Since 1858, Winona State University has maintained a proud tradition of education, from its establishment as the first normal school west of the Mississippi to its current focus on preparing educators for 21st century learners.

Teachers need wide-ranging skills to be successful in today’s learning environments, according to Jen Hegna, Director of Information and Learning Technology with the Byron Public School District. In partnering with WSU to create a Certificate of Innovative Instructional Leadership, the Byron School District is not only investing in student learning, it’s investing in its teachers.

“We believe in the development of all educators for the greater good of public education,” said Hegna.

The program provides Innovative Instructional Leadership professional development for teachers, with courses focused on 21st Century technology strategies for improving student learning. Participants are provided with constructive and innovative ways to guide student learning.

The certificate program includes five courses, each with a specific goal, such as blending technology into a classroom with face-to-face interaction and ways to empower minds in the classroom. Upon completion, participants will have completed part of the elective requirements for WSU’s master’s degree in Education Leadership.

What’s more, instruction for the program is offered on-site, according to WSU Associate Professor of Leadership Education Robert Howman.

“The courses are job-embedded, as the curriculum is sensitive to the needs of individual teachers and their students,” said Howman. “Byron teachers have class sessions in Byron, and are taught by a Byron administrator. We provide guidance, support and other resources from start to finish.”

Additionally participants in the program act as a professional learning community, working closely with one another across schools and grade levels.

“Participants help each other learn and improve, and they even lead instructional innovation in their schools and throughout the school district,” Howman said.

The initial cohort of participants will finish the certificate program this spring, said Howman, at which point WSU hopes to begin a second cohort, sharing the program and its benefits with educators from other school districts and promoting the collective educational experience.

From a school district perspective, Byron Public School District Superintendent Jeff Elstad said the district has seen improvement among the teachers who have elected to take part in it.

“I would definitely encourage other districts to take part in the program,” Elstad said. “The learning that our teachers have done in this cohort is putting real action to many of our strategic objectives, including personalizing learning for all students and promoting and providing applied learning experiences for students.”

WSU’s Leadership Education Department offers classes catered to promoting the improvement of schools, athletic departments, non-profits and higher education institutions to develop an understanding of all students. The department collaborates with area leaders to transform education of the common good in each learner.

For more information, contact Howman at