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Archive for Monday, September 29, 2008

Learning coach program helps teachers navigate professional challenges

Learning Coach Kristen Ryan, second from left, works on science and health curriculum Sept. 24 with Hillcrest fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Cochrane, second from right. At far left is learning coach Carol Laskowski, and at far right is fifth-grade ESL teacher Leah Weseman. The Lawrence school district launched an initiative this year to provide teachers with 16 learning coaches for assistance and professional development.

Learning Coach Kristen Ryan, second from left, works on science and health curriculum Sept. 24 with Hillcrest fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Cochrane, second from right. At far left is learning coach Carol Laskowski, and at far right is fifth-grade ESL teacher Leah Weseman. The Lawrence school district launched an initiative this year to provide teachers with 16 learning coaches for assistance and professional development.

September 29, 2008

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When first-year teacher Cassidy Kitcheyan finds herself overwhelmed by the demands of her job, she knows help is just an e-mail away.

The Haskell Indian Nations University graduate is a first-grade teacher at Hillcrest School, and she relies on the help of the Lawrence school district's learning coach program. The program is an initiative launched this year to assist teachers - rookies and veterans - in professional development.

"They definitely are a big part of my new career not being so hectic," Kitcheyan, 23, said. "I don't feel so crazy as I thought I would. In a way, they are lifesavers, along with my mentor."

Kim Bodensteiner, the district's chief academic officer, said the 16 learning coaches provide teachers a way to work through problems and come up with solutions.

It creates a "ripple effect," according to Ron Swall, a learning coach at Free State High School, who is working with social studies teachers on how to improve students' note-taking skills. He said learning coaches also are helping teachers improve their students' standardized test scores, which must continually improve to meet federal requirements.

"We're getting to a point where our pretty good job isn't good enough, based on the standards of the federal government," he said.

Early success

So far, the professional development program, which is used in all of the elementary, secondary and high schools, has been well received.

"The anecdotal data coming back to me is that (teachers) feel that this supports them and their efforts to meet the students' needs," said Angelique Kobler, the district's director of instructional services.

"Any time I need them, I can count on them," Kitcheyan said. "Everything I didn't learn in college, they're there to help me. No question is too simple."

The district culls its learning coaches largely from its own ranks. Kobler said learning coaches must have at least 10 years of teaching experience and demonstrated effectiveness in the classroom. They span a long list of disciplines, including psychology, technology, early childhood education and curriculum instruction.

Kobler said she was looking for a "deep team," using a baseball analogy to illustrate the point.

"We don't want a team of all pitchers because we would have a shallow base of knowledge," she said.

The district has used veteran teachers as coaches in the past, but an increase in requests for help in elementary and secondary schools pushed district leaders to officially implement the learning coaches program. It looked at similar programs in the state's 10 largest school districts and national models.

"We didn't single out a model," Bodensteiner said. "We took strengths from different programs and tailored it to the needs of the buildings."

'Business is good'

Kristen Ryan, a learning coach based at Pinckney School, said teachers who can confidentially request help are flocking to the service.

"Business is good. There's definitely a need," said Ryan, who joined the Lawrence district this year after 12 years as an educator, most recently in Clay Center. Though based at Pinckney, Ryan also lends a hand to teachers at Hillcrest and Woodlawn schools.

Ryan said she meets often with teachers. The consultations are between five and 45 minutes.

Swall sees his job as a support system for teachers who are burdened with large classes and little downtime. He said FSHS learning coaches are helping teachers crunch data to help them meet goals related to No Child Left Behind.

"Teachers have an incredible load every day. When teachers are seeing 120, 140, 160 kids all day long, it's really difficult to sit down and take time and figure all that out," he said.

A team of coaches who specialize in literacy serve New York, Woodlawn, Hillcrest and Kennedy schools, but funding for the $200,000 literacy program is set to run out at the end of the school year.

Still, Bodensteiner said the district sees this as a long-term program.

"Unless we get grant dollars, we will not be able to keep all of those positions. We will continue to look at ways to have additional coaching in those particular schools," she said.

Comments

Eaglepass 6 years, 2 months ago

That lady with the black hair wearing the white and black dress, is smokin!!

pusscanthropus 6 years, 2 months ago

You know, lots of teachers were "C" students!

windex 6 years, 2 months ago

hawkperchedatriverfront (Anonymous) says:No Child Left Behind was taken care of by giving Fs, Ds, Cs, and putting children back a grade if need beHawk, you're a bit thick. Giving kids F's and D's and putting them back a grade IS leaving them behind. It's what we're not doing anymore. If a kid gets an F or a D it's the teacher's fault, and we don't leave them back a grade because that's leaving them behind. Pay attention, Hawk, and quit blathering about stuff about which you know nothing.

sarahsmilehawk 6 years, 2 months ago

The wonderful teachers of the 40s, 50s and 60s did it without the pressures of No Child Left Behind. In their generation, there were enough incoming teachers that the profession could afford a high burnout rate. And of course, they did it without the constant criticism and speculation of internet message boards.

KansasPerson 6 years, 2 months ago

Not to mention they weren't always wonderful. Far from it.

Eaglepass 6 years, 2 months ago

angrily? no way Smokin Hot YES YES!!!

Haiku_Cuckoo 6 years, 2 months ago

"That lady with the black hair wearing the white and black dress, is smokin!!"You mean the one who is seen angrily confronting her coworker and gettin' all up in her grill?"How did all of the wonderful teachers of the 40s 50s and 60s do it without a coach." 'Twas a simpler time. Back then they weren't distracted by students bringing Glock-nines and crack to school.

Beth Bird 6 years, 2 months ago

hawkperchedativerfront-Why does the marital status of a teacher have anything to do with their performance? I think that is one of the stupidest things I have heard yet on the message boards. By the way, not all elementary teachers are female. There are many great teachers who are male in elementary schools I think you need to join the current generation and take an honest look at the schools around you. You are stuck in a 1950 mentality.Why do you state that female teachers were better educated previously. Are you saying that female teachers are less competent than male teachers or did you mean that all teachers are less educated today then previously?

sarahsmilehawk 6 years, 2 months ago

I graduated from Lawrence High in 2006 and I'm very satisfied with my education. Almost every teacher I had was a great teacher with a master's degree from a major university. And since I was classified both gifted and learning disabled, I don't really consider myself "easy to teach."My only complaint? No dual credit opportunities. Most of my college friends entered with 15 or more credit hours because their schools cooperated with local community colleges. Earning 15 hours with AP credit would be pretty impressive.

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