Sixty-three teachers completed the second cohort of The Public Education Foundation’s Teacher Leader Academy this year, and a completion ceremony was held for each of the two cohorts Nov. 7-8. The Teacher Leader Academy is the first of its kind in Nevada and is built on The Public Education Foundation’s Executive Leadership Academy model, now entering its sixth year.
The Teacher Leader Academy assists school districts as they address teacher pipeline and retention challenges. The Academy’s goal is to cultivate and amplify good-to-great teachers with leadership capacity, thus leveraging local talent. This model also enables teacher leaders to collaboratively analyze and solve problems – culminating in a capstone project – as they become effective change agents.
The completion ceremony for the Teacher Leader Academy was held in the Barrick Gold Corporation Board Room at The Public Education Foundation. Among the Clark County School District officials on hand to hear the capstone project presentations were Dr. Mike Barton, Chief Academic Officer, and Dr. Greta Peay, Chief Instructional Services Officer. They were joined by Kelee Dupuis from the Office of Educator Development & Support in the Nevada Department of Education.
Four capstone projects were featured during the completion ceremony: Increasing Reading Achievement of Third Graders Through Family Engagement; Empowerment Toolbox; Rethinking 50th: Reclaiming the Narrative With Stories of Success; and Strong Start for Nevada Students: Pre-K for Title I Schools.
In Increasing Reading Achievement of Third Graders Through Family Engagement, the team of April Bohn, Rebecca de Young, Tara Miller and Cassandra Rockwell noted that literacy skills are one of the most important predictors of academic success, yet less than 50 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading.
The authors found that family engagement increases academic success but there are “schools not providing enough family engagement opportunities to assist in building fundamental academic skills.” The team envisioned a robust family engagement program being offered by schools, working in collaboration with CCSD’s Family and Community Engagement Services (FACES) program and other entities, and utilizing available Title I funding to help offset costs.
In Empowerment Toolbox, the team of Alex Brittelli, Angela Fitch, Crytal Flaherty, Stacy Miller, Heath Stahle and Erin Winder focused on creating “a resource for teachers where they use knowledge of students to drive specific instructional decisions based on National Teach to Lead (NT3) standards.”
The team created a website to provide teachers with a way to engage and motivate their students “by using movement, choice and fun.” The teachers also are committed to ensuring that feedback is a feature of the website, employing collaboration as a useful tool. The team is looking for ways to expand the website’s capacity to add teacher contributions, monitor the feedback and get the word out about the website’s availability.
In Rethinking 50th: Reclaiming the Narrative With Stories of Success, the team of Rebecca Hernandez, Jennifer Hiller, Lauren Pompeo, Jayme Rawson and Kristen VanWorerkom believes the Clark County School District must counteract the negativity that they say “permeates the public perception of education in the district.”
The authors believe the School District “must find a new way to engage the community in its successes and bring the community back into the schools in a rooted, directed and mutually beneficial way.” They conclude that ratings that show CCSD as ranking last in the nation on some measurements are unfair and that a first step is to inform the public why these rankings are misleading. The second step these authors would take is reclaiming the narrative through, and reconnecting with the public, “via a teacher-led, student-supported grassroots social media campaign.”
In Strong Start for Nevada Students: Pre-K for Title I Schools, the team of Krysten Carlsen, Treemonisha Miller, Kris Poliskie, Leana Smith and Leigh Todd observed that there is a lack of funding for preschool programs in Title I schools in the Clark County School District. They also found that preschool is vital to the success of students reading by the end of third grade, which the Read by Grade Three initiative requires.
In order to make Read by Grade Three successful, an obstacle that would need to be overcome is finding sufficient preschool funding. One possible avenue, they recommend, is for a School Organizational Team to allocate funding for a Pre-K position and assistants; another source would be for the Nevada Legislature to allocate sufficient funding; partnering with nonprofits also might help defray expenses such as the cost of breakfast and lunch provided to students.
Following are the other Teacher Leader Academy capstone projects, whose summaries are provided by Zhan Okuda-Lim, The Public Education Foundation’s Director of Policy and Analytical Leadership:
- E-Mentoring to Increase Special Education Teacher Retention in the Clark County School District (Amanda Mirkovich, Elizabeth Rowan, Donna Tumpney)
This team addressed the increasing number of special education teacher vacancies in CCSD. The team surveyed CCSD special education teachers to ask what supports they need during the first several years of teaching, with a majority of respondents indicating that mentorship was most important. Therefore, the team recommended an e-mentorship program, hosted on Canvas, through which trained mentors can support new special education teachers in key areas of practice.
- Arts Integration in Secondary Education (Brittany Robertson, Amy Symes)
This team addressed ways to make middle school more engaging and invigorating for students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The team recommended incorporating Arts Integration lessons into core subject areas at four CCSD middle schools: K.O. Knudson, Cannon, Fremont, and Mack. This would also bolster connections with local artists and build on CCSD’s relationship with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts through the national “Any Given Child” initiative.
- Prioritizing Teacher Development (Allyson Butto, Steve Isaak, Leah Terry, Luis Zaldaña)
This team addressed the lack of a standard, foundational body of knowledge needed to develop and sustain effective teachers and pedagogy. The team recommended implementing a common framework, such as the Marzano High Reliability Schools model, to guide teacher development and analyze how teachers apply, develop, and innovate strategies to serve students’ needs.
- Redefining School Schedules in the Clark County School District (Michael Bucher, Daniel Liles, Mirna Martinez)
This team addressed how CCSD can change school schedules to maximize student leaning time and teacher collaboration and planning time. To do this, the team recommended several hybrid schedules that combine traditional and block schedule frameworks. The team also proposed incorporating flex periods to allow students to access more individualized instructional support.
- School Culture and Climate (Rebecca Cumley, Kimberly Derflinger, Brandi Thomas, Tricia Wilbourne)
This team addressed how CCSD can implement a way for teachers and school leaders to effectively address school climate and culture concerns. The team documented the work of a new climate and culture committee at Gibson Middle School. The committee, which comprises teachers nominated by their departments, is working this year to collect data on school climate and culture and recommend site-specific areas for improvement.
- A Shift in Paradigms: The Need for Authentic Advocacy in Student Leadership Programs (Susan Huff, Chantay Jensen, Ramiro Martinez, Anthony Troche, Deborah Whitt)
This team addressed how students can learn to be active advocates for their peers, particularly in terms of serving on a school organizational team. The team recommended the creation of a Student Leadership Institute in which student members of SOTs would learn the tools necessary to identify areas for growth or change, craft solutions, and persuade stakeholders. In so doing, these students would be challenged to think outside perceived norms of what student leadership should look like.
- Igniting Hearts, Passions, and Futures of At-Risk Freshmen (Heather McCombs, Katherine McShea, Mitzi Tolzin Durham, Christiane Schau)
This team focused on the academic challenges that students might face when transitioning from middle to high school. The team recommended that high schools establish the IGNITE program, a semester-long program during which students in grade 9 explore self-efficacy, personal leadership skills, community service, and opportunities to explore learning in areas they are passionate about.
- Engaging Students with SWAG (Social Wellness Academic Goals) (Cindy Iberri, Toya Roberts, Michael Sankuer, Shannon Taylor)
This team addressed the lack of middle-school-level interventions to identify and address students’ social and academic needs, relative to interventions available at the high-school level. The team recommended a pilot program at Brown Junior High School titled SWAG, or social wellness and academic goals, an advisory or elective class for middle school students to learn about study and social wellness skills and connect with community mentors. The team also recommended that this program be scaled districtwide if the pilot program is successful.
- Closing the Achievement Gap by Increasing Minority Male Involvement in Accelerated Courses (Louise Campbell, Matthew Friedman, Clarissa Reed)
This team examined the achievement gap that male Hispanic and African American students face. The team recommended that CCSD middles schools establish cohort-based programs that, beginning in grade 6, propel students to the pathway of accelerated coursework and teach study, work balance, and organizational skills to be successful.
- Teacher Leadership Roles: Bringing Professionalism to the Education Profession (Gina Vallari, Ruth Kryk)
This team addressed how schools can formally establish and recognize teachers for their school leadership roles. The team recommended that CCSD create a teacher leadership structure that includes hybrid FTE positions, fellowships and externships to develop leadership skills, and opportunities for teachers to formally take on leadership responsibilities in school management as part of their duties.
- Teacher Health and Wellness (Nina Jacobi, Michael Lee, Jen Loescher, Kirstin Maki, Kerry Treichel)
This team explored the effects of stress on educators and how such stress affects their work with students and relationships with colleagues. To address this, the team recommended providing mindfulness opportunities for CCSD teachers through multiple means, including teacher trainers who would provide mindfulness sessions at sites, and online resources for mindfulness and self-care.
- Streamlining the Process to Get Educators More Informed and Involved in Education Policy in Nevada (Lucas Finney, Kristie Peterson, Jana Pleggenkuhle, Angie Zobrak)
This team examined how educators can overcome barriers to sharing their ideas and perspectives with state policymakers. The team surveyed teachers from 12 local elementary, middle, and high schools, and found that a majority of teachers did not feel informed about education bills in the legislature but would benefit from being more informed about opportunities to engage. To address this, the team created a website – What Teachers Fight For, Nevada – as a central resource to learn more about bills affecting education in the legislature and to find contact information for lawmakers.