Pleasant View awarded for redesigning learning

Pleasant View Elementary School District receives a national award for using unique, relationally-based learning techniques in the classroom

VISALIA – With hopes to redesign education for future generations, Pleasant View Elementary has successfully restructured its teaching to focus on the students rather than the numbers.

The School Superintendents Association – acronymized as AASA – nominated Pleasant View Elementary School District as the National Demonstration District. This nomination came after Pleasant View garnered attention from the AASA for their collaborative learning styles and unique take on education. Pleasant View superintendent Mark Odsather emphasized the importance of refining a student’s self-efficacy and preparing them for the world. 

“The most powerful memories we have in learning are those in which there was an emotional connection. They could be good or bad, so the challenge for us is making sure every one of our kids feels known, accepted, valued and safe,” Odsather said. “Our whole vision is around building that self-efficacy through relationships.”

One of Pleasant View’s initiatives to redesign learning has been to create a collaborative classroom environment through an “open classroom” environment. There are multiple teachers and aides in one classroom, allowing students more opportunity for one-on-one help and mentorship. Odsather said students are mentored once a week as well. Drawing inspiration and resources from AASA’s Learning 2025 collective, the school makes education “more student-centered, equity focused and forward reaching,” according to the AASA press release

“[Our students] at any given time have a chance to connect to an adult and build those relationships, because we know through neuroscience that you don’t learn anything if emotion isn’t attached to it,” Odsather said.

Another aspect of learning that is essential to Pleasant View is communication. Odsather stressed the importance of teaching students how to effectively communicate with others since it is such a valued skill to have in the workforce. One way they achieve this is through two monthly socratic seminars, where students will engage in discourse that teaches them how to verbally articulate themselves and their ideas.

“We’ve got to let [students] explore their interests, and then we can come alongside and teach the skills, but we don’t need to sit and lecture to them. That’s not going to help them grow or develop those skills that they need to be a really good employee,” Odsather said. “The people that [CEOs] fire from their job is not because of spelling and math, it’s because they can’t show up, they can’t communicate and can’t work within a team.”

Though traditional forms of education have worked for some, Odsather believes it does not work for all. At Pleasant View, their mindset is to teach students how to “steer their own ship,” which again is emphasized through self-efficacy. Odsather said he wants students to learn how to advocate for themselves and to take their own path, not just take the path someone has told them to.

“Each one of our kids needs to be known, and they’re all different. They’re all unique,” Odsather said. “They all have their own puzzle that they’re going to have to put together in their life to figure out what they want to do. But they’ve got to put their own puzzle together, not be dependent on me to do it.”

Odsather said that since there are many teachers in a classroom, they collaborate and plan teaching content together, enabling a more “socialized” plan rather than just merely following what the school tells them to do. The open classroom environment eliminates competition between teachers, and instead makes them depend on each other. Teachers are encouraged to hold each other accountable as a community of educators, rather than being individual teachers that are watched by their boss. 

“It’s a very transparent practice,” Odsather said. “They don’t need me to hold them accountable. They’re doing it to each other, so we get rid of some of that hierarchy.”

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