Excerpt from National School Superintendents Association magazine article December 1, 2023:
Christopher Nesmith works and plays in rough-and-tumble worlds. He’s the superintendent of the 1,700-student Elma School District in Washington state, and he coaches the Deschutes Rugby Club, a nonprofit sports club in Lacey, Wash.
He’s passionate about both endeavors. He and his wife Kasey, both former rugby players, coached together for 15 years, almost as long as his professional career, which began as a business education teacher in 2006.
Nesmith, who grew up in Grays Harbor, Wash., where rugby didn’t have a presence, believes working in schools and playing in his favored sport have much in common. His approach to teaching and learning shines through when he’s conducting a team practice.
In rugby, he explains, mastering the fundamentals is paramount. If you can break things down to basic skills, assign metrics and track them, it’s not hard to identify where you need to make improvements and design strategies to achieve that.
In education, to succeed, students must master certain standards, with educators measuring their progress before devising strategies for improvement. Unfortunately, he says, the education system has been fairly rigid in recognizing more expansive ways for students to master (and demonstrate mastery of) those standards.
Nesmith is intent on changing that. Now entering his third year as superintendent of a district just 30 miles from where he grew up, he champions permeability in career pathways, an approach that he discovered when visiting Germany to study its dual-track vocational training program.
When applied to mastery-based learning, permeability expands ways of learning and demonstrating competency. Rather than being confined to a set curriculum, students have wide flexibility to explore avenues aligning with their personal interests. They can pursue professional apprenticeships while keeping their academic options open, as long as they demonstrate they’ve mastered the required skills.
To read the full article click here: AASA Member Spotlight Dec 2023