Ms. Lauryn Obozian is a Philadelphia School District elementary school teacher who joined our pilot cohort of RPIA Teachers this year. Ms. Obozian taught a group of 3rd graders in the 19-20 school year who looped with her as they became 4th graders and she joined RPIA for the 20-21 school year. She joined our cohort reluctantly, admitting that she was not sure her openly defiant students could change.
The first year Ms. Obozian worked with her students, the 2nd grade teacher told her to “keep the reins on these kids,” and she listened to the veteran teacher’s advice. After a year of power struggle with her students, Ms. Obozian opened up about her concerns and was welcomed by her fellow RPIA educators who both empathized with her situation and challenged her to expect more from her students. They provided examples of how to give more ownership to her students, and she decided to try out a strategy where her students planned and facilitated morning meetings. Reading up on her selected theory, Beyond Discipline, she rolled out a ‘travel agent’ idea to her students where they could sign up to teach the class about a specific country every morning. This started something transformational!
Her students started to blossom as leaders each morning. Fielding enthusiastic emails from students each day after school, she began looking forward to discovering what her students cared about and how they would inquire about each student’s travel agent presentation. As RPIA Cohort sessions continued, Ms. Obozian pushed herself to consider, “what might it look like to have this level of student ownership in the content I teach throughout the day?” She began leveraging strategies to foster student ownership in every content from history to math, and the results speak for themselves.
As the year comes to a close, Ms. Obozian’s students have a 35% jump in their 95% student attendance rate from last year to this year, a stand out increase in their math achievement scores, and a level of student ownership that caught the attention of Philadelphia School District Leadership. Ms. Obozian was awarded the school district’s illustrious Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award and, when interviewed by the district, remarked, “RPIA is 90% of why I became this type of teacher. I went from being a controlling teacher to an empowering teacher...that made all the difference.”