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Reimagining MERIT for a New Era of Educators

March 15, 2021

My first exposure to teacher education was Bloom’s Taxonomy and Harry Wong’s, “First Day of School”. That much needed “hook” wasn’t there, but I knew that at an early age, teaching wasn’t a hobby, it was a passion. Where I found my lifeline was when I found my professional learning network where like-minded and passionate educators came together not just to discuss theory but also to discuss the actual problems and solutions to teaching a diverse group of learners.

New vision for our 20th year

This summer, I have the honor of directing MERIT (Making Education Relevant through Innovative Teaching), a program that has served hundreds of teachers and thousands of students since 2000. This year, we are reimagining it. For each of the last twenty years, the KCI has hosted a cohort of the MERIT program. MERIT stands for Making Education Relevant through Innovative Teaching, and relevancy has never been more critical in professional learning than right now. Our vision for the MERIT21 cohort is simple:

How will we teach inclusively, create authentically, and instruct with empathy so that our students can take on the challenges of tomorrow with confidence and positivity?

Understanding that educators still need to be engaged in learning is integral to our program’s instructional design.

We’re mindfully seeking voices of change and spirits of wonder to inspire students and fellow educators

MERIT is a flagship program of the KCI, often attracting educators who are looking for future leadership opportunities or interested in bringing an impactful level of technology integration to their classrooms. That isn’t going to change, but we do hope to mindfully attract blossoming educators, historically underrepresented in the program, who have a personal desire to bring voices of change and spirits of wonder to the larger KCI family of learners.

As in the past, the MERIT program runs a summer institute for 2 weeks in July. While the meetings will happen virtually, the instructors and guest speakers will be as diverse and dynamic as they’ve been in the past.

Cohort members will move through activities and projects with an eye on classroom implementation, problem-based learning, and agency the whole time. As we learn and experience we will design ways to bring our experiences to our students in a variety of learning settings. This includes professional learning leaders and aspiring administrators, as well.

After the summer program, MERIT21 cohort members will move through four additional synchronous Saturday meetings and numerous community-building events with the goal of growing a professional learning network that will last. As shared in the past by one of our MERIT fellow:

“This has been the most empowering development program of my professional career – on so many levels! I am ready, and I will, transform learning in and beyond my classroom to change lives for the better.”

Is MERIT21 for you?

Yes — if you are someone 

  • who brightens their own internal light when times get dark. 
  • whose mind sees what’s possible more often than what’s improbable.
  • who knows how to persevere and shift directions when the way forward is unclear.

If you are ready to explore professional learning with a team of educators who walk in your shoes and are still sharing the path with you, learn more about our program or reach out to me, Cate Tolnai, at

PS: You gotta watch this video from Bianca Aguire — she captures the essence of our program so well! 

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