Author: Kathleen Mulroy
Superintendent Shawn Woodward has been greatly impressed by the Lake Pend Oreille School District’s new instructional coaching program: “Instructional coaching is having a powerful impact on teaching and learning in the Lake Pend Oreille School District. Our coaches are able to work one-on-one with teachers, as well as work with small and large groups. They have been highly effective at gathering data, information and resources to support positive classroom and system changes. Additionally, they help connect the dots between theory and actual practice through hands-on support.”
Three instructional coaches were hired in the fall of 2014. Two were funded by a combination of grants from the Equinox Foundation and the Panhandle Alliance for Education and school district funds.
Instructional coaches are experienced, highly accomplished, respected educators whose main responsibility is to assist teachers and other school leaders in enhancing students’ learning experiences. The chief goals of instructional coaching are to increase student engagement, improve student achievement and build teacher confidence.
“Our three coaches have been wonderful resources for the elementary school teachers in our district,” says Northside Elementary School principal Perky Hagadone-Smith. Principal Erik Olson of Sagle Elementary School agrees: “The instructional coaches are invaluable when it comes to collaborating with other teachers to help them utilize current best teaching practices, modeling teaching in classrooms and determining when to implement student interventions. I have personally relied on the coaches to lead some mini professional development opportunities in math and writing. This has led to better implementation of the Idaho Common Core Standards in these content areas.”
Coach Kelli Knowles cites one particularly successful coaching experience in which she was involved: “I team-taught in a sixth-grade classroom a lesson on the elements of plot structure in literature. We taught the students how to use Googles Slides to create an analysis of plot structure in the novel Old Yeller. We also talked about the standard we were using for this project, which is learning how to use evidence from literary or information texts to support analysis, reflection and research.” Knowles comments, “The students were very proud of the final project and were also very aware of what was expected of them.”
Ann Dickinson says she provides information about the Idaho Common Core Standards to teachers in a variety of ways. For example, she says she, “provided training for elementary level teachers on the district writing assessments, including how writing prompts could be used in the classroom to inform instruction.” Another professional development training in which Dickinson will be involved is an upcoming seminar on the use of the Socratic teaching method. She adds, “I’ve also attended staff and grade level meetings at schools to provide clarification and resource. And, we respond to teachers individually through e-mail exchanges.”
Nicole Dash, a Farmin-Stidwell Elementary teacher, says, “Coach Knowles has helped me with so much, including introducing me and my class to many valuable learning applications for the iPads, such as Kahoot and BrainPop. She’s also helped me set up Google Docs so my students can e-mail me their writing assignments which are based on Idaho Common Core Standards. And she has assisted us in navigating math assessments based on the standards.”
District physical education teacher Teresa Kemink agrees that instructional coaching has been an effective tool: “Rayna Longstreet (a fellow P.E. teacher) and I met with Ann Dickinson to develop a curriculum map for P.E. Ann helped us align to the Idaho State Physical Education Standards and health standards and to the SHAPE National P.E. standards. We also were able to develop a computer bank of cross-curricular lesson plans and regular lesson plans so new P.E. teachers in the district could have some guidance and guidelines to follow. Ann was excellent in facilitating this, and she helped us think of the best ways to deliver our curriculum.”
“I have seen an increase in organization, collegiality and skill in my teachers that directly reflects the work our coaches have done with them,” says Kootenai Elementary principal Casey McLaughlin. “ Last year they struggled with understanding what the ICCS was asking of them and this year, with the help of the coaches, they are able to prioritize and understand how and what to teach in a way that is applicable for student growth.”
“Promoting excellence in education” in our community is the Panhandle Alliance for Education’s mission. PAFE is proud to help fund instructional coaching for our school district.
The Panhandle Alliance for Education is a non-profit organization composed of local citizens, businesses and educators. PAFE’s mission is “to promote excellence in education and broad-based community support for the Lake Pend Oreille School District. As an independent organization, we will create and sustain an endowment to provide resources in support of effective teaching, learning and school management.” Donations are distributed as a working pool of money used to fund teacher grants, READY! for Kindergarten and other strategic programs. To learn more about PAFE, or to make an on-line donation, visit our Facebook page or go to the website – www.panhandlealliance.com. You may also call the Executive Director, Marcia Wilson, at 208-263-7040.