that the blocks and dress-up clothes in kindergarten classrooms are in heavy use. “If I walk into 10 kinder[garten] classroom[s], and at least seven or eight of them [are focused on play], I could say, ‘We’re on the right track,’ ” Oates says of where he hopes to bring his district’s classrooms. This video was produced as part of Education Week’s Leaders to Learn From project, recognizing outstanding school district leaders from around the country. More at http://leaders.edweek.org. Education Week Video
Coverage of leadership, expanded learning time, and arts learning is supported in part by a grant from The Wallace Foundation, at www.wallacefoundation.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.