For the past six years, the West Liberty Community School District has benefited from a state grant that has helped teachers in the classroom.
Instructors Melody Russell and Kim Wiele made a presentation to the West Liberty School Board of Education on May 2 at the District Administration Office to explain the Teacher Leadership and Compensation program that was initially applied for in 2014-15.
The teachers said the program has greatly enhanced education in the district and says the fact it’s an in-house program makes it even more meaningful for teachers.
Russell said the program gives the teachers more confidence, noting every teacher has different skill sets and ways of teaching.
Wiele said the program provides teacher leaders who support colleagues as they collaborate and reflect on their practice, sharing their expertise and resulting in improvement implementation of evidence-based instructional practices. All that, she said, leads to improved student learning, the overall goal of the program.
The goal of the program is also to retain teachers by providing opportunities to share their knowledge and skills. Wiele said that would impact instruction in other classrooms, without having to give up their own classroom teaching assignment to do so.
The program also promotes collaboration among teachers and improves implementation of evidence-based practices.
Another goal of the program is to reward professional growth and provide opportunities to increase remuneration to teachers who have demonstrated effective practices.
Among instructional coaches in the district at the pre-kindergarten to fourth grade level are Cindy Gonzalez-Lopez and Wiele while model teachers include Mekenzey Manley, Kristen Evans, Ashley Shimmin and Mandi Wulf. Mentors at that level include Lillian Ortiz, Gabe Yank, Manley, Wiele, Gonzalez-Lopez and Wulf.
At the middle school level, instruction coaches are Tonya Gingerich and Russell, assisted by model teachers Darci Watts, Nikki Koenig and Kelsie Garcia while mentors including Garcia, Koenig and Russell.
At the high school, Melia Larson is the lone instructional coach while model teachers include Erica Jennings, Melanie Clark and Ashley Smith while mentoring is accomplished by Amanda Samuelson, Bob Nelson, Laughlin, Zach Morris, Clark, Smith and Jennings.
The leaders said the whole program is based on building relationships between coaches and teachers, extracted from focused conversations, assistance, reflective conversation on instructional practice and coaching with evidence of student learning.
“We want to help them in any way possible,” said Wiele, noting they want to build relationships to help teachers set their own goals.
Wiele said mentoring helps the teachers talk about their concerns in the classroom and said the last two years have been difficult because of visual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis and students not always being in the classroom.
The pair said there are many different resources to help with the program, from studios on certain subjects to various levels of students.
The program helps provide teacher support, from dressing in togas for a Greek Mythology lesson in the middle school to assisting with student data testing. There is also some co-teaching of units or lessons, planning assistance, location of materials or resources, assisting with technology, problem solving, assisting with lessons or assisting with testing or analysis.
Teachers are also assisted with student support in things like tutoring, observation and planning for accomplishments.
The pair said the challenge of teaching virtually and using new technology was more difficult for some than others, but they said it was important to try to stay “one step ahead” in learning new ways to teach.
“We’re there to give teachers a little bit of a boost,” said Russell.
The board meets again May 16.