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From the moment you meet her, it's obvious that tiny dynamo Leslie Abbatiello is tough on education and passionate about her work as ACES director of Professional Development and School Improvement (PDSI).
On a recent hot summer day, Leslie could be found hard at work, working side by side with teachers. Wait, teachers? Isn't it summer?
"Teachers aren't putting up their feet and resting these days," says Leslie with a laugh.
Instead, a good majority of teachers are spending at least part of their summers at ACES furthering their education.
Prior to landing at ACES, Leslie, a North Haven native, graduated from North Haven High School, class of 1980, before going off to college at New York University.
Leslie says, "After college graduation, I started teaching drama in Greenwich when I heard from a friend that a teacher was vacating the position at the high school."
From there, "I moved on to teaching English and related subjects" to a diverse population of students in urban and suburban high schools, says Leslie.
Her career has grown further, and Leslie's days are now spent at ACES PDSI, "collaborating with school leaders to provide solutions to their most vexing problems, regularly interfacing with the state Department [of Education], as well as making sure district needs are met.
"Basically PDSI designs programs and services to build up the capacity and knowledge of educators, while also providing educators in our region with ongoing opportunities to network around problems of practice," says Leslie.
Leslie has been deeply involved with designing and putting into action ACES's Regional Curriculum Consortium initiative, a collaborative effort of ACES member districts to build leadership capacity and curricular materials related to the Common Core while developing and calibrating teacher evaluation protocols with schools and districts.
Since launching this initiative, Leslie says, "Teachers from 20 districts have participated in the development of instructional resources and lessons, assessments aligned to the Common Core Standards.
"Now we are currently working on an expansion of ACES Regional Curriculum Consortium from language arts and math to including social studies and science in a continuation of professional learning to support educators in implementing new educator evaluation systems," says Leslie.
She is also currently working on "developing and implementing training for educators in Abu Dhabi, UAE, and soon in China through a new ACES venture," the ACES International Center for Education and Services.
Coordinating Connecticut's Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) is another of Leslie's challenging duties and one about which she's very excited.
Leslie describes this program as "helping leaders or aspiring leaders to better understand policies and politics and how it influences what they have to do on a daily basis while helping them develop core leadership styles.
"It also helps them develop their ability to network across boundaries, and the program includes leaders in politics, education, local business, and media. About a dozen of these leaders work with EPFP for a year."
Leslie says, "We are looking to expand who gets involved and are casting a wider net on the type of leaders involved."
There is even a field trip.
"We go to Washington DC as part of the EPFP program. It's amazing to see the jump and progress in that year," says Leslie.
When not working, Leslie puts down the books and lifts up the weights at Tough Girl Fitness in Hamden. Tough Girl's motto is "Train like a Girl."
Leslie lights up as she describes her "boot-camp, circuit training work-out" at Tough Girl.
Leslie says, "It's fantastic because unlike other gyms, the gang at Tough Girl-Christa, Mike, and Jenna-also get inside your head.
"They help you see what you need to do to get better every day," which is something Leslie knows a lot about, both in the classroom and out.
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