Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Benton Community Teacher Leadership -- Year 2

During the November 16, 2015 Benton Community School Board meeting, members of the Benton Community Teacher Leadership Team shared insights into year two of the program.  

Below is an article written by Jim Magdefrau for the South Benton Star Press and his take-a-ways during the of Teacher Leadership presentation at this board meeting.

“We are off to a great start in our second year with this.”

Benton Community’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System (TLC) was one of the first schools in the state to have teachers act as models and coaches. They are now in their second year, according to TLC member Alex Olson.

The TLC team gave an update at the Benton Board of Directors meeting, Monday, Nov. 16, at Van Horne.

Olson explained the role of an instructional coach. Some think they teach the teachers. “The team believes it’s a partnership. We want to partner with the teacher in goal setting and collaborating. Together we feel that we can help teach other better educators,” he told the board.

A handout outlined the roles of the coaches and model teachers, and shows what it is like to be a coach with a teacher.

Laurie Donald, teaching coach, said that each month teachers are surveyed to see if they’d be interested in working with an instructional coach. When someone clicks “yes,” one of the coaches follows up on this. Then they visit about what they’d like to do.

Olson added relationship building is important and having conversations with teachers about how things are going. It can be formal or informal.

Board member Theresa Thompson, who retired as a Benton teacher after 31 years, said the team was helpful in development documents on what her job entails for the next teacher. Donald said this helped bridge the gap between the retiring teacher and new teacher.

Donald pointed out this is not a mandatory program, since it’s about teachers wanting to improve themselves. Right now they have 86 percent participation. And the end of last school year, participation was at 81 percent.

Collaboration and continuing improvement are the goals, Olson stressed.

The first year, there was a lot of training. This year, there is more research on what teachers are asking for.  They also help plan professional development with the administration.

Olson said they were able to hit the ground running this year, pointing out, “It’s really enjoyable to work and collaborate with somebody and to help push them and work with them to attain their goals.”

Team member Andrea Townsley added it helps for teachers to hear their peers’ voices in coaching.

Collaboration with the administration is a new aspect of the second year of the program, so all can work to improve the school system.

Board member Teresa Ludeking asked about data on how successful the team is.

Townsley said data is collected on a daily basis, and they put the coaching relationship with the teachers on a 1 to 5 scale, from relationship building to a full-out coaching cycle.

Student achievement will also determine the success of the program, according to the team.

Data determine where students are at when they leave the class and are the teachers reaching more students, Donald said. The team helps the teachers work with the data.

The team plans to meet with the board to show what it looks like in the middle of coaching, and what it looks like when they reach their goals.

“As a classroom teacher, you’re never done,” Donald observed. “Even after teaching so many years, you’re still thinking, ‘How can I make this unit just a little bit better?’” Teachers want to improve, she said.

Olson said this points to the wonderful staff, working to improve their practice. “A huge part of the credit goes to the staff for utilizing the resources that we have -- that not all of the school districts in Iowa have.”

Superintendent Gary Zittergruen said Teacher Leadership will continue to be a part of the budget, just like supplement and intervention programs.

Curriculum director Jo Prusha echoes that the biggest change is the amount of coordination between the team and administrators. “We’re not scared of each other,” she grinned.

The team also shared a video with the Benton Community School Board which highlights interactions between teacher leaders and staff this fall.  You may view the video here.





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