Writer, copy editor, and educator who finds joy in reading, writing, and thinking along life’s trails

Trekking Toward Teacher Renewal

Mary Bob Kosub, Martha Lockard,
Jan McGowen, Liz Wallin, Janie Botkin

In the spring of2001, Dripping Springs ISD (DISD) set about addressing some of the challenges forced by implementing instructional and management programs without increased funding. In the past ten years, the district, a rapidly growing
bedroom community 20 miles southwest of Austin, Texas, more than doubled in size due to the strong economy and an outstanding academic record.

Fall 2000 enrollment was 3,090. Ethnic distribution was African American 0.7, Hispanic 9.3, Asian 0.5, NativeAmerican 0.6 and White 88.8. The growth rate was 3. The four campuses employed 217 teachers. Turnover rate for teachers was 18.1 for the district and 15 for the state. Teachers had an average of 5.4 years experience with Dripping Springs ISD.

Assistant Superintendent Mary Bob Kosub searched for alternatives to address the above challenges. She had long nurtured the idea of using teachers as instructional leaders on campuses. Kosub's dream was energized by her participation in
training to build self-managed teams and by news of a Colorado school district, which used building resource teachers (Hayes, Grippe, Hall,' 1999). Kosub shared this peer coaching model with Superindentent Mary Ward, who was fomiliar with a similar approach. Both leaders were aware of the district's support for site-
based decision making, teaming and instructional assistance and staff development, especially for new teachers to reduce attrition. Kosub designed a journey into uncharted territory and so began our trek toward teacher renewal ...


The Journey Begins

A new pathway toward teacher growth and instructional effectiveness emerged as the DSISD Instructional Facilitator Program. Each of the four DSISD campuses selected an instructional facilitator (IF) to work half-day as a curriculum liaison and half-day as a teacher. Beginning in the fall of 2000, IFs undertook a role to support the district's vision, mission, and goals and to nurture curriculum development in all disciplines. The instructional facilitators provided curricular resources and teaching materials, mentored new teachers, peer coached experienced staff, supported staff development, assisted in conflict resolution and served as advocates for students and teachers. The following research by Sparks and Loucks- Horsley in 1989 affirmed this new program direction stated in
"well-known" practices for effective staff development.

  • Programs conducted in school settings and linkedto
    schoolwide efforts
  • Teachers participating as helpers to each other and as planners, with administrators, of inservice activities
  • Emphasis on self-instruction with differentiated
    training opportunities
  • Teachers in active roles, choosing goals and activities
    for themselves
  • Emphasis on demonstrations, supervised trials, and
    feedback; training that is concrete and ongoing over time
  • Ongoing assistance and support available on request

Before embarking from traditional staff development practices, each instruct{onal facilitator packed supplies of personality, professional background knowledge,
interest in all campus staff, ability to collaborate with colleagues of differing personal styles and a talent for locating resources. Once on the road, IFs used the Colorado model as a map and tailored each campus program to meet specific needs of teachers. Facilitators also enhanced communication through individual IF campus web pages, email and tools/online courses offered as part of a grant from our regional education service center. Let's relive this journey's highlights and images of IF program participants at each venue along this adventur-
ous route of redesigned staff development.


Dripping Springs Primary School

At Dripping Springs Primary School, 65 staff and 900 students comprise a prekindergarten through third grade learning community. The IF, Martha, teaches
prekindergarten half-day, then devotes the rest of her day to instructional support: She helped new teachers set up their classrooms before school opened. Each new staff member received a New Teacher Sourcebook, which contained a picture directory of staff, strategies for the first day of school, the grade level curriculum (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, orTEKS), and other orientation informa-
tion. Mentor teachers also received resources and developed a mentor activity guide based upon a new teacher needs assessment. Both new and mentor teachers received incentives and individual support during the year.

Martha observed new staff teaching and provided feedback; modeled conferencing techniques and reflective practices; and shared methods for teaching higher level thinking, math concepts, writing as a process, and hands on space science. She provided professional books and articles to match new and mentor teachers' areas of interest. Influenced by the state testing requirements [Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS), which will become Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) in 2003J, Martha worked with teachers new to third grade on varied
ways to reinforce math concepts for students. She facilitated new teacher visits in other classrooms and provided ongoing resource support for new and experienced staff in content subjects, assessment and differentiated instruction. Martha also worked with kindergarten, first and second grade teachers to revise report cards. She assisted teachers with locating funding sources to attend a literacy confer-
ence as well as to purchase science/math software. During the spring semester, a study group composed of new teachers, experienced teachers and administrators read and discussed a self-selected book about brain-compatible learning. Pri-
mary school teachers continued staff development on several trips to the intermediate schooL


Dripping Springs Intermediate School

The next stop on our journey is Dripping Springs Intermediate School where Jan is the instructional facilitator. This campus has 24 staff and 511 students. Jan assisted new teachers at the beginning of school by organizing math materials, helping create bulletin boards and preparing presentations for open house. She utilized monthly mentor/mentee meetings to demonstrate writing techniques to enable teachers to prepare students for success on TAAS and TAKS writing tests. She coordinated efforts of the library and second grade on a science research project.

Jan shared TEKS curriculum with teachers and routed brochures, catalogs, and staff development offerings to meet individual interests and needs. She further facilitated a Math Measurement Circus and a book study group for teachers. In addition to her teaching assignment in fourth grade math/science, Jan provided support and feedback for teachers as emphasized in studies (Galbraith, Anstrom;
1995) of the benefits of peer coaching.

Peer coaching is a positive solution to some of the prob-
lems of traditional inservice offerings that have been used
to educate teachers .. .Instead of one-time workshops with
no follow-up, peer coaching provides the ongoing assess-
ment of a specific skill or strategy that enables the teacher
to continue his/her training in the classroom ... Peer coach-
ing has the potential for furthering a teacher's individual
professional development, for improving school climate,
and, ultimately, enhancing school effectiveness ...
(Galbraith and Anstrom, 1995)


Jan assisted teachers with stress management, presented demonstration lessons on multiple intelligences, and helped with class management. IFs Jan and Martha
planned and guided kindergarten through fifth grade teachers during vertical team meetings to align instruction in language arts and math. Jan also worked with
the middle school IF to organize vertical team staff development for fourth through eighth grade teachers. Three presentations in fall 2001 by a regional service
center consultant about preparing our students for the new TAKS reading and writing tests were a direct result of our increased vertical team interaction. Jan also secured funds to send teachers to a math conference and to purchase science equipment.

 

Dripping Springs Middle School

A bit further down our route to teacher renewal waits the instructional facilitator, Liz, and the 63 staff and 813 students in grades six through eight at Dripping Springs Middle School.

Liz teaches eighth grade gifted and talented students. She serves teachers in many capacities. Her MIM meetings for mentors/mentees feature clever acronyms (Mighty Magnificent, Made It and Movin' On) and the colorful candies.

Liz encourages new teachers to continuously assess their teaching, to observe and learn from experienced staff and to conference effectively. She meets regularly with the grade level academic teams and content area departments to address
their instructional needs.

Liz's curriculum projects include working with the librarian to create a picture book collection and to promote novels about our hill country by a Texas author; collecting materials; working with a Fine Arts Showcase and contests board; promoting think tanks to enhance preparation of students for state TAAS and TAKS tests; and helping with the Geography Bee, science in the movies, and the Medieval Fair.

Liz meets staff development needs through the monthly faculty Learning Segments, which deal with curriculum issues, vertical alignment with intermediate/high school teachers to accommodate changes in the 2003 TAKS tests, and promotion of
a learning environment on campus.

She maintains a professional library available to teachers, assisted with Share Fair planning with the high school IF, obtains information from staff through questionnaires and feedback forms to plan personal staff development, and shares Great Practices videotapes.

Liz facilitates successful new pre-algebra classes at middle school as well as with A + Grammar integration and study skills. Liz participated, as did several IFs, in our region's E-Teach and TIF grant activities to develop technology skills and resources to help teachers. She collaborates with the high school IF on significant projects.


Dripping Springs High School

Our fourth stop down the teacher renewal roadway is Dripping Springs High School, where Janie is the instructional facilitator and a language arts teacher. The high school is populated by 96 instructional faculty and staff and 1,100 students in grades nine through twelve.

The IF on the high school campus has worked on different tasks ranging from creating and implementing the New Teacher Mentoring Program to developing
staff development based on teachers' needs. She has built a new program, called STAR (Student Advocacy Representative) for aiding at risk students while encouraging professional growth of the teachers who serve as program facilitators.

Janie improved communication between teachers, and teachers and administrators. She also created a Family Album of faculty photos and trivia to help make introductions easier for a faculty composed of one-third new teachers. Her manual, The Jungle: A Survival Guide for New Teachers, assisted new teachers with classroom management, partneringwith parents, creating a course syllabus, daily operational procedures pertinent to the high school level, as well as how to
handle stress levels at significant times of the school year.

As a member of the Texas Mentor Schools 'Think Tank', Janie led her peers toward helping students achieve success. She also led teachers through curriculum writing processes, facilitating consensus in planning instructional scopes and sequence. Middle school IF, Liz, and Janie worked closely in order to further vertical
alignment between the two campuses. Janie developed the "Pride in Portfolio" program, where senior students must present evidence of their readiness for the real world prior to graduation. She also created the first Dripping Springs High School Hill Country Share Fair, modeled from best practices learned from the Texas
Mentor School Network. The Share Fair has grown to include Dripping Springs Middle School and other central Texas middle schools.


The Journey Continues

Mary Bob Kosub waits for us as we pull up to this next stop on our itinerary. She holds up feedback surveys from new and experienced staff regarding the first year of the instructional facilitator program. Most teachers appreciated IF help in
opening school and with resources, demonstration teaching, and support
during the year. Mentees were grateful for mentors' help and chances to visit other classrooms. Staff development presentations also clarified instructional expectations, district priorities and curriculum.

Instructional facilitators met monthly with Kosub to ensure continuity and vertical alignment. They felt that their facilitative leadership training and workshop attendance, E-Teach and TIF grant technology training along with teachers, and participation in the formation of a district Curriculum Council were valuable experiences in preparation for their new role. IFs were also grateful for the classroom connection of their teaching assignments and for the board of trustees', administrative and collegial support of our new direction traveled with this research based peer coaching model.

Our first year's experiences serve as an instructional facilitator "guidebook" to take us further down the road of helping teachers see where they are and where they want to be as educators. There may be detours, but we're positive and focused on our ultimate destination of effective professional growth for teachers and
academic success for students.

As the DSISD Instructional Facilitator Program grows, we reflect upon where we've been and where we're going as did John Steinbeck (1962). "Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip,
a safari, an exploration is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is
a person in itself; no two are alike ... We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us."

Mary Bob Kosub is Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Instruction.

Martha Lockard, Jan McGowen, Liz Wallin and Janie Botkin are instructional facilitators.

The DSISD Instructional Facilitator Program was recognized as a best
practice and received a commendation in the district's recent Texas School Per-
formance Review under Comptroller Carol Keeton Rylander and committee.




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Feiler, R.; Heritage, M.; and Gallimore, R. (2000). Teachers Leading
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Galbraith,P. and Anstrom, K. (1995). Peer Coaching: An Effective Staff De-
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