Welcome from Katy Hensley
IMAGO’s New Director of Education and Teacher Advocate
On March 15, 2019, we said goodbye to students as they left campus. My principal and I stood out front — as the admin did every day after school — and sent students off to the weekend with calls of, “See you in a few days!” We thought we would take a break, give each other some space and let this emerging virus pass us by. In California, we had seen the threat of MERS and SARS come through in the past ten years and expected this would be more of the same. We would have a few days apart, and then we’d back to school as normal.
We all know this is not what happened.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed how we approach education for a full two and a half years. Districts, educators and students are still feeling the impact of the worldwide pandemic. As COVID-19 significantly changed our society in every way — from social settings to shopping habits — teachers and school sites made a drastic shift to entirely learning online. Kindergarten teachers taught their classes of 5-year-olds on Zoom. High school teachers engaged camera-shy teenagers unwilling to change out of their pajamas or turn on their cameras. Phrases such as “mute your microphone” and “universal design for learning” became part of our vocabulary overnight. Perhaps most importantly, educators gave students consistency, a safe space and a routine amidst all the uncertainty.
I began my previous role as a high school assistant principal in January 2019. It certainly was an unimaginable time to begin at a new campus and get to know students and staff. However, it felt as if I were at the right place at the right time. I’ve been an advocate of online learning platforms in the classroom for some time. I became a Google-certified educator around 2010 and have long appreciated the ease of their online platform. Innovative processes, kaizen and experiential learning are at the heart of my educational philosophies, and this open mindset prepared me for the challenges that online learning brought to educators and students.
Fast forward to 2022. I left a large district after nearly 15 years and jumped at the chance to work with IMAGO. Perhaps though, not for the reasons, you might think post-pandemic. While it was admittedly a hard few years working on a school campus, student and staff behaviors are not why I left the K-12 education space. I often say students and staff are part of being on a school campus that I miss. I believe that all behaviors are opportunities. IMAGO sees these opportunities and provides tools for youth and adults to practice the skills that build healthy emotional intelligence. As a company, the overarching goal of IMAGO is to build healthy communities and people. Through our online curriculum platform, we provide the tools that educators and the workforce need for implementation. For me, the impetus to leave the K-12 campus came due to a lack of systemic change during a time we altered nearly every aspect of our lives.
A little bit about myself so that we might find a common space to start a conversation: My kiddo is a freshman in high school this year! So, I’ve lived the social-emotional experience as a parent as well. I have an adorable pug, Tituss, who is everyone’s best friend. I love music and reading, and I host an online radio show weekly. I try to read at least a book a month. Yes, I’m a slow reader, but I’m also completing my EdD in organizational leadership and spend much of my time writing these days. Education has been my passion for 25 years, and I have held roles as a classroom teacher in Montessori; as an art teacher with the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA; working with English Learners in Japan; and as a teacher with Big Picture Learning. I had the great pleasure of supporting educators and students as the work-based learning coordinator in a large district, working closely with CTE teachers, students, workforce agencies, the mayor’s office and local employers.
This brings us to the past three years. The pandemic was a wild time to be in education, and I know we are all hoping that we’re getting back to “normal.” However, we also know that “normal” doesn’t fit everyone. The pandemic was a pause that highlighted some of the inequities and challenges we face as educators in our educational system. Despite the amazing work that educators continue to pour in to their work, we know that the system was designed inequitably. As part of working towards a systems change, as well as providing what students need, I encourage you to review some of the amazing lessons we have at IMAGO to see how we can best support your classroom needs. Or reach out, and we will brainstorm with you! Team IMAGO is here for you. Our lessons are created utilizing current research and universal design for learning as well as employing a lens of equity. As September is both Self-Awareness Month and Suicide Prevention Month, it’s a great time to dive into our lessons on both. We have eight family-focused lessons that are available to all and can be found here. Create an account or log in for access to more than 250 additional lessons.
One key thing that drew me to work with IMAGO was the ability to support teachers in their goal to create happy, healthy and resilient young people. Helping young people come to a stronger understanding of social awareness via a deep self-awareness is beneficial for engaged learners, employers looking for quality employees and a more civically engaged society. Students with high emotional intelligence can even perform better academically. Social-emotional learning is at the heart of social change and creating the world we want to live in.
I’m hoping that by this time in the school year, you are settling into a routine. Hopefully, this year is one of peace and refocus. In the short time since I joined the IMAGO team, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of our partners. Thank you all for the warm welcome team — #weareimago!
If you’re new to IMAGO or have not yet met with me, please reach out! I look forward to helping you with your goals.