COLUMBIA, SC - February 17, 2020 - The irony does not escape National Board Certified English teacher, Mona Elleithee, who resigned last month after working as an educator for over seventeen years: “I was called to leave, so I could encourage others to stay.”
Elleithee, who worked as a high school behavioral interventionist the last year and a half of her career, initially left the classroom to support her colleagues. In her former role, she served as a classroom-management coach, working one-on-one with her peers to help them strategize ways to bring out the best behaviors from their students. She also led regular small group meetings of students with recurrent challenging behaviors.
Although she was assigned to one school, Elleithee was invited by several other school leaders to facilitate professional-development sessions for their teachers during her tenure as a behavioral interventionist. “What I kept hearing from so many teachers I worked with across the state was how much they used to love teaching and how student behaviors have left them feeling fed-up and frustrated with their kids, administrators, and the overall system. So I started looking for ways to help people find that spark for teaching again in spite of the many behavioral challenges facing them. Once I discovered how much these training sessions resonated with teachers, I realized I could impact more students if I worked with multiple schools around the state.”
Teachers like Marc Klatt appreciate the compassionate way Elleithee supports them to reflect on and connect their own backgrounds to their current beliefs and practices. Klatt, a teacher at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science, is grateful that Elleithee has already come to work with the teachers at his school twice this school year. “Mona helped rejuvenate me after 24 years, multiple positions, multiple schools and after teaching and coaching thousands of students all over the U.S. She reignited passion and helped me rediscover my purpose. When a good friend and colleague at another school left teaching last spring I was very sad because he was such a great teacher, coach, and gentleman. I wish he could have met Mona before we lost him from the profession.”
Elleithee finds four interconnected data points* most troubling when reflecting on the state of education in SC: (1) The teacher shortage projections; (2) the discipline equity gap; (3) the academic achievement gap; and (4) the lack of awareness by many administrators that discipline is a major source of friction in the teacher-principal relationship. “I think if we can connect the dots between these four issues, we can address teacher retention and equity simultaneously.” Unfortunately, Elleithee believes that many school equity staff training workshops can alienate the very teachers they are designed to empower. Their focus on the brain-research that scientifically explains the behaviors of students from traumatic backgrounds, does not adequately address the social-emotional needs of the many teachers serving these kids. “So many teachers have been called to the profession to be the champion for kids that they needed when they were children themselves. So when we neglect addressing teacher trauma it can be very triggering to teachers seeking the emotional support they need from their school/district leaders. We must empower teachers as leaders of their classrooms so they can successfully empower their students to be leaders in their own lives.”
Elleithee founded Renewed Harmony LLC to increase student achievement by strengthening teacher-student relationships and improving teacher satisfaction in order to ensure employee retention. “In a nutshell, we need to protect teachers from burning out. Our field of education attracts beautiful people who want to help others, yet sometimes we neglect ourselves in the process. Oftentimes, that self-neglect can come from our deepest wounds. So I’ve been called to use this platform to help school leaders support teachers of students with challenging behaviors and academic deficits. Teachers know relationships matter, but sometimes we forget that the most important relationship to nurture is the one with ourselves. When we start with ourselves, we can keep our own tanks full, so we have the required energy to expend on our struggling students who need so much.”
Having worked full time at seven schools in three states, and as a guest-teacher leader at a half dozen other schools, Elleithee has had regular opportunities to listen to teachers’ concerns. “Often, they are frustrated when they lose planning time to attend various district-mandated trainings. However, I’m grateful that I’ve been able to create and deliver sessions that they not only enjoy, but that also enhances their craft to increase student achievement. Teachers have been actually asking me to come back and many request longer time together - even after a half-day session!”
Having spent the large majority of her career serving Title 1 students, Elleithee’s passion for empowering teachers is driven by her mission to facilitate equity and access for marginalized students. Because meaningful, lasting change takes time, Elleithee approaches this important work in stages. In phase one, she improves school climate and culture by building classroom management tool kits to energize staff morale, reignite professional passion, and retain teachers. In phase two, she teaches culturally responsive instructional practices to close the achievement gap. As an award-winning educator, Elleithee saw tremendous gains in her own students’ performance on high stakes tests while in the classroom: her grade level students’ HSAP scores at Dreher High School in Columbia, steadily increased every year from 86% passing in 2008 to 98% passing in 2013.
For more information about Renewed Harmony, LLC, visit www.renewedharmony.com.
More About Elleithee’s Background
Elleithee’s talent as an educator has garnered her many accolades. In 2008 she was honored with the Circle of Friends Award by A Better Way, Inc. in Columbia, South Carolina, after her service-learning class collaborated with Project Gang-Out to lead workshops for young people wishing to escape gang life. In 2011 she was named Dreher High School's Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for Richland County School District One’s Teacher of the Year. She also received Richland One’s Customer Care Champion Award in 2011. Because of her service on the U.S. Department of Education’s Task Force to Advance Cultural and Global Competencies, the School District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties school board honored Elleithee with the School Board Spotlight award in October 2016.
Throughout her career, Elleithee has been committed to teaching about diversity, equity, access, and social justice. She earned her certification as a “One Voice” Diversity Trainer while serving on the staff of the National Council for Community and Justice’s award-winning Anytown Program from 1995 – 2007. During that time, in October of 2002, she was recognized by the Pima County Attorney’s Office as an Outstanding Race & Anti-Violence Trainer. In 2003 she led the YWCA of Tucson’s “It’s Time to Talk” Youth Forums on Race as the program coordinator and facilitator. Elleithee served as the Youth & Staff Diversity Trainer at Community High School in West Chicago, Illinois, in 2007. She also has led cultural competency training sessions for the faculty and staff at several South Carolina schools.
- Teacher Shortage
- Discipline Equity Gap
- Academic Achievement Gap
- Discipline as Source of Friction
ELLEITHEE’S EDUCATION EMPLOYMENT HISTORY
Renewed Harmony LLC, Columbia, SC - Educational Consultant; June 2019 - present
Irmo High School, Columbia, SC - Behavioral Interventionist; August 2018 - January 2020
Irmo High School, Columbia, SC - English Teacher August 2014 – June 2018
Dreher High School, Columbia, SC - English Teacher August 2007 – 2014
Community High School District 94, West Chicago, IL - English Teacher June 2005 – May 2007
Cienega High School, Vail, AZ - English Teacher July 2004 – May 2005
Southgate Academy Charter School, Tucson, AZ - English Teacher August 2003 – May 2004
Al-Huda Islamic School, Tucson, AZ - Teacher Grades 3-8 September 2002 – July 2003
ELLEITHEE’S AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS
School Board Spotlight, School District 5 of Lexington and Richland Counties, September 12, 2016
Teacher of the Year Nominee, Irmo High School, 2015 - 2016
District Teacher of the Year Finalist, Richland County School District One, 2011 - 2012
Teacher of the Year Recipient, Dreher High School, 2011 - 2012
Outstanding Customer Care Award, Richland County School District One, 2011 - 2012
Faculty Member of the Month, Dreher High School, March 2011
Circle of Friends Award, A Better Way – Project Gang Out, May 2008
Teacher of the Month, Al-Huda Islamic School, October 2002
Outstanding Race & Anti-Violence Trainer, Pima County Attorney’s Office, October 2002
ELLEITHEE IN THE PRESS
PHOTOS OF RENEWED HARMONY AT WORK
Our work empowers teachers to look within themselves and their own staff to build an interdependent network of problem-solvers!
Teachers at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science explore solutions to the frustrating behavior concerns of student IDs, cell phones, and dress code. By investigating these issues together, the faculty builds their collective teacher efficacy (CTE).
According to the research conducted by John Hattie, CTE “refers to a staff’s shared belief that through their collective action, they can positively influence student outcomes, including those who are disengaged and/or disadvantaged.” Hattie’s findings conclude that collective teacher efficacy has the biggest influence on student outcomes than any other strategy.
After comparing their August 2018 data to their August 2019 data, Charleston Charter School for Math and Science discovered that their minor discipline referrals declined by 10% and the majors declined by 70%. The decline took place after their administrative team attended Behavior Boot Camp and 95% of their teachers attended the Rethinking Discipline PD session in July
Eau Claire Teachers and Administrators
School leaders from around the state tackle discipline & diversity at this South Carolina Association of School Administrators (SCASA) Assistant Principals’ Roundtable facilitated by Mona Elleithee.
“Initially, I didn’t think I would be interested or care much for this session, but I was very engaged and want to do this at my own school.” - Jessica Wright, AP, Allendale Elementary School
“I identified biases I didn’t even know I had... although I thought I was at the disclosure level [of awareness].” - Jamilia Kenely, AP, Kelly Mill Middle School
If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Mona Elleithee at 803.445.9671 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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