March 2016: NC New Teacher Support Program Newsletter

Dear Colleagues:

February has been a celebration of successes for the NC New Teacher Support Program.  We are proud of the many beginning teachers who attended our inaugural February Institutes throughout the state, voluntarily devoting their weekends to professional learning and growth.  Beginning teachers said they appreciated collaborating and learning from each other, diving into rigorous content, reflecting on their practice, and building confidence to demonstrate evidence of the impact they make on the students they teach.  February Institutes were designed to address the knowledge and skills for rejuvenation, contributing to the success of students, sharing content knowledge with students and reflecting on practice.

We are proud to launch virtual professional learning conversations for our beginning teachers in science, grades 5-12. Beginning this March, every second and fourth Tuesday of each month, science teachers throughout our state program can collaborate, work together, and engage in rich conversations surrounding science content and pedagogy.  Our Instructional Coaches are working together to provide relevant and interesting topics for virtual experiences, all to provide more ways that beginning teachers can collaborate with each other and with content experts.  We plan to expand this effort into all content areas during the next several months, providing opportunities for our beginning teachers to interact with our Instructional Coaches from across the state.

We are so appreciative of our district partners and look forward to meeting with you throughout the rest of the spring semester as we plan together our continued efforts for the 2016-17 school year.  We are also very grateful for the generous support of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for providing a one-year grant for the NC New Teacher Support Program to reach more than 100 additional teachers in high-needs districts.  Click here to read more.

It has been great to meet with additional districts interested in partnering with the NC New Teacher Support program to serve more teachers in North Carolina.  As we have met with district personnel all throughout the state in various settings, we appreciate your testimonies to your colleagues in neighboring districts how our collaborative work has led to improved teacher retention, effectiveness, and student learning.  We are excited to expand our impact in 2016-17.

All the Best,

Bryan S. Zugelder

 

April Shackleford, ECU Region Instructional Coach

April Shackleford is an Instructional Coach for the East Carolina University (ECU) Region of the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program (NC NTSP).  April serves teachers in Lenoir County Public School and Perquimans County Public Schools.

Prior to joining the NC NTSP, April served as an Instructional Coach and classroom teacher in Pitt County Schools (PCS) for 13 years, working at both the elementary and middle school level.  By being recognized as a distinguished classroom teacher and participating in the PCS Teacher Leader Cohort, she served as a mentor to beginning and veteran teachers in high-need Race To the Top Schools. 

Her areas of certification are elementary education (K-6), reading (K-12), and Executive Leadership in Education (K-12). April is an alumnus of Campbell University, East Carolina University, and Gardner Webb University. When April is not supporting beginning teachers, she dedicates her time to her husband, their two children, family and friends, and the faith-based community of the Farmville, NC area.

 

Recent Event Spotlight: February Institutes

The NC NTSP held four February Institutes for beginning teachers in their first, second, and third years during the month of February. The institutes, held in Thomasville, Greenville, Cullowhee, and Chapel Hill, brought over 100 beginning teachers from across the state to share in collaborative sessions that were developed in response to the emerging needs of early career teachers supported by NC NTSP coaches.

Our very own NC NTSP Instructional Coaches took great care in creating sessions with the specific needs of beginning teachers in mind.  Teachers got moving with Kinesthetics in the Classroom: Exercise the BrainTurning up the Heat with Higher Order Thinking, and explored ways to Communicate with Professionalism and Quality. These sessions, among others, focused on the success of students, deepening one’s content knowledge and reflecting on instructional practices. Additionally, participants described the lasting impression of the Student Panel, which featured reflections of public school students about their experiences as learners.  Earlene Clanton, a middle grades social studies teacher in Warren County, found the institute “inspiring and uplifting as I reflect upon what I can do to improve moving forward.”

The enthusiasm and energy present at each institute was not only infectious, but provided a well-deserved opportunity for professionalism and rejuvenation to carry teachers through a long-awaited spring season.

 

NC NTSP Asks: Q & A with Regan Crowley from the WCU Region

The first word that comes to mind when watching Regan Crowley teach is spark.  Merriam –Webster defines spark as:

a small fiery particle thrown off from a fire, alight in ashes, or produced by striking together two hard surfaces such as stone or metal.

Regan is the fiery particle and the fire from which that spark comes is her unwavering dedication to her students.  Originally from Kinston, NC, Regan now teaches middle grades science at Cullowhee Valley School in Jackson County, North Carolina.  A visit to her classroom shows that her students are indeed alight in the engaging lessons Regan leads.  Her principal, Kathryn Kantz, says that Regan quickly developed relationships with her students that made them want to be in her classroom.  Says Kantz, “Regan is able to create activities that develop students’ thinking skills that challenge them to become leaders.”

Regan recently shared these thoughts on her first year of teaching:

When did you first know you wanted to be a teacher?

Surprisingly, I didn’t know I didn’t want to be a teacher until my senior year of high school. I had originally wanted to go to school to be an engineer.  I was even enrolled in an engineering program, but it just didn’t feel right. After praying about it, I realized that I was my happiest volunteering in my mother’s classroom or teaching Sunday school.

What is the best thing about teaching?

I know it is cliché, but the best thing about teaching is feeling like I’m making a difference. I’m a huge influence on my students, and I can affect them for the rest of their lives. I can either be the reason they hate school or the reason they love learning.  Just the thought that even one of my students may look back years from now, and remembers me as the reason why they survived middle school, can make me smile.

 What are some challenges you have faced as a first year teacher?

My biggest challenges have been time management and staying organized. I’ve been an organized person, and I set up what I thought was the perfect        organization system. However, the school day is so hectic there is never time to put things in their rightful places. As a result, I am left rearranging and cleaning late in the day or over break. 

Describe your relationship with your NC NTSP coach.

I absolutely love my coach! I am not afraid to ask her anything, and she is constantly offering words of encouragement.  Plus, she always asks about my well being and if she can do anything to help me. I feel like I can call Tierney anytime, and she would do everything in her power to help me. Normally I get very anxious when professionals observe my teaching, but I’m actually excited for my coach to observe me.

What advice would you give to someone who will begin their teaching career next August? 

When you’re forced to attend professional development, make the most of it. Take notes on the strategies that other teachers use, and don’t be afraid to try it in own classroom with an open mind. Always keep an optimistic outlook when trying a new strategy, and adapt it to your style.  If it doesn’t work, no big deal; just try something else. If it does work, you’re a better teacher. In addition, accept what works for one class may not work for another. So don’t be afraid to change your lesson, even if it is in the middle of the school day.

You seem to always be prepared with engaging lessons for your students.   What is your secret? 

In college I had an amazing professor who told me to put a note on my desk that said, “If I was a student in my classroom today, would I want to come back tomorrow?” Because of this, I try to provide a positive and family like environment every day for my students. Even if it just boring old notes, I try to give the students some sort of movement and engage them in a discussion. For example, I tried teaching my sixth grade class how to shorthand their notes.  We had a short discussion connecting paraphrasing and summarizing with tweeting. They had to condense their notes into tweets and summarize with a hashtag by writing it on a sticky note and sticking it to the board.  Accordingly, when you treat your class like individual people instead of students, it is easy to create engaging lessons.  

 

Research Spotlight: Culturally Responsive Teaching

by Melissa Sykes, NC NTSP Instructional Coach, UNCC Region

In today’s schools, nearly “43 percent of students enrolled…are considered to be part of an ethnic or racial minority group” (Rueda, Jin Lim, & Velasco, 2007, p. 62). Furthermore, it is estimated that 1 in 5 children is currently living in poverty (Utley, Obiakor, & Bakken, 2011, p. 5). While current teaching practices do work for some students, in order to ensure that all students are offered the opportunity to learn, culturally responsive practices must become the basis for educating students with different experiences, beliefs, and practices.

Culturally responsive teaching is a method for ensuring that all students’ needs are met in the classroom regardless of cultural alignment. The practice of culturally responsive teaching affirms students’ “home cultures, increase[s] community involvement in poor and culturally diverse neighborhoods, and advocates for change in the larger society” (Johnson, 2007, p. 49). According to the theory of Gloria Ladson-Billings (1992) who first coined the phrase, culturally relevant teaching relies on three propositions: “a) students must experience academic success; b) students must develop and/or maintain cultural competence, and c) students must develop a critical consciousness through which they challenge the status quo of the social order” (Johnson, 2007, p. 50).

Culturally responsive teaching goes beyond being “sensitive and aware of students’ cultural backgrounds,” instead the idea is to promote students’ “ethnic and cultural heritages” prompting an impact on “pedagogy, curriculum, and relationships in the classroom” (Lee & Quijada Cerecer, 2010, p. 200). In essence, students’ “home-based knowledge and experiences” are validated while “allowing students to actively participate in constructing what counts as knowledge in their classroom and schools” (Lee & Quijada Cerecer, 2010, p. 200). This cultural lens “creates multiple ways of seeing and perceiving meaningful experiences of individuals in a culturally diverse society” (Utley, Obiakor, & Bakken, 2011, p. 9).

Teachers who value culturally responsive teaching methods demonstrate “a sociopolitical consciousness, affirm views of students from diverse backgrounds, [are] responsible for and capable of bringing about educational change, [have] constructivist views of teaching and learning, and build on students’ prior knowledge and beliefs while stretching them beyond the familiar” (Johnson, 2007, p. 50). True to the philosophy that all children can succeed, these teachers value the culture, language, and community of their students and understand that they must build connections between students’ community and school (Johnson, 2007, p. 51). Cooperative group learning and peer-coaching, as well as “frequent variability in tasks and formats, novelty, and dramatic elements in teaching improve the academic performance” and can be implemented as strategies to use with culturally responsive pedagogy (Gay, 2002, p. 112). “Respectful student-teacher relationships” (Brown, 2003, p. 278) and a culture of caring are essential strategies for culturally relevant teaching; “listening is one of the most powerful means of establishing effective communication patterns with students” (Brown, 2003, p. 280).

The goal of all culturally responsive strategies is to “infuse an understanding of students’ prior knowledge and language to build rich connections to their cultural and linguistic backgrounds within family and community contexts” (Utley, Obiakor, & Bakken, 2011, p. 13). Effective teachers continuously present complex information and engage in lessons connected to students’ lived cultures, while promoting critical thinking and problem-solving lessons (Delpit, 2003, p. 19). Culturally responsive teaching ensures that all learners are respected and provided access to knowledge. Equality in education begins with recognition of the individual as an endless source of hope and ability.

 

Brown, D. (2003). Urban Teachers' Use of Culturally Responsive Management Strategies. Theory Into Practice, 42 (4), 277-282.

Delpit, L. (2003). Educators as "Seed People" Growing a New Future. Educational Researchers, 7 (32), 14-21.

Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for Culturally Responsive Teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53 (2), 106-116.

Johnson, L. (2007). Rethinking Successful School Leadership in Challenging U.S. Schools: Culturally Responsive Practices in School-Community Relationships. International Studies in Educational Administration, 35 (3).

Lee, T., & Quijada Cerecer, P. (2010). (Re)Claiming Native Youth Knowledge: Engaging in Socio-culturally Responsive Teaching and Relationships. Multicultural Perspectives, 12 (4), 199-205.

Rueda, R., Jin Lim, H., & Velasco, A. (2007). Cultural Accommodations in the Classroom: An Instructional Perspective. Multiple Voices for Ethnically Diverse Exceptional Learners, 10 (1-2), 61-72.

Utley, C., Obiakor, F., & Bakken, J. (2011). Culturally Responsive Practices for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disabilities: A Contemporary Journal, 9 (1), 5-18.

 

 

District Spotlight: Edenton-Chowan Schools, NC State Region

In 2015-2016 the NC State Region welcomed the Edenton-Chowan School district to the NC NTSP family.  The Edenton-Chowan School District is in lovely northeastern North Carolina in Chowan County, located on the Edenton Bay at the head of the Albemarle Sound.  Edenton-Chowan Schools is a district committed to preparing all of their 2200 students as “critical thinkers and productive citizens able to adapt to the ever-changing challenges of a global society.” Edenton-Chowan Schools is also a district with a strong commitment to new teacher support and teacher retention.

Coaches in the NC State Region of the NC NTSP use a team approach to support the beginning teachers in Edenton-Chowan School District. Kitty Mann proudly serves twenty-one beginning teachers at Chowan Middle School and John A Holmes High School with coaching visits tailored to each teacher’s individual needs.  Jaye Taylor and Wayne Williams, also Instructional Coaches in the NC State Region, join forces with Kitty and the Edenton-Chowan Instructional Coaching team in a collaborative effort to provide professional development sessions that are grounded in research and offer instructional strategies that are specifically geared to the needs of beginning teachers.  

To speak to the district’s perspective on their experience with NC NTSP thus far, we asked two individuals from Edenton-Chowan Schools to share their thoughts.

The North Carolina New Teacher Support Program has done a great job coming to observe classrooms and talk about what went well and ways we can do a better job teaching.  I have enjoyed the talks and conversations with the coaches on what has worked and what hasn't and some of the challenges we face.  Having the coaches at Teacher Talks allow us to get some professional development since we are so crunched up on time.  The February Institute was fantastic as it was a great way to meet so many new teachers from all over North Carolina and get to talk about what we deal with on a daily basis and how to combat those issues or how to make our lessons more engaging and exciting.” - Ray Mock, Beginning Teacher-Math Department, John A. Holmes High School

 “The NC NTSP has added an extra layer of support in the areas of coaching and professional development for our beginning teachers. It has been refreshing for our teachers to have coaching and support that is non-evaluative and aimed solely at improving their instructional and professional practice. High quality professional development that is geared towards the teachers' needs is delivered in an interactive, engaging format. Teachers leave the professional development sessions with resources that they can immediately implement into their classrooms. In a district with limited staffing and funds, NC NTSP has been a blessing!”  -Tanya Turner, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction and Beginning Teacher Program Coordinator.   

It has been an honor and a delight to work with Edenton-Chowan Schools in our shared mission to support and retain our beginning teachers in North Carolina and we look forward to our continued colleagueship and collaboration.