Anna Baldwin wAnna Baldwinorked with a team to create professional learning to improve the teaching skills of beginning teachers in the district.

School: Arlee High School
District: Arlee Joint District
State:  Montana
Source: National Network of State Teachers of the Year

In my hybrid position as a half-time instructional coach and half-time teacher, I am tasked not only with inspiring students to learn but coaching teachers to incorporate meaningful supports for struggling readers and writers, to develop active pedagogical practices, and to uphold our state’s multicultural initiative. However, it became clear through the first months of coaching, via conversations and observations, that to teach effectively, our newer teachers needed a stronger foundation in these skills than could be provided during the regular coaching cycle.

Our district’s coaching team is comprised of two coaches like me and two liaisons to the administration. We decided that we needed to design a full-day workshop for these newer teachers, and mapped out a plan to make it happen.

After selecting a full-day workshop setting, we ironed out logistics, grouping the K-3 teachers and specialists together in one workshop and the 6-12 teachers in another. We also focused only on ELA literacy skills, not math literacy, because the grant funding our work is focused on ELA. The liaisons obtained approval from principals to do the work and hire subs for the two workshop days. The coaching team spent a morning planning workshops around the foundational skills these teachers appeared to need most: effective supports for struggling readers and writers, active approaches to teaching reading and writing, and adherence to Indian Education for All. We selected texts, designed activities, and created the agenda.

Teachers who participated in the workshop said they learned helpful strategies and appreciated the chance to ask questions and clarify effective approaches to classroom practice. One first-year teacher said, “It was helpful because it was practical and applicable. You drew on what we were taught to do in college but in applying it made more sense and it was easy to transfer to the classroom.” They also reported learning classroom practices they had never seen before. The coaching team created a binder of resources for the participants. Another first-year teacher said, “Having the binder of resources was good because I was able to flip through it and gain some ideas about how I wanted to teach a particular thing.” These teachers took their experiences and applied them directly to their classrooms. After the workshops, we literacy coaches could see that teachers were remaking some of their lessons in the spirit of implementing more engaging classroom strategies and incorporating culturally responsive material.

As a literacy/instructional coach, I had the opportunity to observe the classrooms of the newer teachers after the workshops, and I could see an improved, more open approach to active pedagogy, in particular. As for follow-up, I fielded questions and provided additional support. We also uploaded the binder contents to our shared computer drive because teachers said they’d like to access digital copies of the materials.

My hybrid role allows me to play on the same field as my colleagues, while providing leadership and direction. It is gratifying work.