Wendy Sinnette Talks Education in the 21st Century

Photo by Maddy PUMILIA ICF – St. Bede president Al Restivo welcomed Wendy Sinnette at the recent dinner meeting.
Photo by Maddy PUMILIA
ICF – St. Bede president Al Restivo welcomed Wendy Sinnette at the recent dinner meeting.


The Italian Catholic Federation’s guest speaker Wendy Sinnette, the superintendent of La Cañada schools, talked about education in the 21st century at the organization’s recent dinner meeting at St. Bede Catholic Church.

“We are looking at schools becoming different,” Sinnette said. For example, she said that teachers will not be the primary dispenser of knowledge as students can learn through other sources, such as online. Instead, she described teachers as the orchestrator of information. They can help students change information to knowledge and turn that into wisdom.

Sinnette compared 20th century schools and 21st century schools.

“What we have to do is capture their attention,” Sinnette said on maintaining student interest. Students in the 21st century classroom must be engaged and active. For example, the 20th century is teacher-centered while the 21st century classroom is student-centered. In the 20th century, things were time-based; now, they are outcome based. It’s no longer about memorization, but about understanding. In the 21st century, the disciplines are integrated. Things are now media driven: films, displays and performances. Diversity is an issue.

“There’s a lot more student freedom because we want our students to be independent,” Sinnette said.

Twenty-first century skills, she elaborated, include creativity and entrepreneurial thinking and communicating; collaborating with people; building on each other’s strengths; thinking critically; making innovative use of knowledge; taking charge of financial, health and civic responsibilities; making judgments; and problem solving.

“Children, to be competitive now, have to think critically,” Sinnette said.

California is transitioning to the Common Core State Standards, which are nationwide standards. It’s more rigorous test measuring, aimed at preparing students for life after high school whether in college or the workplace. In English class, there will be an emphasis on non-fiction writing. Mathematics will focus on coherence, conceptual understanding, fluency and application.

“It’s a process,” Sinnette said. “Teachers are engaging with the kids on multiple levels. We are transitioning to the Common Core. Overall, we are very successful.”

“Our goal is to have it up and running in 2014-15 when the Common Core standards go into affect,” said La Cañada school board member Ellen Multari. “We are looking at how we train our teachers.”

Finally, Sinnette discussed developmental assets. There are 40 developmental assets that cover a broad spectrum of a student’s experience. They focus on positive experiences, relationships, opportunities and personal qualities. Examples include categories like support (such family support and other adult relationships), empowerment (such as service to others and safety), boundaries and expectations (such as family and school boundaries), constructive use of time (such as religious community and youth program), commitment to learning (such as homework and school engagements), positive values (such as caring and integrity), social competencies (such as cultural competence and resistance skills) and positive identity (such as personal power and self-esteem).

“It builds relationships that are important to us, that are positive,” Sinnette said.

Developmental assets are researched based. The correlation between achievement and intelligence is .5. This means 50% of achievement is due to things like relationships and environment.

Italian Catholic Federation branch president Al Restivo gave Sinnette a certificate of appreciation after her presentation.

The Italian Catholic Federation has 30,000 members in California, Arizona, Illinois and New York.

“We want to provide a service to the community by bringing about good solid programming,” Restivo said. “Our programs will be about education. Our programs will be about charitable things. Our programs will be about evangelization. Our programs will be spiritual.”

ICF meets every third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. It is a potluck dinner. Members do not have to be Italian.