TFS Results is honored to present a case study on the success of its recent virtual presentation at Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) in Riverside, CA.

After hearing TFS Results CEO Mark Perna speak at several national leadership conferences, RUSD’s CTE Coordinator Ron Weston and CTE Liaison/Adjunct Professor Nick Mugridge introduced the district’s lead CTE teachers to Mark’s book Answering Why. “Our discussions energized the group and the teachers found themselves easily connecting Mark’s message back to the students in their classrooms,” says Weston.

With the book’s warm reception, Weston and Mugridge knew that their entire staff would benefit from an in-person presentation by Mark. “We realized how important Mark’s philosophy is to all teachers, and how necessary it was to share his enthusiastic wisdom with all of our stakeholders,” says Mugridge.

Plans were made for Mark to travel to California in August 2020 to deliver a keynote speech to RUSD’s teachers, administrators, and community members. While there, Mark would also collaborate with the teachers for two days of rigorous professional development.

But in March, COVID-19 hit the U.S.—and everything changed.

Pivoting to virtual

With the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns all over the country, all plans were in flux. “We were unsure how or if we could host an in-person event with Mark,” Weston says.

Moving to a virtual presentation was the logical choice, but there was understandable hesitation. No virtual event on this scale had ever been attempted in the district. “We reluctantly pivoted from our live, face-to-face event to a virtual one,” says Mugridge. “We were skeptical about the change, and had a hard time believing it would be as engaging or effective as the ‘real thing.’ However, Mark confidently assured us that he would provide us with a dynamic and engaging virtual experience unlike any other.”

After months of cautious planning and uncertainty, the day finally came—bringing the impactful experience that Mark had promised. “Honestly, we were absolutely blown away!” says Weston. “Mark has an incredible way of pulling the viewer in and making them feel like he is physically in the room. He welcomed individual teachers as they entered the call, as if he were standing in the doorway of a brick-and-mortar building. It was as if Mark was having a one-on-one conversation with each and every one of the 65 attendees on the call.”

Mark began the first day with a dynamic keynote address, followed by a lively Q&A session and other engaging activities and discussions for the remainder of the seminar. “Every teacher was engaged—for hours,” says Mugridge. “Our teachers were connected to every aspect of Mark’s program from beginning to end, and the time flew by.”

“After two robust days of professional development, most people would be dragging, but our teachers were energized and motivated to continue the work,” Weston recalls. “As Mark wrapped up, many teachers commented in the chat about how much they LOVED the seminar and how appreciative they were to have the opportunity to work with him. In the days following the event, we were still receiving emails and messages from the attendees expressing their gratitude and appreciation for such a successful event.”

Just the beginning

The impact of Answering Why and Mark’s virtual professional development is just the beginning of the partnership at RUSD. “We look forward to building our programs with the Career Tree and shifting the paradigm with Mark by our side,” says Mugridge.

COVID-19 has created many challenges for educators, but it also has also provided new opportunities to innovate. At TFS Results, we are pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved remotely with teams, entire organizations, and communities. It is our absolute honor to partner with organizations like RUSD in their pursuit of excellence. According to Weston, the feeling is mutual:

“Thank you for finding a way to turn lemons into lemonade, innovate your business model, and reach our teachers in such an effective way—virtually.”