Congratulations to Erin Hoffman who recently received the Accredited Learning Environments Planner (ALEP) credential! This mark of excellence was developed by The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) to reflect the knowledge, skills and abilities of a competent educational facility planner. In her dual role as a Project Manager and Educational Program Coordinator, Erin leads our K-12 school clients through a comprehensive and inclusive planning and design process.
We’ve asked Erin to share her thoughts regarding ALEP credentialing, her career path and the challenges facing educators today.
What is the value of the ALEP credential?
The ALEP credential was designed to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance and identify those in the educational environment industry who demonstrate the knowledge essential to the practice of educational facility planning.
For me, ALEP Certiﬁcation reinforces the value of research-informed design strategies and a transparent and engaging building design and construction process. My drive and passion come from integrated design and community engagement. The ALEP credential reinforces the value of challenging the status quo to continually improve learning environments.
The ALEP credential reinforces the value of challenging the status quo to continually improve learning environments.
What led you to Educational Planning and the ALEP Credential?
From a young age, I wanted to become an Architectural Designer. My mother’s career as an educator inﬂuenced my decision to combine my love of buildings and design with the ever-changing world of education. Throughout my 20 year-tenure, I’ve had opportunities to work with passionate, forward-thinking educators. Together, we have pushed the boundaries of educational platforms and collaborated on building needs.
My focus has been helping institutions re-imagine the typical educational delivery system. I have deﬁned building metrics for evaluating facilities and formulating options for future adaptability as learning pedagogies, curriculum priorities and technology resources evolve. This has become personal for me as a parent, I now have a much better understanding of our public school system from that perspective. Like any parent, I want the best possible education for both of my kids. Their very different personalities and learning styles reinforce the need for flexible and diverse spaces.
Like any parent, I want the best possible education for both of my kids. Their very different personalities and learning styles reinforce the need for flexible and diverse spaces.
How can an educational planner facilitate a better end result for students, teachers and the overall community?
Through industry research, continuing education, and post occupancy evaluations, the educational planner is an advocate for best practices to support educational pedagogies and serve the broader community. Projects move forward once everyone is on the same path based on an educational platform that:
- Reﬂects that institution’s values and mission
- ,Supports curriculum goals
- Meets future-ready education needs.
The most challenging and rewarding aspect of educational planning is making sure all voices are heard from the start—including the students. Students are often overlooked in early planning and design phases. My approach is to interact with, listen to and engage students of all ages. Their insight is invaluable to a meaningful design process.
The most challenging and rewarding aspect of educational planning is making sure all voices are heard from the start—including the students.
What advice do you have for educators considering a feasibility study or design project?
Always include the students in the programming and the design process! They know what works and doesn’t work and often have great suggestions to help make learning spaces better. School buildings have a larger impact on student learning and educator teaching experiences than most people realize. The built environment has a significant impact on a sense of belonging, emotions evoked and an overall comfort level of being in school.
What advice do you have for administrators when planning for the future?
Be open-minded and ready for anything. After this past year, we all know things can change and evolve on a daily basis. Being prepared ahead of time, with flexibility and learning opportunities outside the norm, is paramount to success.
The design process is not limited to the building. It’s also the small details that impact a student’s or educator’s day. The educational planning and design process impacts experiences from the minute you pick up a student at their home or they are dropped off on school property. Consider improvements to the surroundings for a smoother transition for students from a home environment to the school environment.
What is the nicest compliment you have received about a project you were involved in?
I will always remember a group of elementary students walking into the building for the first time. The awe, amazement and pride they had in their new building was the best reaction ever. I’ll never forget one little boy saying, “This is all for us? This is amazing!”. When students take ownership, I know I did my job well.
More About the ALEP Credential
The Association for Learning Environments, creator of the ALEP credential, observes “An individual who has been certified by A4LE has achieved the highest qualification in our profession. Clients can appoint ALEPs with confidence that they have been examined for competence by our association.”
After meeting eligibility requirements and submitting an application, ALEP candidates must pass a rigorous interview process. Once a candidate has earned the credential, they must maintain it by fulfilling certification renewal requirements every three years, in addition to maintaining minimum continuing education units each year.
The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) is the only professional organization whose principal purpose is improving the places where children learn. A4LE embraces a diverse group of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, high performance and sustainable learning environments that enhance student and teacher performance and support culture and community vitality. To learn more, visit www.A4LE.org.
View our education portfolio to see recent project examples.