By Angela Krile and Ron Rogers, OCALI
“For me, in my heart, what I do – it’s not about me. We are servants of servants – our job is to build relationships and speak and lead from the heart.”
When asked about the work he does leading the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Center at OCALI, Ron Rogers is all about the relationship – and how what he does impacts those relationships between students and those who work with them every day.
The UDL Center at OCALI was created to help remove barriers to learning through purposeful planning that leads to meaningful instruction for all students. The UDL Center provides a framework to improve and optimize learning based on scientific evidence about how people learn.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a research-based set of principles to guide the design of learning environments that are accessible and effective for all. It is a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. (Cast.org)
While it all sounds academic and “heady,” Ron explains that it’s really about understanding human interaction and designing classroom environments that remove barriers for students so they can learn.
“You know, everyone is a learner, and the goal is to ensure we are creating expert learners. Expert learners are purposeful, motivated, resourceful, knowledgeable, strategic, and goal-directed. While we all learn in different ways: conversation, coaching, meetings, collaboration…in the end, it comes down to the relationships we build,” says Ron.
“There is so much variability in learning – there is no exception to that. Everyone learns differently. We can count on this fact, so why not plan for it and be ready by building environments in our classrooms, boardrooms, and learning areas that allow everyone to succeed.”
Ron’s career began in law enforcement, but he soon found his love for teaching. When the DARE program was started, Ron was selected to be one of the youngest DARE officers in the state and enjoyed working with school districts throughout the northwest Ohio area. He then took on the role as the director of 9-1-1 in Hardin County – another opportunity to train and teach others. After getting his master’s degree in education, he was able to jump with both feet into teaching – with an opportunity to help students in career technical education, including serving as an alternative school director, curriculum coordinator, and principal. His many years at the NW Ohio State Emergency Response Commission, which then became the State Support Team Region 1 Center, laid the ground-work for exploring and implementing UDL.
Eventually, Ron found OCALI and had the good fortune to take all that he had learned during his diverse career and put it to work in the UDL Center, even starting the UDL Collaborative in Ohio – where the 16 state support team regions come together to learn from one another.
For Ron, this is just a natural extension of his strong belief in teamwork and collaboration. “Phil Jackson from the Chicago Bulls said the strength of the team is the individual and the strength of the individual is the team, and that is how we try to work,” he said.
At OCALI, Ron leads a monthly 30-minute live webinar, providing educators with an opportunity to collaborate with their peers and learn from experts and specialists about Universal Design for Learning, Family Engagement, Growth Mindset, Implementation Science, Equity, and more.
His goal with the webinar series is to help remove barriers and “fix the system.”
Ron spends time with different committees such as State Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children (Vice Chair), Ohio Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports, Ohio Family Engagement, and various other committees blending UDL into the everyday work in Ohio.
“We know that it isn’t the kids that are broken, it’s the curriculum that needs to be fixed, not them,” said Ron. “Our curriculum needs to be fixed and the barriers need to be removed. My goal is to someday walk into any classroom and see all learners working collaboratively where no one is feeling judged or excluded.”
When he is not at work, Ron spends time with his wife of nearly 30 years, Cindy, and their son and daughter in their home in Hardin County. He also finds time to serve as a Pleasant Township trustee and a member of the Quest Federal Credit Union board of directors. And of course, with his heart firmly rooted in teaching others, Ron has been a high school Sunday school teacher for 25 years.