top of page

Disrupting Education

To truly appreciate disruption within the school setting, not only does it take a risk-taker to initiate the disruption, but the support and understanding from all roles to support and be open-minded to another perspective. The journey that Jacie Maslyk, Assistant Superintendent of Hopewell Area School District, and Kristen Nan, 3rd Grade Teacher, have gone on over the last five years has not only brought about incredible change, but an appreciation for all individuals invested in the opportunity that change can afford. To be able to embrace leadership across all levels and to learn alongside one another, these two educators have opened up new conversations between administrators and teachers alike. Taking on two different perspectives, with one common goal, read how one email can change everything!

There it was, an email from my administrator marked “disruptor”. I took a pause, along with a deep breath. It had been a long time since I felt this sense of worry… the kind that comes from a place of distrust. I clicked on it and started to read. -Kristen

Disrupt: to interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem.

We are actively seeking out educators who are willing to cause a disturbance, in their own learning and in the learning of their students. I am a disruptor. I am an administrator looking for other disruptors ready to interrupt what is currently happening in education. -Jacie

As I continued to read, my heart sank further. “You have been identified by the district administration as a “disruptor”. To be honest, it said more, yet, that was all I read. I closed my laptop and took a deep breath. I scrolled through my mind trying to identify what I had done wrong. Where did my professionalism go astray?

What had I said?

What did I do?

Why hadn’t Jacie called me out on this sooner?

Disrupting in our schools can no longer be thought of as negative. It is the shaking up that breaks some people out of their comfort zone and gives others permission to try something new. It is through these educational disruptions that new ideas emerge and innovative practices are ignited.

It was not like me to jump to conclusions or to be on the defense, but something about “disruptor” had triggered a time in my professional life that I had been questioned and reprimanded” for going against the grain.

Pushing the status quo.

Having the courage to go against the norm for the sake of all children.

It is time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being stagnant in education means that our students are not getting our very best. When teachers break out of “the way it has always been done” they give our students the ability to soar.

I opened my laptop up

Logged in

And read…

“We would like to invite you to a special opportunity to connect, learn, and grow with other disruptors in our region.”

There is a real power in bringing together like-minded individuals who can push one another’s thinking and provide connections that extend beyond your own school. Our district is part of a consortium of schools that connects often to focus on professional learning and innovative instructional practices. It is our goal to lift up the work of educators and school leaders who are willing to take a risk and create new opportunities for students.

Say what?

You are inviting me to connect with like minds… is this for real?

You are opening a door of opportunity to learn from others that go against the grain, did I read that right?

You are gifting me a chance to learn more from people beyond the scope of our community… did I read that right?

So, the Day of Disruptors was planned as a way to bring a regional group of outstanding educators together to share disruptive practices. What does it mean to be disruptive in education? What can we do as a collective group to ignite disruption? We planned a day of professional learning that would engage our classroom teachers and spark new opportunities by creating a cross-county opportunity.

We were asked to share a little about ourselves, what we are passionate about and what we hope to gain from participating. As we started introducing ourselves, a commonality emerged. Before anyone could bring themselves to even say their name, a moment was given… one of thanks. The kind that comes from the deepest part of your heart. I don’t think the administration saw this one coming, but many, if not all, spoke of gratitude, excitement, fear, a sense of belonging, and in some cases, these moments were emotional leaving a few in tears. To lighten the mood, or simply call out what seemed to be given, someone said that this was like a support group for disruptors. We all chuckled, the kind of laugh that comes from truth. The introductions continued and the incredible vibe kept getting stronger and stronger.

Teachers from across two counties and six different school districts shared what being a disruptor meant to them. From kindergarten to middle school social studies. From English Language Arts to special education. While many of them never met before, they had a lot in common. The passion to meet learners where they are. The guts to take risks if it means making a difference for students. The drive to create positive change in their classrooms and beyond.

Heads were nodding in agreement at every topic shared.

The excitement of being understood resonated throughout the room.

The affirmation and reassurance that each of us longed for.

It was there, in this room magnified by 20!

The day was meant to embrace the qualities of disruptive thinking and give teachers a voice as change agents in the region. They shared experiences that were provoking changes in their schools. They shared barriers to innovation. They shared stories of the successful disruptions that were impacting students every day.

We were thirsty for more learning.

Leaders, how do you support your disruptors?

We were hungry for change.

What steps can you take to feed the disruptive thinkers in your school?

We were ready to share and gain, every moment of the day!

We were ALL IN!

Kristen Nan

Kristen has been working in education for the last 23 years. In addition to her current role as a 3rd-grade teacher, she is a speaker, blogger, author and has been recognized as an award-winning educator for innovative practices. Kristen’s upcoming book, “ALL IN, Taking a Gamble in Education” is co-authored by Jacie Maslyk and focuses on the importance of risk-taking, chances, and building relationships between teachers and administrators.

@nankr1120 (Twitter and Instagram)

KristenNan (Facebook)

Jacie Maslyk

Jacie is an educational consultant, speaker, and currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent in the Hopewell Area School District. She is the author of a number of books including Unlock Creativity: Opening a World of Imagination With Your Students and All In: Taking a Gamble in Education.

All In: Taking a Gamble in Education

Whether we realize it or not, the journey to betting starts right in the classroom… whether you are teaching fractions, odds, probability or simple luck. Are you ready to bet on education? Taking a gamble is risky, but nothing AMAZING comes without a little risk. Take a trip to Vegas with us, where chance and risk-taking are the names of the game. Our book shares 27 Bets that should be made in education. Are you willing to build relationships and do what it takes to make a difference for kids? Are you ALL IN?

138 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page