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CMU Graduate Studies having a national impact on education

Colorado Mesa University alumnus Brig Leane, MBA, learned the difference between ‘teaching students’ and ‘ensuring student learning’ through what is called the Professional Learning Community process — an approach to education that according to Leane has “a tremendous impact on student learning and the professional growth of teachers.” He was first introduced to this concept while getting his second master’s degree at CMU.

“Isolation is pretty typical for teachers in America, which isn’t best for the students they serve. Research indicates that when teachers work together to ensure student learning, students and teachers benefit," said Leane. “Without a meaningful and highly effective collaborative culture, teacher effectiveness is capped, experienced teachers who retire walk out the door and new teachers face increasingly complex classrooms, alone.”

To address this challenge Leane is promoting nationally the concept that teachers simply must be working together and is providing the tools necessary to implement this simple but difficult philosophy.

Leane’s path from CMU graduate studies to national education leader was not a traditional one. In this way he has much in common with CMU’s large enrollment of non-traditional students. The U.S. Coast Guard and Reserve occupied his first career where Leane achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander supervising over 50 officers and enlisted service members.

“As an officer I had a degree in civil engineering and served for many years on humanitarian missions around the nation,” said Leane. “I was promoted rapidly, but ready for new challenges. Thankfully, I was selected as a Troops-to-Teachers recipient which led to my true passion, teaching.”

After completing his service to country, Leane began a teaching career that lasted from 1999-2009. His first teaching assignment was at El Cajon High School in California, a 22-language inner-city school, and after returning to Grand Junction, Leane entered into what appeared a more traditional, local teaching role working at Palisade high school as well as Bookcliff and Redlands middle schools.

When Leane learned of the PLC process at CMU he wanted to implement the philosophy immediately. He worked with his subject partner and together they learned the power of the PLC process firsthand, as their math students grew more than any other school team, in any grade, in any tested subject, in the entire 22,000-student school district, including the previous three years of state data.

Leane attributes much of the success to what he gained through his Masters of Arts in Education degree from CMU.

“While my CMU advanced degree in business taught me the importance of building a shared vision for an organization, and about how the tools of finance, strategy, marketing and accounting ensure a community’s shared vision becomes a reality, my master’s in education helped me apply that knowledge to the classroom,” said Leane.

When cynicism about U.S. education looms large, Leane brought his CMU advanced degrees, armed services background, passion and creativity to transcend the challenges that sometimes arrest creativity in education.

“I believe in the power of public education as one of the bedrocks of the success of the United States and a key to the successful future of each child,” said Leane.

After his successful work in the classroom, Leane was promoted to principal. He served as assistant principal and was soon selected to lead Fruita Middle School, a school known for teacher independence. His leadership as principal of Fruita Middle School resulted in the FMS organizational health index growing from the lowest to the highest measured levels. This transformation propelled the school to national model Professional Learning Community (PLC) status, one of only three schools at the time in the state to receive this designation.

During the transformation, Fruita Middle School was the only middle school in Mesa County School District 51 recognized for achieving student growth above the state median in every tested subject, in all grades and with every demographic subgroup of students measured by the State of Colorado. “It was exciting to watch teachers work together to make the targets clear for students, let students know they could do it and give students targeted assistance when they needed it,” said Leane. “Kids were the real winners, but the teachers gained so much too.”

Out of the approximately 100,000 schools in the United States, Fruita Middle School was recognized in 2017 on GettingSmart.com's annual list as one of 85 schools in the nation that educators should visit.  

Leane’s success as an administrator gained national attention when he was asked to review a book for Solution Tree — a premier provider of school improvement solutions for educators and administrators. This moment changed the trajectory of his career. The review also revealed the true value of his MBA from CMU. The project resulted in numerous consulting offers around the nation. Over the last several years Leane has presented to large and small groups and conferences around the U.S. in over 15 states. His lectures and presentations are featured in Phi Delta Kappan magazine, Principle Leadership magazine and in ASCD’s online learning platform. His national work in education reflects influences that, according to Leane, include Rick & Becky DuFour, Mike Mattos and Anthony Muhammad.

Despite Leane’s emergence as a national leader in education, he remembers what he gained from CMU and sees himself as a university ambassador.

“The very things I learned at CMU are the very things that schools around the country want to learn for the benefit of their students. I still think back to one of the assigned readings in the Educational Leadership program at CMU about Professional Learning Communities,” said Brig. “The reading changed the way I taught, changed the culture of the school I was in charge of and changed my life.”

Brig and his wife Kim are raising three girls who all attend public schools in District 51. He is a proud graduate of Grand Junction High School and of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, as well as a former service member of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Leane said that, “Public education is amazingly benevolent, and I want to do what I can to improve it.  Teachers are working harder than ever in the increasingly complex task of educating all children, and I am taking my experience and knowledge to help other schools become highly effective collaborative teams locally as well as nationally.”

“Go Mavs Masters,” concluded Leane.

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