Re-envisioning Education – An Ohio District’s Journey Toward Personalizing Learning

For the last six years, Superintendent Jennifer Penczarski has been leading Kenton City School District on a transformational journey.  Kenton, located in Hardin County- in northwest central Ohio, is a small rural district with an urban center that serves nearly 2000 children, 60% of whom live in poverty.   When Penczarski arrived in 2010 the district had very limited educational delivery options because of inadequate space, technology, supports and resources.  Instruction was highly traditional, children had very few enrichment opportunities, there was minimal interaction between the district and the local community and students had no alternative pathways for success.

In collaboration with the Board of Education and the entire school community, Kenton City Schools (KCS) began re-envisioning the teaching and learning experience.  A new vision statement focused on four core values: inspire, inquire, dream and excel has guided all efforts.


Penczarski and her administrative team engaged staff, families, the Board and local business leaders to envision new ways for all youth to inspire, inquire, dream and excel – in school and beyond.

The district has been successful in accessing some state competitive funding such as Race to the Top Innovation Grant, 21st Century Community Learning Center and Community Connectors grants to incubate a few of their new ideas.

However, most of the transformation occurred because KCS leadership reorganized its infrastructure and shifted how they used local dollars to promote innovation and to pass a bond issue for a new PK-6 elementary school.

These initial efforts spiraled, creating even deeper transformations.  In partnership with the Hardin County Ministerial Association, Kenton Elementary School began Club ROAR before and after school programming to enhance reading, math and build Developmental Assets in K-6 students who need deeper academic supports and connections with positive role models.  KCS, along with the Ministerial Association and Hardin Co Chamber and Business Alliance co-designed school based mentoring programs for students in grades 5-10 as well as the new high school internship/capstone program.

Right now, 22 juniors and seniors are working alongside business and nonprofit leaders across Hardin County and designing capstone projects to solve problems or address challenges facing their workplace mentors.  Over the last two years, Kenton City Schools used local funds to make significant technology investments providing a 1:1 technology ratio for every child and faculty member PK-12.

Capture-kcs in school teacher with kids

In collaboration with Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, KCS repurposed and renovated a closed elementary to open a satellite career center offering four new personalized pathways.  Through this new program, beginning in 9th grade, any high school student can take career technical education courses, earn workforce credentials and college credits without having to travel 40 minutes to the nearest career center.  Each pathway prepares students to earn competitive wages in high demand career fields located right in Hardin County.

Great things are happening for almost 2000 Kenton City children, but in a recent conversation with Superintendent Penczarski I was told they are nowhere near finished re-envisioning the teaching and learning experience.  She is very proud that district staff understand the importance of technology integration and how to use their tools.  Now the district is ready to begin deepen technology use to shift to more personalized learning environments and expand problem based learning/design thinking across the district.  As learning is becoming less ‘test’ focused and more personalized, staff have begun work on shifting grading practices to match the new learning environments.   K-8 leaders and staff also identified a need to more deeply embed technology use to personalize learning and expand opportunities for children to engage in solving real world problems in their community learning 21st Century and college and career readiness skills .

Ohio’s 1st Personalized Learning Design Lab offers Kenton City Schools a terrific opportunity to develop new partnerships with other innovative districts, businesses and nonprofits and give her staff time to plan and prototype their next steps.  Initially, Superintendent Penczarski planned to bring one district level team to the event, but instead registered 2 teams – so both the elementary and middle school can work on their own work to continue re-envisioning their schools. To learn more about the Personalized Learning Design Lab on March 17, 2016 check out my recent Making School Design Personal blog.

Personalized Learning Design Lab support is provided by National Supporting Partners: The Learning Accelerator, Mastery Design Collaborative , PAST Innovation Lab and Pillar Technology as well as BattelleEducation, BetterLesson, and the Ohio Blended Learning Network.

Teams can apply here.

Through the Personalized Learning Design Lab , school and district teams like Kenton will begin to increase their local capacity to incubate, expand and/or sustain personalized learning that is essential to student success – in school and beyond.

By Michele Timmons
Founder & CEO

Our Courses

Image Course Description Price Created On Last Updated On categories_ID
Supporting Families (Level 1) Consider the differences between engaging and supporting eight types of parents or family members you might encounter. Reflect on your past experiences with each of those types. Create and implement an action plan to improve your support for families who need it. 0.00 2020/07/17 2022/03/24 6
STEAMing Up Literacy (Level 1) The content in this course is designed to begin your understanding of STEAM integration (design thinking) and apply this knowledge to your own classroom. You will have the opportunity to implement a mini lesson and receive feedback about your lesson. Two “office hours” will be available to chat with the instructor and others enrolled in this course. 0.00 2021/01/09 2022/03/24 5
Trauma Brain (Level 1) The brain is constantly changing and molding in response to the environment. These changes impact student learning. This is especially true in terms of trauma. This training is designed to help participants learn what goes on in the brain and how they can set up a learning environment for each of the students in their class. 0.00 2021/01/30 2022/03/24 4
STEAMing Up Literacy (Level 2) The content in this course is designed to begin your understanding of Problem Based Learning(PBL) and apply this knowledge to your own classroom. You will have the opportunity to implement a mini lesson and receive feedback about your lesson. 0.00 2021/02/23 2022/03/24 5
High Quality Literacy Instruction (Level 1 & 2) Core content includes an overview of Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement, evidence-based literacy practices, and resources and tools for literacy instruction. Participants will create, implement and improve two classroom-based literacy strategies (in-person, blended or remote). 0.00 2021/02/23 2022/03/24 5
Supporting Families (Level 2) In Engaging Families Through Support - Level 1, you learned about eight types of parents/caregivers and reflected on your past experiences with each type, culminating in a plan to better engage specific types as partners in their children's education. During this 8-hour asynchronous course you will delve deeper in your understanding of the eight types of parents/caregivers by speaking with individual family members you work with, discovering what they need from you and your program, and implementing an action plan informed by the actual families you serve. Doing so will give you sustainable skills and strategies to build stronger family engagement year after year. 0.00 2021/03/07 2022/03/30 6
Differentiated & Engaged Instruction (Level 1) Differentiation is effective instruction that is responsive to the learner’s preferences, interests and their readiness. It could be explained as a framework for thinking about your teaching and your student’s learning. This course discusses differentiation as an effective teaching tool. Included are many resources and strategies to help meet the learning needs of each student. Participants will learn through various articles, videos, examples, strategies and resources to adapt lessons to meet the needs of each student in their classrooms. 0.00 2021/03/18 2022/03/24 5
Trauma Brain (Level 2) This course gives an advanced understanding of the brain. including differences between “active” and “relational” based brains, trauma-related behaviors, and strategies to reach and teach trauma-impacted students so that they can re-engage in learning. Participants will learn about the range of thinking that a brain does, explore how students fit into the range of thinking, and discover healthy ways of engaging the full range of thinking. 0.00 2021/05/31 2022/03/24 4
Differentiated & Engaged Instruction (Level 2) This 8-hour, self-paced course is facilitated by Laurie Trotter, an EnvisionEdPlus Instructional Specialist. The course explores advanced differentiation as an effective instructional method that is responsive to the learner’s preferences and interests. Create, implement, and improve a lesson plan to engage all learners. Participants will learn through various articles, videos, examples, strategies, and resources to be able to be proficient in starting to adapt lessons to meet all needs of students in their classroom. Prerequisite: Differentiated and Engaged Instruction (Bronze Badge). 0.00 2021/05/31 2022/03/24 5
Creativity Belongs in the Classroom (Level 1) Encourage lifelong learning, improve focus, reduce anxiety and enhance thinking in your classroom or program. Creativity is a learned and trained process for getting the most out of higher level thinking and problem solving of your students. Learn how to embed creativity easily into your lessons, using strategies that will help unlock your students ability to be innovative thinkers and problem solvers. This course is appropriate for anyone who works with youth and also satisfies the HQPD Gifted competencies of A, B, and D. 0.00 2022/01/14 2022/04/10 5

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