By Anne Hierholzer
If you’re looking for Amanda Tullos, you’re most likely to find her where she’s happiest—in the middle of a crowd. Tullos, who works as a project manager for the RCU’s school innovations team, has a hectic work schedule that takes her all over the state to lead professional development sessions and assist schools with improvement initiatives.
Before joining the RCU, Tullos worked as a fifth grade teacher in Louisiana. After Hurricane Katrina struck, she relocated to Clinton, Mississippi and began working as an instructional interventionist for kindergarten and first grade students who were struggling with reading and math. Tullos worked with these little learners one-on-one to bring them up to grade level.
“Working with those young students was so rewarding,” said Tullos. “I loved working with a team of teachers, parents, and students to help kids grow. Being a part of a team dedicated to educating kids was one of the best things about being a teacher.”
Tullos eventually worked her way up to assistant principal at Clinton Park Elementary School, a role in which she served for three years.
“Being an administrator really helps me understand where school leaders are coming from when I work with them in my current job,” said Tullos. “As the saying goes, walking a mile in someone else’s shoes helps you understand their perspective. Now, when I’m working with a school and a leader gives pushback, I know it’s a good thing because it means they’re really thinking through the issues.”
As a member of the RCU’s school innovations team, Tullos wears many hats, and her varied experiences as an educator and administrator come in handy. On any given day, Tullos may find herself delivering professional development seminars to teachers or working with districts to develop plans to prevent students from dropping out.
As part of her school improvement work, Tullos and her team have travelled to over 50 Mississippi schools to gather feedback as they implement a revised approach to school turnarounds. Tullos also travels regularly for her work on the 20/20 Professional Development (PD) Program. In this role, she partners with career and technical education (CTE) centers to provide ongoing PD to teachers.”
“Doing PD work is really fun,” said Tullos. “Because we travel so regularly out to the districts, we’re able to develop ongoing relationships with teachers and administrators, which strengthens the success of our work.”
For Tullos, much of her job comes down to the importance of relationship building. For instance, in her work with the 20/20 PD Program, Tullos builds strong interpersonal relationships with educators to help them improve their classroom practice.
“I work with teachers to implement research-based instructional practices that will improve student learning outcomes,” said Tullos. “The PD opportunities I facilitate emphasize best practices and strategies, like brain-based learning, which integrates movement, music, hands-on activities, humor, and storytelling into the classroom to keep kids engaged in school.”
Another passion project for Tullos is working with districts to implement project-based learning (PBL). Tullos believes that PBL, which focuses on hands-on learning experiences inspired by the real world, could hold the key for educators struggling to keep students interested in school.
“We live in a world of projects in the workplace; we’re constantly moving from project to project,” said Tullos. “PBL mimics this in the classroom. It’s a real-life, relevant approach to education.”
No matter which project she’s working on, Tullos maintains a sunny attitude and a passion for working with teachers to improve their classroom practice.
“I love being part of PD sessions, no matter which project it’s for,” said Tullos. “I really enjoy working with others and supporting teachers by providing them the tools they need to make a difference for kids.”
For Tullos, helping teachers be the best they can be has a profound effect on the students they come into contact with.
“One thing I love about PD is that it doesn’t end with me,” said Tullos. “What I share with teachers, they go on to share with their students, and those students may go on to impact the world.”
Another motivator for Tullos is her own experience as a teacher. For her, PD is personal.
“I know what good PD looks like, and I know what bad PD looks like,” said Tullos. “The good PD I experienced really improved me as a teacher, but when it was bad, I felt like I’d just wasted an hour of my day. When I conduct PD sessions, I never want anyone to leave feeling like they’ve wasted their time.”
Throughout her career in education, Tullos has used her own positive educational memories as motivation to ensure that today’s young people enjoy the same great experience in school.
“I had so many teachers and administrators who impacted me when I was a student,” said Tullos, “and I want to give that gift to others.”