Reaching for Greatness


Think of the teachers that had a positive impact on you.  Why might they have been successful?  Certainly effective teaching is going on for the very reason that we can think of those people in our own lives.  There are three teachers I feel had the most impact on my identity as a learner.  Sister Celeste, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Hilgoe, high school math, and my Children’s Literature professor in Graduate school come to mind because they saw something in me that I didn’t see myself: the possibility of success.  They also had a voracious passion for what they were sharing with me, egging me on to find value in the content.

In Honor of Teacher Appreciation this week I would like to spotlight a few of the Facilitating Teachers I work with. I have had the privilege to work with them this year as they created communities of practice to study how to best support student achievement in their schools. They have taken risks and stepped outside of the box, making adjustments in their own teaching to become the solution for their greatest assets, their students.

Some examples of the collaborative body of work they have begun include the research of Amy Cooper from Wintergreen Primary and Terrell Bynum at Lakeforest.  Both these FTs are  investigating the development of protocols for helping children anchor and rehearse their thinking, which impacts their ability to comprehend text. Then Katie Richardson from South Greenville and Lori Moore from H. B. Sugg are looking at the strong connection between students’ foundational skills in reading and their ability to read fluently and comprehend text. They are researching innovative ways to strengthen that foundation to help students gain a self-directed, feed-forward system that will carry across content. Julie Howard from W. H. Robinson is leading a team researching the importance of vocabulary instruction and its impact across curriculum, giving students pathways to a deeper understanding of text supporting written comprehension and testing. The research these teachers, and other Facilitating Teachers across the county, are conducting has led to advocating for fair and equitable assessment.  Their students have reaped the benefits of this work emotionally, academically, and personally, learning side-by-side with their teachers. This research has created opportunities to strengthen rapport between grade levels, align curriculum, and unify the language used in instruction across buildings.  It has led to conversations surrounding fair and equitable assessment.  The protocols FTs have learned and implemented have given teachers new ways of communicating with each other, adding a razor sharp focus for action.  They have unleashed the problem-solver within themselves and created a collective efficacy among teams.  They have put together the puzzle pieces of each of their strengths and are using that new synergy towards innovation.  As one first grade Facilitating Teacher stated, “I feel like I have been part of something bigger than just teaching in a classroom.”

Professor John Hattie states, “There is a need to identify the greatness that lies in our teachers, not focus on a system as it is broken but rather identify that greatness and esteem and privilege it. We need to discover and understand that notion of expertise and success.” It is my pleasure to honor and esteem this group of teachers. I “appreciate” each and every one of them and am grateful for the chance to learn alongside them.  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

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