“I was a teacher for many years, and I remember when I was teaching at the high school level, the administrator at the monthly faculty meetings would remind everyone to be updating their curriculum maps. And often that sounded like ‘wa wa wa wa’ to me, because I thought, “I’m doing just fine and I’m very busy, thank you.” And I hustled right on back to my classroom and I didn’t really get on it like I should have. Now I’m on the flip side where I’m saying, “You really ought to get those maps up to date.” But when you get your maps to a really good place, when you have poured yourself into mapping for the sake of accreditation, you get over a hump – that initial hump of nobody’s really got a vision for the value of this work. And when you get over that initial hump, it’s so much easier after that. It’s kind of like any habit in life.” – Dr. Renee Mungons
The following transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. Listen to the full podcast episode here or using the player below.
Michael Arnold: Dr. Renee Mungons of Toledo, Ohio joins us in The Teacher’s Lounge today. Dr. Mungons has served at Emmanuel Christian School in Toledo, Ohio for over 35 years, teaching a variety of different subjects from grades four through twelve. She’s currently the Curriculum and Testing Coordinator at Emmanuel Christian, which has experienced some growth and now serves over 600 students. Renee also serves as an adjunct professor at Fairview Bible College in Jamaica and teaches graduate courses at Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio as well. Welcome Dr. Mungons. It sounds like you’re a pretty busy person.
Renee Mungons: Thank you. I like to be busy. Keeps me out of trouble.
Michael Arnold: Well, I’m excited to have you join us today to talk about your educational background and experiences.
School accreditation during COVID-19
Michael Arnold: But another topic that’s definitely in your wheelhouse, something that you’ve spent a lot of time on and a topic that a lot of people are thinking about these days is accreditation. Faith-based schools go through this accreditation process, and I don’t know about your experience, but it seems to me on our end that during the pandemic the timelines for accreditations all got pushed back. Now more schools are coming into the cycle and so there’s like this huge bottleneck of schools seeking accreditation or reaccreditation. Are you seeing that as well? What’s your experience been?
Renee Mungons: Yes, absolutely. In fact, here at our school where the Head of School also sometimes serves on evaluative teams I know he’s been postponed visiting the school that he was assigned to a couple different times. Now, personally, I was ready to go during COVID. I wanted our school to be done. And if I had a choice, I would’ve had them coming during COVID to visit us, but it was not an option when we were learning from home.
However, we were scheduled in a Spring and then we took a Fall last October. Not this past one, but a year ago we took that as our postponed date. But we still wanted them to come as soon as they possibly could. I know, however, other schools have struggled much more than we have and have felt like they needed to put off the accreditation visit because their teachers were just overwhelmed with all of the extra things that COVID brought into their jobs.
Michael Arnold: Yeah.
Dr. Mungons’ experience with accreditation
Michael Arnold: So how many different accreditation teams have you served on over the years and how often do you get to visit a school during a typical year for accreditation visits?
Renee Mungons: Well, my boss prefers that I not leave more than once a school year; imagine that. So I’ve actually only served as an evaluator at two different schools thus far, but as far as my own school being accredited, I hold the wonderful distinction of having been here every single time since the very first time we’re accredited.
I joked with our teachers the other day at a meeting. I said, I know some of you probably are thinking to yourselves, “Where can I find a different job before that next accreditation cycle?” But yep, I’ve been through every single one.
Michael Arnold: Well, and we know that accreditation is a valuable process for independent schools. Faith-based schools don’t have to meet some of the things that public schools do or charter schools do, so accreditation serves a valuable purpose from that perspective. But I remember as a teacher, myself, and I’m not in the classroom right now, but that accreditation year or the reaccreditation year, and sometimes it was longer than a year, that accreditation just kind of hung over our heads like a cloud all year long. Every conversation ultimately turned to accreditation or the work that we had to do. And as teachers, we only had a small part of the big role to play there.
Accreditation at Emmanuel Christian School
Michael Arnold: But how have you, because you’ve been part of it every year at Emmanuel’s since the beginning, how have you kind of brought balance and sanity to your teachers through that process? What do you say to your teachers?
Renee Mungons: Well, I hope I have. I’m not sure. You described it well, it can be like the big black cloud that looms large over your entire school year, because it adds extra work to people who already have lots of work to do every single day. And so that is a challenging part of it.
And I have noticed through the years, the accreditation process has become much more refined, but I believe it’s also become much more detailed. So in the early years where you just kind of gathered up some things and said, “Here we are, come and visit us.” Now, there are lists and lists and notebooks full of things that you have to prepare. So every teacher is typically assigned to serve on a committee for evidence gathering and, you know, that can be anything. That could be everything from school governance to student health and safety to curriculum.
And in the current world of accreditation, curriculum is definitely king. That is what really is the most important area that’s being looked at. That it has technicals and a lot of other areas, certainly in assessments, in disaggregating your test data and showing that you use that information to make curriculum decisions, just all kinds of different things. That’s the most comprehensive area.
Now, not every school has the level of personnel that we do. One thing about getting bigger is you have to hire more people, and so it does take a little bit of the work off the teachers because they have me.
And I’m the odd or unusual person who absolutely loves accreditation. And I love writing; academic writing is like one of my favorite things to do and I love the process of accreditation, everything about it.
Michael Arnold: That’s it. That’s why we like talking, because you and I are curriculum nerds.
Renee Mungons: And so I would like to imagine that for the teachers here at Emmanuel, that did make it easier; but on the other hand, because I’m so exuberant about the whole thing, I was pretty relentless, as far as hounding them for information. And again, that biggest part was the curriculum component.
How to motivate teachers to work on accreditation preparation
Michael Arnold: So as a teacher, as you said, there is some extra work. I might have to serve on an extra committee; I have to gather evidence. That’s outside of my regular day job, and I could probably wrap my mind around the purpose for accreditation as far as, you know, gather the evidence to get that seal of approval so that there’s some accountability or whatever. But how would you express to a teacher why accreditation is important to their craft, to their day-to-day routine? How do you get to their head and their heart and not just kind of an academic exercise?
Renee Mungons: Well, being the great fan of accreditation that I am, I actually announced to our staff this past Monday that we needed to start gearing up for reaccreditation 2025. I’m sure you could imagine that there was a kind of a dead silence in the room, and I enjoyed watching their faces. However, I asked them to turn and talk to one another and to answer that very question, “Why is this important to us and what is good about it?”
It really is important for a school to not just pat themselves on the back, circle up, and imagine that they’re the greatest without comparing themselves to standards and to other educational institutions, but especially to standards of excellence in the field of education. You can’t just say, “Well, I’m sure what I’m doing is terribly effective. I like what I’m doing and it seems to be working, therefore, don’t bother me. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing.” It’s important to know and be recognized that you are meeting standards and that you are a school that is worthy of a credential like accreditation brings to you.
We obviously believe it’s also a good advertisement piece for our school. I think it gives parents peace of mind and assurance to know that we’ve been evaluated by an outside organization that takes a close look at us. And so we’re not just saying, “Hey, we think we’re doing a good job,” but we’re being endorsed by the accrediting agency as doing a good job also.
Michael Arnold: So that’s an interesting exercise that you sent your teachers on. You are relentless. 2025 seems like a long ways away so we’re going to start already.
But did you get any negative responses or did you have to help coach some of your teachers to maybe see it more on the brighter side rather than the darker side of the process?
Renee Mungons: Oh, absolutely. There are always going to be those that struggle with having a positive attitude when they’re being asked to take on extra work. Quite honestly, the thing that sometimes could be most challenging, when you’re trying to head up accreditation, is teachers that might be sluggish to meet those deadlines.
And, you know, they’re your friends and they’re your coworkers and you like them and respect them, but they might not be somebody who’s terribly detail-oriented. They might not be making accreditation the priority that you are, and so there are times when they’re kind of ignoring the various deadlines and assignments that you’re giving them and not holding up their part in – as I like to say, you have to get a little bit scary.
Michael Arnold: Yeah but it sounds like you kind of appeal to their belief in, you know, rigorous assessment, right? Just as we assess our students, we’re going to assess ourselves and make sure that we’re meeting the standards, as you said. And it’s not just anecdotal. It’s easy to point to those two or three rockstar students to say, our school is so great, but there are so many factors that can feed into student success. I think that that is a key to the value of this, is this is about assessing ourselves, right?
Renee Mungons: Yes. And you know, the bottom line is, I have been known to actually say to a teacher, you don’t want to be the one that keeps us from getting accredited. Get those maps finished up. Come on.
Michael Arnold: Oh, wow. That’s the stick, right? You also have some carrots, I’m sure.
Dr. Mungons’ background in faith-based education
Michael Arnold: Well, let’s talk about where you get your perspective from or why you believe in accreditation, why you love curriculum, how you got into education. You’re coming from 35 years in faith-based education and all of those years have been at Emmanuel Christian, is that correct?
Renee Mungons: All except for the first one. I am a product of Emmanuel Christian School. I graduated from this school. I began attending here when I was a second grader and that was literally when the school began. That was the first year I could, and my parents were part of a core of people, who were in a local church that wanted to jump on the new wave, the new interest in Christian school education back in the late sixties and early 1970s.
So by the time I graduated from Emmanuel, I knew that God’s calling was for me to be a teacher. So unlike graduates who sometimes wander in today’s world, not sure what they’re supposed to do, I headed straight for teacher preparation, got a four-year degree, and was ready to work here. But the school had never hired a graduate before, and so they were a little nervous. And they suggested that I should get experience elsewhere, so I actually taught for a year in a large Christian school right outside of Miami, Florida. It was interesting. And definitely growing experience. And by about midway through the year, I knew that it was not a good fit for me to remain there, and I hadn’t really lost my love for coming back to Emmanuel. So I called and I was hired as a fourth grade teacher. So I have been here ever since my second year of teaching.
Michael Arnold: Wow, that’s great. And you went to Fairview, is it Fairview Baptist Bible College. Where was that at?
Renee Mungons: Yes, it’s in Jamaica. After I finished, I went back to graduate school much later. I did not get all of my education at the same time. I taught the fourth grade, then the sixth grade, then I stopped teaching for a few years.
Then I was rehired at Emmanuel at the high school level, which was in a different building down the road. And so for many years I taught at the high school level a variety of subjects, but because I made that move from being an elementary educator to being an upper school educator, I felt like I needed additional qualifications.
Sometimes, in the private school sector you can be judged by those in public education if you don’t have a high level of education. You know, maybe it’s true in some situations, I don’t think it’s true here, but in some schools, there’s some doubt that teachers in Christian schools, for example, are as highly qualified as those in the public school.
And I didn’t want to be that person, so I had an opportunity to go to graduate school locally. While I taught full time, I went to graduate school for nine years, and uh, that was an interesting period in life.
And it was after that. And, you know, I went because I knew it would better equip me for the job I was doing at the time. But about halfway through, I realized, this is incredibly difficult. A lot of people seem to be quitting; what’s this? And I thought, you know, I need to do something with this education beyond just the same job that I’ve been doing. And so I really began to pray about what I should do that would use my new education.
And I had a friend who worked at a Bible college in Jamaica as a full-time missionary but as their academic dean. And my church went there on two different missions trips to help with building projects, and so I went and connected with this friend of mine and was invited back to teach there. And my credential was really useful to them because it’s a small college and they’re not able to attract a lot of full-time teachers, let alone people that have PhDs. And that really helps them with their own accreditation.
And so, not the last couple of years because of COVID and a decline in their enrollment, but I’ve made eight different trips to Jamaica; six of them to teach modules on research writing. And then I also wrote two online, three-credit-hour English classes, an English grammar and an English composition class that I can teach from the States to help the students there with the general education credits that they need.
Michael Arnold: That’s awesome. So you get to suffer for Jesus a little bit in Jamaica, every once in a while?
Renee Mungons: It’s a lot of suffering there, let me tell you. It’s in a very remote location in the mountains. I call it real Jamaica, but it is beautiful and it’s toasty warm, no matter what time of year you go.
Michael Arnold: Yeah, and what a change from Toledo, Ohio!
Renee Mungons: Oh my goodness.
The blessings of staying put
Michael Arnold: But you’ve been a Toledo, Ohio resident for most of your life?
Renee Mungons: Yes. My parents still live in the original house where I grew up, and I, except for when I got my undergraduate degree I’ve pretty much lived here. Yes.
Michael Arnold: Yeah. And so Toledo is not really a small town. It’s not one of the major cities, but it’s not a small town, but being a teacher at Emmanuel and being a lifelong resident of Toledo, I’m sure you have a lot of blessings of being known everywhere you go, right? Former students and family members. What’s that like?
Renee Mungons: Well, they laugh here that I can start about every sentence saying I taught that person in the sixth grade. I now work here with several teachers I taught in the sixth grade. And it’s super cool. I wish this for every educator. I feel like people who move around a lot are totally missing out. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I wish they would see the blessing in staying put. Just two days ago, I was able to walk down the hall from my office to the Head of School’s office, open the door, and give a big hug to a former student, who was there because she was ready to enroll her five-year-old in kindergarten. It does not get better than that.
Michael Arnold: Yeah. That’s amazing. When it comes full circle like that, that’s when you just know that you’re in the right place.
Renee Mungons: It gives you a connection too, with parents. When I call a parent that I taught in the sixth grade, it’s a different kind of relationship. And I just think it’s the greatest.
Michael Arnold: Yeah.
Teaching at Heidelberg University
Michael Arnold: Now you also do some work for Heidelberg University in Tiffin?
Renee Mungons: I do. That’s another way I’ve been able to use my graduate degrees. I teach in the reading endorsement and in the TESOL endorsement programs for teachers. So those are all online. And that’s kind of like my evening job.
Michael Arnold: Okay. And I was trying to remember how close – I grew up just across the border in Southeastern Michigan. And so traveling down 75 to Dayton or Cincinnati, or even to Florida, trying to remember how far – Tiffin is in your backyard, basically, right?
Renee Mungons: It is. Although ironically, I’ve never been to their campus and I’ve worked for them since 2013, I think. It’s about an hour away, I believe.
Michael Arnold: Okay. All right. I think it’s, and you could tell me more maybe if you wanted to, but a German Reformed university and historical campus it sounds like.
Renee Mungons: Yes, it is.
Advice for schools approaching accreditation
Michael Arnold: So you’re an educator, you work with students, but also other educators and adult learners in a variety of settings. And so as you talk about the value of accreditation, the role of accreditation, the purpose of accreditation, you’re bringing all of these experiences into it. And uh, so I think that brings a lot of gravity to your experience that we probably should say that you don’t speak officially for any accrediting agency. You’re not on or for any teams.
But your school recently just finished their re-accreditation process with ACSI. I guess my question is, teachers are really overextended right now in a lot of ways and it’s very attractive for teachers to find other avenues of employment or ministry.
And so that accreditation process, you know, what would you say to a school approaching accreditation for the first time, on behalf of the teachers or to help, like we said before, keep some sanity in the process for their teachers?
Renee Mungons: I think we’ve done a couple of things here at Emmanuel that were really successful and that helped to keep the morale as strong as it could be with the extra work. But before I mention that, I would like to say, I guess, based on my age and years of experience, something else that really presents a challenge in the world of education today, is the fact that younger teachers are not wired like older teachers are.
I mean, I was raised in the generation where I was taught, you get a job and that is your purpose. You go to work. And even when you don’t feel like it, you get up and you go to work. But there’s a lot of emphasis on work-life balance in the world today. And the recent generations have not raised their children with the same emphasis that my parents did. So I find one of the challenges to be the fact that most teachers are not willing to work a 12-hour day.
Michael Arnold: I don’t think I would be willing to do that every day.
Renee Mungons: And of course when they have a family that would be a ridiculous notion. And naturally, I know when they go home, they’re getting paperwork out and so on. But I do find in general that it’s a little bit more challenging to motivate teachers to do extra work because you know, they’re a little bit more of a clock puncher. “Well, the school says I can leave at 3:30, therefore, I shall.” And, sometimes that is a hard thing for me, because I don’t leave at 3:30 and I can see how much more could be done if they didn’t leave at 3:30 either. But nevertheless, they have a different thought process about what they want their lives to look like. And they haven’t been here 36 years, so this isn’t the love of their life, like it is mine. And I have to understand that too.
But a couple of things that we did that I think worked really well: first of all, when we got a new Head of School, about three years ago, he told me that he wanted to start having monthly curriculum meetings. And I said, “okay,” because that’s what you say to your boss, but I had no idea what I was supposed to talk about. So for the first number of months, I would just go to his office and say, “What should I talk about this month?”
But we set a precedent where our teachers now have a schedule: all staff meets one Monday; divisional meetings, the second Monday; curriculum meeting, the third Monday, after school for just one hour. So an avenue is already in place to address curriculum, and therefore to address what’s next in the accreditation process. So the whole year prior to the accreditation team visit, every one of those curriculum meetings swirled around: what do we need to do next in the accreditation process?
How regular curriculum meetings and PD days support accreditation efforts
Renee Mungons: Having that set meeting time really helped, because it didn’t seem like, well, “they are calling another extra meeting.” Plus, if you pre-plan that, you can count on people being there, except for maybe your coaches, because they shouldn’t be scheduling other things when they know there’s going to be a meeting.
And I’ll be honest, snacks really help. So, you know, the little things matter.
At the door of a meeting, we always have an attendance sheet to keep track, people have to sign in, and whatever handouts we have for the day. And then we have a snack. It might be as simple as a basket of candy or like this last week I baked chocolate chip cookies for the whole staff, and really at the end of a school day, one cookie, man, that goes a long way.
And when we had all-day meetings, because sometimes we would have, we scheduled two or three professional development days during the year for all-out effort on accreditation. And then we would cancel classes on those days, of course. And we always treat our teachers to a lunch from a local restaurant on those days. Yes, that’s an expense for the school, but it’s also a “Thank you” and, a “We care about you and we’re acknowledging the extra work that you’re doing.” I really am a believer in those little things.
I think that’s two things that we’ve made a habit of doing that have been effective here.
Michael Arnold: Yeah. So it sounds like you develop a routine that stays in place all the time, regardless of whether it’s an accreditation year or not. And that’s how you, that’s how you impact school culture, right? Is through those routines and those rhythms. And snacks go a long way.
Renee Mungons: If you have that set meeting in place and then you develop, you know, you’ve got that avenue now to do the next thing. So do you need to work on vertical alignment? Do you need to work on taking your maps to the next level? You know, what could you work on this month? And some months you have things that are really urgent.
Like we’ve been reviewing math curricula this year, and we’re moving into more of a guided math concept for the future. So a lot of meetings have had to take place about that. But I just love knowing that there’s a time every month when we can address things, and we can get things done that we can save in our evidence folders and have ready to go.
The teachers think this is funny, but we’ll be reaccredited I think in the fall of 2025, and I already have folders set up on my computer to receive all the evidence. I already have evidence in the folders. I have a binder with all of the basic accreditation paperwork, and I’m already receiving evidence from teachers. They seem actually glad that we’re making it more of an ongoing process, now.
I think it can be, well, it’s super hard without a doubt, your first time. I mean, that’s just a huge volume of work, but the other thing that can be hard is if you habitually wait every accreditation cycle till that last year. And all of a sudden you wake up and say, “Whoa! Everybody, it’s accreditation year.” How much better that you work on it a little bit at a time And then hopefully don’t have to have as much push at the end.
Michael Arnold: Yeah. And you said earlier that, you know, a lot of changes in the accreditation process over the years, but currently curriculum is king. I liked the way you said that.
Curriculum maps are not just for accreditation
Michael Arnold: What we see a lot is, because curriculum is king – it plays such a major role in the accreditation process – sometimes teachers get this idea that we’re collecting this curriculum evidence for accreditation and not necessarily for ourselves; for us to reflect on our practices. Speak to that, if you don’t mind, like why is that maybe not the right perspective?
Renee Mungons: Well, it’s definitely not the right perspective, because your curriculum maps should be living documents that you’re going to on at least a weekly basis and that you’re modifying and adjusting as you tweak things all the time.
And we’ve gotten into the habit here at Emmanuel of making that a part of the intake process for new teachers. The very first week that they’re here, they get those insurance forms, that paperwork signed up, and they’re sent straight to my office to get on Curriculum Trak. That’s one of the things that I do with our new teachers. I say, “Okay, I’m adding you to Curriculum Trak right now. I’m assigning you to the classes you’re going to be teaching. Please get familiar with your curriculum maps.”
And I don’t mean get in there and start changing things, of course. I know from your own training, you often advise not to make new teachers, not to allow them to even have editing rights that first year.
Now I’m pretty brave, so sometimes I do give them editing rights. A classic example of that would be, this year we ran into a situation where the library could not help us with some of the novels we’d used in the past in some of our English classrooms. And because our school is so large now, the library book kits weren’t big enough for our classes anyways, so we had to get some different books and make some changes. The curriculum stayed the same, but the books changed. Therefore we needed to edit the map to reflect those changes and that even happened to a couple of new teachers. But we get them on Curriculum Trak and we tell them, “This is your map. This is what you are to do in the classroom. This is your guide. This is what you do, first, second, third, fourth quarter. You don’t have to wonder, you’re not supposed to just flip open the teacher’s manual to day one. No, you go to your curriculum. Because it’s a living curriculum and the teachers are the curriculum, not the teacher’s manual.
Michael Arnold: And that, I think, goes back to why it’s a three-year process and you don’t wait til the third year because you want those habits to be in place. You know, you want it to be part of your school culture, and that makes it easier.
What makes a great administrator in the accreditation process
Michael Arnold: What about those administrators? So often administrators have to balance the, you know, getting the curriculum part of the accreditation done – quote unquote “done.” But also all the other things, the board governance and all the other things that go along with accreditation. What advice would you give to an administrator who’s trying to balance all of those moving parts?
Renee Mungons: I would advise them to be just like the administrator at my school.
Michael Arnold: Which is? Describe that.
Renee Mungons: We went through a tough period where we had a lot of leadership changes. It was kind of a wilderness time for us a few years ago. It was very difficult for about four or five years. But now we’ve latched on to a great leader, and our Head of School himself has actually chaired accreditation teams with the ACSI, I think he told me maybe eight different times – so he really loves accreditation.
We ended up – and by the way, we hired him when we were on the cusp of being accredited – so when our board was interviewing people, they knew they needed to get someone that had a certain mix of attributes and skills, but that was in the mix. They wanted someone who was knowledgeable about the accreditation process because they knew that’s where we were as a school. So we ended up getting somebody who is maybe even a bigger fan of accreditations than I am. And he is a strong believer in curriculum mapping.
So it wasn’t hard; it wasn’t like a reverse situation, where I had to try and convince the administrator to get the work of governance and so on done. Oh, no, he was for sure the leader in the whole process. And there are aspects of accreditation – you mentioned the most significant one being governance – that really is information beyond what the average teacher gets involved with. There are very few people that handle, like your board minutes, and your governance documents. I like to imagine I know all the secrets here, because I have handled those documents.
But he and I kind of did that in a combined effort, those areas of accreditation that required those things. And of course, things had to be reviewed, sent to the board, reviewed by them, sent back. So you have to allow a lot of time for that. But if you’ve got a Head of School who’s knowledgeable about accreditation and curriculum mapping, and who’s really a proponent of the process, it certainly makes the job easier.
A more difficult scenario would be if you’re at a school where you’re maybe trying to head up the accreditation process and you’re just being kind of treated like the person who has to do all the work and you’re not really getting support from above. But we have a lot of support here. I don’t have anything to complain about where that’s concerned.
Michael Arnold: Yeah, that’s great.
Advice for schools that are behind in the accreditation process
Michael Arnold: Well, let’s flip that then. And let’s think about those administrators who, you know, this is a crazy time. The last two or three years have not gone the way that anyone hoped or dreamed or wanted, remotely. So now a lot of schools are in a situation where they are facing that accreditation visit. Maybe it was postponed for whatever reason and they’re dealing with, you know, just trying to get teachers in the classroom, so maybe they’re not as far in the process as they had hoped or as they need to be. What would you tell a school like that?
Renee Mungons: That is such a tricky thing. I served on a team this past fall at a school much smaller than my own. And the administrator was very honest with me in saying that part of why they weren’t as far along as they should have been in having their documents ready is because he felt like the teachers were so overwhelmed that he could not ask them to do another thing. In fact, he expressed that he was literally worried he might lose them if he asked them to do any more. And I felt very badly that he was in that type of a situation, smaller school, smaller community, and a well-established school, but they just weren’t getting their accreditation work done because he was afraid to press them anymore.
But I really recommended to him what I just mentioned was successful for us. You need to schedule a couple professional development days into your school year. It’s not too late. I mean, in the state of Ohio, we go by educational hours now, and you know, the weather isn’t so bad that you’ve used up every possible cushion that you have in your calendar.
I know here at our school, we schedule more days than we’re required to attend. So if we needed to spontaneously take another day off for a professional development day, we could and we did, the year before we were accredited. We’re like, “Whoa, we need a day.”
That’s what they need to do. They need to take a day and say, we’re going to cancel classes for you today. We’re going to work in the school on accreditation. Then you can start with a couple of meetings, in which you specifically lay down what needs to be done during that day. You can divide up by departments, by grade levels, or you can literally send everyone back to their own room or desk to work quietly.
Now I would give a word of caution about that because I find in general you get more done in large or small groups. If you send everyone back to their desk, they might wander into other projects without even meaning to. It’s like the people who work from home and spontaneously get up to clean the bathroom in the middle of the day. Maybe they needed a break, but maybe they let themselves get distracted by other projects around them.
Michael Arnold: Right, right.
Renee Mungons: And then when you do that professional development day, snacks, and have lunch. And just, you know, power out the work. You can get a lot done if you cancel school for the day and give your teachers – and you’re sending a message to the teachers, “We know you are burdened. We are going to give you this week. We have to do this. There’s no way around it. But we’re going to give you this extra time to get things done.”
Michael Arnold: Well, the idea of canceling class to work on accreditation can seem like, you know, things are backwards, but if you go back to your reason for accreditation, this isn’t a self-evaluation. This is us making sure that we are who we say we are and we’re doing what we say we do. Then all of a sudden the priorities can start to fall in place, I think there, a little bit.
Renee Mungons: Absolutely. We shouldn’t be teaching without curriculum maps, so if we don’t have them, we ought to take a day off and get them finished up. Yeah, really.
The importance of keeping your curriculum maps updated
Michael Arnold: I mean, I’ve said a lot, “Nobody has time not to map.” It is a time-consuming process, but you don’t have time not to do that. You’re just wasting your efforts.
Renee Mungons: And you know, I don’t really mean to sound like I’m, you know, like the world’s greatest fan of all this paperwork, so to speak, because I was on the other side. I mean, I was a teacher for many years, and I remember when I was teaching at the high school level, the administrator at the monthly faculty meetings would remind everyone to be updating their curriculum maps. And often that sounded like “wa wa wa wa” to me, because I thought, “I’m doing just fine and I’m very busy, thank you.” And I hustled right on back to my classroom and I didn’t really get on it like I should have. Now I’m on the flip side where I’m saying, “You really ought to get those maps up to date.”
But when you get your maps to a really good place, when you have poured yourself into mapping for the sake of accreditation, you get over a hump – that initial hump of nobody’s really got a vision for the value of this work. And when you get over that initial hump, it’s so much easier after that. It’s kind of like any habit in life. You know, the first week of dieting is miserable and ugly, but you get into a different routine and then it becomes easier. And I see our teachers much more engaged now with map updating because they spent so much time getting them shaped up in the first place and they don’t want to let that go now. They’ve got buy-in for sure.
Michael Arnold: Buy-in, and then that accountability, you know, this is going to happen again in three years, whether you like it or not; so bite-size pieces every day, as opposed to a crash diet, right?
Renee Mungons: So now the main thing that’s difficult is the fact that the teachers know if we select a new curriculum as far as textbooks in a content area, which we’re about to do in math, that means brand new, completely different curriculum maps. And that’s a hard sell, but that’s part of the deal and they know that right off the bat. You know, everybody’s excited, generally speaking, about a new textbook, but when you do curriculum mapping, you know a new textbook means you’re also going to have to do new curriculum maps. But I’m already excited about that because I want us to do our maps slightly differently than we did with the last curriculum. Because I know there’s some things that we can change to make this next time even better.
Michael Arnold: Well, it sounds to me like the Math Department’s about to get some cookies, right?
Renee Mungons: Yes they are. They might even need sandwiches.
Michael Arnold: That’s awesome.
The highlights of Dr. Mungons’ career in education
Michael Arnold: Well, you’ve seen it all, I’m sure, as you get to see the whole scope of a school from second grade as a student, all the way through where you are now tell us, tell us, you know, success stories. Or what, what are some of the highlights of all of that effort and investment?
Renee Mungons: Well, again, I’m a big fan of the concept of longevity, and that’s not what God chooses for everyone, but there are just blessings upon blessings when you do that. One of the neat things that I’ve noticed just in the last couple of weeks here, as we start the process of enrolling new students for the next academic year, we have parents coming in now, students being tested now with the entrance tests.
And I’m noticing that even parents who maybe struggled in high school with their faith, with the rules, with who we were as a school – they might not have been, you know, the biggest proponent of the mission of the school at the time they were a high school student here – lo and behold, when they have children, here they come. And there are many options in our community for education, so when I see a former student coming in with children and I see their files, I read their testimonials as to why they want to interview for their child to start here at kindergarten or any age. That’s just like – wow, I can go a whole week on one paragraph where somebody wrote and talked about what the school meant to them. And you know, like most high school students you didn’t appreciate it at the time, but as you moved away from school and you grew up and you took on adult responsibilities, you looked back, you appreciated the school, and now you want that for your children.
Another thing that’s a huge blessing to me, and this is like a big part of my job that isn’t necessarily related to curriculum mapping, but I really like it when we take on students who are already in high school and have difficult transcripts and they’ve had some significant struggles. Maybe another school has moved them on, because there are schools who have different policies and standards and maybe they don’t want to keep strugglers. And even this semester we took on, I think, three students, two of them from the same school here locally, simply because the school where they were at said, “We need you to look elsewhere.” And for the most part, we like to embrace those challenges. First of all, I feel like because we love God first and others second, we have a different perspective on helping them. You know, the love of Christ compels us.
And we can’t do the work for the student. You know, I had to wake a boy up in study hall today and say, “I see here that you’re missing three math assignments, perhaps that would be a better choice at this time.” To his credit he got them done. But I really love it when we can hand a diploma to a student who was transferred here as someone who has struggles within the home or family, or just academically, socially, emotionally. And we can make it our mission to help them finish high school. That’s really huge for me, really huge.
Michael Arnold: Yeah, that’s great. That’s great.
Dr. Mungons’ activities outside of school
Michael Arnold: So, sounds like you stay pretty busy with curriculum, working with teachers at your school, and with educators even outside your school, adult learners. What do you do in your free time?
Renee Mungons: Remember when I talked about, you know, having a passion for those long hours? Sometimes in the winter it seems like you arrive in the dark, you go home in the dark. But no, I actually am a big reader, so I love to read; I love to sew, and I also garden. So I do actually have some good hobbies. Gardening, if only we lived where we could do it year round, but that for me, is the ultimate stress reliever. Diggin’ the soil…
Michael Arnold: Take your frustrations out on the dirt, right?
Renee Mungons: Absolutely. Yes.
Michael Arnold: That is very therapeutic. And you are involved with the worship ministry at your church as well?
Renee Mungons: I am. The church that started our school is a quarter of a mile down the road from us, so you could walk there. And it’s the church that I’ve gone to for basically my whole entire life. I was baptized there as a nine-year-old. I’ve been there ever since. So, since 1999 I’ve been a part of the tech ministry at the church. And I’m a bit of an anomaly because up until about two weeks ago, I was the only female. And I’m for sure much older than everyone else in the tech ministry. Much older. But I feel like my longevity, just like it brings something to the school because I have a perspective and a depth in certain subjects or situations, I think probably I bring that to the table too in the tech ministry. So I generally am a person that just runs the presentation, the web-based presentation software, if you will, for all the different components of the service, the songs with videos and the pastor’s message and so on.
So besides troubleshooting, because you know, it’s not a good Sunday if somebody is not under the counter with a flashlight, but, besides that, it’s pretty easy to just press a button and advance things, so I’m taking on a new challenge now and I’m in a worship music bootcamp. So I’m taking an online class to learn about sound mixing. It’s very technical. It reminds me every day that it’s hard to learn anything when you don’t have background knowledge. Why is the student struggling in algebra? Because they missed out on background knowledge the previous few years that they needed, you know, it didn’t come up overnight. Well, I don’t have a lot of background knowledge on electronics related to sound mixing, but I’m learning.
And maybe someday they’ll actually trust me to at least operate the sound for livestream. I’m not sure about the services yet; they might keep me upstairs in the little dark room, where all I do is the sound mixing for the livestream, but it’s a good challenge. And it’s part of who I am because I love learning so this is just a new learning frontier for me. I can’t really justify more college. It’s very expensive. And, you know, I probably have as many degrees as I really need. So I’ve found a new way to learn and I’m enjoying it.
Michael Arnold: Yeah, learning takes place in all kinds of ways, doesn’t it?
Michael Arnold: Well, Dr. Mungons, it’s been great to speak with you today. It’s an honor to have your voice in the Curriculum Trak community. I know you share your thoughts on our blog, and you’ve joined some of our training events as a discussion leader and that kind of thing. And now you’re in The Teacher’s Lounge with us today, so thank you for sharing your experience, your wisdom, your humor. Great to have you. Thanks for stopping by today.
Renee Mungons: You’re welcome. I’ve enjoyed it very much. And I appreciate being asked to participate.