A Thanksgiving for Achievement

It’s that time of year once again where families and friends gather around the Thanksgiving table to celebrate and give thanks.  At Silverback Learning Solutions we’re blessed every day with the opportunity to stand arm in arm with educators in the work of improving student achievement.  This year we thought it might be fun to celebrate the people and things we are most thankful for, with a thematic tip of the pilgrim hat to those first Thanksgivings. 

The Hunters: Teachers with tenacity for change

A growing core of teachers have a voracious appetite for creating real change in their classrooms and are tenacious about hunting down solutions to help create that change and improve learning for their students.   Students continue to benefit when teachers continue to take pride in evolving their craft.  We are thankful to the growing thousands of teachers who continue to seek us out and work with us to make our Mileposts student achievement solution work for them.  You inspire and amaze us with the ideas you share within the Silverback Nation for differentiated and personalized learning.  Rather than waiting for solutions to get implemented, you are actively making them happen.


The Gatherers: Resilient school administrators

School administrators know that teachers can’t do it alone, they need a support structure that “gathers in” everything teachers need to be outstanding– classrooms where students are delivered safe and ready to learn with a personalized plan of action, curriculum that is thorough and well-balanced, daily data on student performance and behavior, and professional learning communities who can share educational support and intervention strategies.  School leaders in 16 states throughout the US rely on Silverback to help gather in such resources and put them at the teacher’s fingertips.  We are thankful to these leaders who continue to do everything they can to make a difference so not one child falls through the cracks, no matter what the child’s age or learning needs.  From Idaho where Silverback began, to our latest Mileposts school district in Massachusetts, we thank you for your trust, collaboration and passion to modernize education with us as a partner.  We look forward to continuing to work alongside you and can’t wait to help you gather the next round of results that show continuous improvement with Mileposts!


The Homesteaders: Families striving for more

  • Students hungry to learn.  “All men by nature desire to know.”  This quote gets thrown around a lot by a couple of my favorite retired physics teachers:  Aristotle and my Dad (Silverback CEO Dr. Jim Lewis.)  Ask any experienced teacher and they will concur:  every young person everywhere has a warm flicker inside to be inquisitive, to learn.  Those small flames can reach a focused intensity in the crucible of the classroom when a student’s passions and interests bond with consistent encouragement and the recognition of personal growth to forge something beautiful– a lifetime learner.  At Silverback we get a little giddy whenever we’re invited into classrooms to see the realness of students persevering and achieving, sometimes against all odds.  It’s inspiring.  These students are showing their teachers, parents and peers that they care about their education and the value that a personalized education path can provide, and we want to thank them for that.  The digital generation of kids today are willing to work hard, speak up, get involved, and demand that technology is a central component of their education in interesting ways that will help them succeed and compete in a global world.  Students need relationships with mentors and role models– actual humans who get to know them as people in order to inspire and motivate them. The data we Ed Tech companies help generate and aggregate must contribute to the teacher/student relationship seamlessly in the context of the classroom, and not get in the way or worse yet, cause people to focus on the wrong data and miss the bigger picture.
  • Parents passionate about career and college readiness.  Involved and passionate parents make a difference every day in their children’s lives. It really is that simple.  When parents show that they care about their child’s education, they feel more empowered and more willing to try harder.  We see it whenever we visit schools across the country– more and more parents volunteering at school and following their child’s educational goals and success online through technology.  Parents are embracing and advocating for change in American education to give their kids a fighting chance in a rapidly competitive global workforce.  Parents do want personalized educational experiences for their children, but technologists take heed:  parents want those personalized experiences in the same way they want positive health & wellness experiences for their children– with human observation and human intervention supported by breakthrough technology, not from an industrial complex of technology that attempts to bestow the perfect education path for their kids according to some marvelous algorithm.   We at Silverback want to thank you parents for keeping us straight on that point and for continuing to nurture our nation’s greatest natural and competitive global resource, your kids.


The Cornucopia of resources:  Gooru

We often say it isn’t your company that defines you but the company you keep. We are very thankful for our continuing partnership with Gooru, the search index for learning.  Their veritable “Horn of Plenty” only gets bigger and more useful to teachers, and now indexes over 14 million free multimedia resources and quiz questions across all K-12 grade levels in math, science, english language arts, and the social sciences, drawing from the best Open Educational Resource (OER) providers out there like Khan Academy and Smithsonian.  If you are not using Gooru in your classroom every day you should, and if you need a quick webinar refresher on how to use it effectively, just contact us at Silverback, we’ll do that for any school anywhere for free.  It’s our way of acknowledging and giving thanks to Dr. Prasad Ram and his Gooru team for the tireless work their non-profit organization does daily to create a truly open and collaborative online community, where the best free materials for learning can be found, created, remixed and shared across the globe.  We look forward to supporting Gooru’s mission of honoring the right to human education for many years to come.


The Trading Posts:  Educational collaboratives and administrator groups

Early pilgrims needed a way to come together and share resources, learn about best practices, and make purchases from trusted friends.  Now more than ever educators seek  clarity from trusted, impartial educational organizations and collaboratives to help support their due diligence of a multitude educational solution and technology offerings in the marketplace.  The Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA), whose mission is to support and strengthen regional educational service agencies across 45 states, only selects the best of the best to endorse as their national partners.  We are thankful for AESA’s continuing endorsement of Mileposts, and for the support and assistance they and their regional affiliates continue to provide to constituent schools.  In addition to the AESA, we must also express our thanks to state and local administrative associations such as the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), Wyoming Association of School Administrators (WASA), Idaho Association of School Administrators (IASA) , Nevada Association of School Administrators (NASA), and the School Administrators of Montana (SAM).  These peer groups can smell out real educational solutions from the “big fowl” out there.  We appreciate their meaningful dialogue with our company and thank them for accepting us as all we’ve ever been– fellow educators trying to solve the problem of student achievement.


The Scouts: the education media and influencers

When we started this business we surely needed “Certain Useful Directions for Such as Intend a Voyage into Those Parts” – just like Edward Winslow penned after making the Mayflower Voyage in 1622.  Mr. Winslow might very well have penned the first blog entry in the New World, and ever since, folks who have taken any kind of meaningful journey provide a great service in reporting their footsteps to others.   It’s not always easy to keep up with the latest buzz in the education world with the evolving discussions around important topics and opinions.  Whether you are interested in their coverage, opinions, and even sometimes humor, it doesn’t get any better than these folks who help the rest of us understand the changing landscape of K-12 education. Here’s a shout out to some of our favorites:  New York Times, Motoko Rich, @motokorich, Hack Education’s @audreywatters, Wall St. Journal’s Lisa Fleisher @lisafleisher, Edsurge’s Betsy Corcoran @betsy_, and Tony Wan @EdSurge, Edweek’s Kevin Bushweller @kbushweller and Sean Cavanagh @EdWeekSCavanagh, GigaOm’s Ki Mae Heussner @kheussner, Tech Crunch’s Darrell Etherington @drizzled and Rip Empson @ripemp, Getting Smart’s Tom Vander Ark @tvanderark, EdNet’s Vicki Smith Bigham @Snoops4Scoops, eSchool News’ Laura Devaney @eSN_Laura, Venturebeat’s Christina Farr @chrissyfarr, and #EdChat Founder, Tom Whitby @tomwhitby.

And last but not least, we’re thankful for…

The Voyaging Crew: The Silverback Staff

These brave souls have jumped aboard the good ship Silverback, sacrificing worldly possessions and relationships, to work night and day on navigating a safe path through the tumultuous ocean that is the life of a startup.  From our engineers, to our client services, to our implementation team and professional development / training staff, sales, marketing and PR, business development and operations, all the way through our vitally important board of directors, advisors, and investors (you truly are our angels!)  We are thankful to each and every one of you for your part in creating a company that dreams big and puts its heart and soul on the line for improving education. Your talents, passions, and hard work continue to make the difference for a little ship in a big sea.

Happy Thanksgiving and a joyful holiday season to everyone!

Rudi Lewis
COO, Silverback Learning

 What are you most thankful for in your schools?  Please leave comments below!


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Posted: November 27th, 2013