I am ELP: Royce Conner

Hi! My name is Royce Conner, and I recently joined the team as ELP’s Executive Director. In many ways, I feel like I have returned home. While I am new to Envision, my education career began by learning about progressive education from leaders in the field such as Ted Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools. Since then I have put students at the center of each of my classrooms and schools. I am thrilled to be part of a team that cherishes the idea that students thrive when given authentic, challenging and rigorous work that is personally meaningful to them and their communities.

A bit more about me…

What experiences brought you to ELP? 

A visiting professor from a teacher preparation program once visited my classroom. He observed students deeply engaged in projects that provided them various opportunities to use their knowledge and skills to answer challenging questions about the world and their places in it. Some students led Socratic seminars about the nature of goodness. Others wrote policy briefs for local legislators. A few wrote an original play to be performed along with local actors using interviews the students conducted with immigrants. When the professor left, he said, “This is the way school should be.”

I spent ten years learning the craft of teaching using projects and performance-based assessments. I became a lead teacher in my school, supporting new teachers as they designed projects and aligned performance assessments to local standards. My middle school students, the majority low-income students of color, would often return to my classroom as high school and college graduates sharing gratitude that the work we did in my classroom prepared them for what one student called “the world I almost missed out on.”

After my time in the classroom, I spent two years in the public policy arena, working on statewide and national education issues with Rhode Island Kids Count. I enjoyed policy, but I eventually felt the call to return to education. I moved to California to pursue a degree in educational leadership and policy. After that I spent two years consulting with various school districts, including Oakland USD. I then spent one year leading the recruitment team for San Francisco USD. Following SFUSD I entered the world of school leadership. I served as Head of School for three Bay Area charter schools. One of my schools scored a front page article in Education Week for its innovative blended learning design, and another connected me with Bob Lenz and PBLWorks for its dedication to project-based learning for our students in K-8. 

Before joining ELP, my most recent role was as a Fellow with Foster America, a national nonprofit working to improve outcomes for foster youth and develop innovations for the child welfare system. 

And this brings me to Envision. While my career has had many interesting turns, I am delighted that I find myself back in an organization that operates and promotes schools that are, like that professor once said, the way schools should be.

What are you hoping to learn while you’re at ELP?

I am going to learn a tremendous amount from our schools! I look forward to seeing how partners in rural, suburban and urban districts rally their school cultures around student-centered design and performance assessments. We know there is no such thing as “one size fits all,” so I cannot wait to learn about how our partners are implementing high-quality performance assessments, graduate profiles, and portfolio defense in their unique contexts. 

What are you most excited about starting at ELP?

Truly, it’s the team. I have the great pleasure to work with expert educators, coaches, facilitators, designers, researchers and operations professionals. They are parents, siblings, authors, cooks, readers, adventurers, musicians and athletes. They appreciate a challenge and embrace the power of difficult conversations. As excited as I am to connect with schools, it is the team that brings me the most joy.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I would love to tell you that I dive deeply into great works of art and literature, but the truth is that I love my PlayStation and I play it like a teenager guzzling Mountain Dew. I am also a movie fan, especially horror movies. But I also love my outdoor time, especially hiking. In addition, I love to travel. So far I have traveled to 48 states (I’m looking at you, Mississippi and Hawaii!). 

Anything else to add?

My favorite quote is “Don’t dream it—be it.” Extra points if you can name the source.

Royce, his brothers and his parents in 1980
Royce and his husband, Aaron, hiking in the East Bay
Royce and his extended family visiting Alaska (Summer 2023)

Royce’s Bio:

Royce joined Envision Learning Partners in 2023. A native of Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, he attended Brown University, where he was first introduced to progressive principles of education through Ted Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools. He spent 10 years teaching at Community Preparatory School in Providence, Rhode Island. He then worked on statewide and national education policy with Rhode Island Kids Count, where he was selected as an Emerging Leader by The Children’s Defense Fund. He moved to California in 2007 to attend Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, where he earned a Master’s degree in Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies. He spent two years consulting with urban school districts and another year leading the recruitment team at San Francisco Unified School District. He then served as Head of School for three Bay Area charter schools. His most recent role was as a Fellow with Foster America, a national nonprofit working across the country to improve the child welfare system and increase opportunities for foster youth. Royce lives in Richmond, California with his husband. He is thrilled to be part of the team at Envision Learning Partners!

Connect with Royce on LinkedIn.

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