Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Small District + Big Goals

Today's post is contributed by Carrie Sand.

Small District + Big Goals = Varied Roles for a Literacy Coach: 
How to provide effective and efficient coaching when time is tight?

Another school year means tweaks to and changes in my role as a Literacy Coach. Depending on the semester, my work as the District Literacy Coach (4K-12) may also be in addition to teaching classes of intervention and high school English classes. Such is the schedule of a small district employee; no longer does the budget allow for single area experts, but calls for teachers and coaches who are adaptable, flexible, and knowledgeable about best teaching practices for all students.

While I love the wide range of experiences, students, and situations I encounter within the scope of my job, and the mental demands always keep me challenged and sharp, I am constantly think about new and improved ways I can be more effective and efficient as a coach. As I reflect on the upcoming year, I think about goals that will help me continue to develop and grow. This year, these goals include:

  • What formats best allow me to deliver professional development that is meaningful, engaging, and timely?
  • How can I create a system of observation and beneficial feedback when I am limited on time and responsible for a large amount of classrooms?
  • In what ways can I help implement a district-wide standards based universal curriculum, delivered with best instructional practices in literacy, which ensures all students an equitable literacy experience?
  • How can I support the continued development and use of formative and summative data to drive meaningful instructional decisions and intervention options?

Like many, I am striving towards reaching big goals on a small budget (of both time and money)! For this reason, I  am going to spend my year reflecting on effective and efficient coaching practices. Over the course of the year, I invite you along on my journey as I try out new ideas, share successes, and reflect on improvements for next time. I look forward to the adventure ahead.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

We Can Do It!

Today's post was contributed by Jaimie Howe.

I believe today’s current reality for most educators is a tremendous overwhelmed feeling.  With the significant amount of initiatives across the state encompassed with an extreme sense of urgency to prepare all students for post-secondary success, teachers are worn-out.  

For example, take a peek at the chart below.  I wanted to have a visual showing the changes teachers have been up against over the last few years in education.  These are new initiatives that have happened in my district over the last 4 years.  I’m sure I am missing some, but this still clearly shows what we as educators have been faced with.

-New ELA Curriculum
-New Master Schedule
·   (to provide more opportunities for collaboration)
-Monthly ELA Collaboration
-WTW Inventory
-Common Assessments
-New Standards Based ELA Report Card
-Intervention Block
-2x week grade Level Collaboration (1 math/1 ELA)
-Data Roll Through Meetings 4x per year
-Universal Coaching (K-1)
-New Writing Curriculum
-PALS (1st)
-Progress Monitoring
-New Math Curriculum
-Educator Effectiveness
- PALS (2nd)
-New Standards Based Math Report Card

This chart alone indicates a total of 24 NEW initiatives in just four years.

So how do we manage all of this?  Believe me, it is hard work.  24 new initiatives in 4 years is in no way ideal nor recommended, but we can do it.

Just like we want our students to do, we need to start looking at the connections each of these initiatives have and how they fit together. When we treat everything as it’s own entity, it IS overwhelming. Stop, take a breath, and find the connection between all of the initiatives and in turn it will give you reason and purpose for following them.  When we understand the purpose for why we do things, it makes it so much easier. So, whenever I am faced with a new initiative, I always ask myself, “How does this fit in with the whole RtI framework?”  Every single time, I am able to place the initiative into one of the framework categories:High Quality Instruction, Collaboration, or Balanced Assessment and then the initiative starts to make so much more sense and has a purpose.

As a literacy coach, we need to remember to make these connections for teachers when we are introducing a new skill, strategy, or way of teaching.  When we have purpose for what we do, it makes it all worthwhile.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Welcome (back) to The Literacy Booth

Today's post is brought to you by Barb Novak.

Welcome (back) to The Literacy Booth: A Place for Wisconsin Coaches.

I am so very glad you're here.

We literacy coaches? We're a unique bunch. We're teachers, but we are also mentors. We are coaches, but we we may also be interventionists. We are readers of research. Wait. We are - more than likely - readers of just about anything you put in front of us. We cultivate relationships. We are passionate about literacy. We advocate for teachers; we advocate for students. We are masters at facilitating meetings and designing professional learning opportunities. We are leaders. We are listeners. We are learners. And, those are just the things that we are in our professional lives. . . 

We cannot do this important work alone. We need a place to call our own, and that's just what The Literacy Booth strives to be - a place for literacy coaches.

Specifically, The Literacy Booth is an online professional learning community especially for literacy coaches.

The Literacy Booth will be filled with reflections, practical tips, and conversations built upon the work of eight Wisconsin literacy coaches (along with the occasional special guest) and coordinated by yours truly. 

Here's how it works (generally):
  • There will be a new post several times a week. There are no rules or specific topics; each coach writes about something that is on her mind.
  • Each post will be open to readers' comments. The conversation that happens in your comments will make this a true professional learning community. Please, please, please comment! Comment to share links to resources. Comment to ask questions. Comment to continue the conversation.
Please use the comments on this post to introduce yourself. Who are you? What's your job? What are you learning right now? What do you still want to know more about?

Bio: Jaimie Howe

Jaimie Howe is in her fourth year as a Literacy Coach at Roosevelt Elementary School in the Eau Claire Area School District. She has taught four-year old kindergarten, kindergarten, and first grade; all of which have been in Eau Claire at Roosevelt Elementary. She also teaches a graduate course at St. Mary's University of Minnesota focused on elementary reading instruction. She received her bachelor's degree from UW-Stout in Menomonie, WI and her Master's Degree in Literacy Education from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. She lives in Menomonie, WI with her husband and two young boys. When Jaimie is not taking on new opportunities, she enjoys running, scrapbooking, watching her husband's many softball tournaments, and reading to her two boys.

Bio: Bobbi Campbell

Bobbi Campbell is a Literacy Activist for the Madison Metropolitan School District. Bobbi has a passion for working collaboratively to promote and support equitable access  to high quality instruction for all of our children.

Bio: Diane Jenquin

Diane Jenquin's teaching career started in middle school science where she quickly realized that students couldn't fully enjoy science because they were struggling with reading and vocabulary. That is when Diane began to pursue her reading license. That was 23 years ago. Her siblings joke that she made a career out of getting sent to her room as a child where there was nothing to do but read!

One of Diane's most important jobs as been raising three children who are not young adults and share her passion for reading. She now has three dogs that live with her and each fit her children's personality. Diane's children, dogs, home remodeling, and design keep her busy. She also dabbles in making her own jewelry. She likes long walks on the beach, warm weather, and sunshine. Ha ha!

Five years ago, Diane took a nine credit literacy coaching class through Viterbo. With the help of two great mentors, Missy Bousley and Diane are now teaching the courses and having a blast sharing their passion and leadership skills.

Bio: Andrea Reichenberger

Andrea Reichenberger is in her third year as the Instructional Literacy Coach and 6-12 English/Language Art Coordinator for Menasha High School in the Menasha Joint School District. She has worked with students and teachers PK-12 and began her career as an elementary library media specialist and then spent the next 13 years as a middle school English/Language Arts teacher and teacher leader.  She prides herself in the professional learning network she has created as she is connected with some of the smartest people in education, not only in the Fox Valley, but also across the state. They inspire her to keep learning and to be better for our kids.  She is also a member of WSRA, ASCD, NCTE, IRA, and AWSA.

Andrea is very proud of the fact that she shares a birthday with Elvis, as she is a huge fan, but has yet to visit Graceland. Making the trip is on her bucket list. She loves to read, shop, walk/jog (more walking then jogging), and watch clever television. Andrea lives in Appleton with her husband and two tween daughters, who are also readers. Phew!

Some of Andrea’s favorite educational minds (i.e. Rock Stars and Professional Crushes)  include:  Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, Kelly Gallagher, Cris Tovani, Penny Kittle, Jim Burke, Rick Wormeli, Jeff Zwiers, Jim Knight, Peter Johnston, Doug Buehl, Sarah Brown Wessling, and Donalyn Miller. (By the end of 2015, I will have met them all!)

Bio: Carrie Sand

Carrie is a Literacy Specialist for the School District of Mishicot. Her job role includes part classroom teacher, part interventionist, part literacy coach, which in her mind is the best of all worlds. Her work with literacy includes a unique passion for the incorporation of technology, which has led to numerous speaking opportunities around the state. In 2012, as a credit to the incredible literacy work of her district, Carrie was awarded the Herb Kohl Fellowship Teaching Award. Her three most powerful reading moments were: the day her high school English teacher introduced her to e.e. cummings, the first time she ever read Freak the Mighty with her seventh grade students, and watching her two young boys discover reading.

Bio: Julie Schwartzbauer

Julie Schwartzbauer is beginning her fourth year working for Appleton Area School District as a K-2 District Literacy Coach.  She completed her undergrad work at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  She first received her Bachelor Degree in Psychology, knowing she always wanted to work with children.  Julie was later inspired by professor to pursue a career in teaching.   She received her Master's Degree in Reading from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.  Julie is currently pursuing licensure in Administration and Supervision.

After staying home to raise her family, Julie became employed by the Menasha Joint School District.  It was there that she received training in Reading Recovery and began working as a Literacy Coach.  

Now in Appleton, Julie still remains a strong advocate for Reading Recovery.  She services 16 elementary schools as a Literacy Coach and loves supporting the staff. She could not do it without her coaching colleague and supportive administrators.

Bio: Lisa Weiss

I joke that I cannot hold a job. In my 19 years in education I have had opportunities galore. I’ve been a second grade teacher, a middle school teacher, an elementary reading specialist/Title I teacher, a middle school literacy coach, a high school literacy coach, a K-12 literacy coordinator, and I currently am a secondary (6-12) literacy coordinator in the Oshkosh Area School District. Home sweet home!

It’s been a fascinating journey—risks were taken, hairs greyed, tough lessons were learned about the value I place on my philosophies and belief system around teaching and learning. I’m grateful for the struggles and successes, for the people who were in my path to pose challenges, and to those were there to support me through them. All of the situations, both good and bad contributed to the learning that has prepared me for the work I am engaged in now—and hopefully will remain in for a long time!

I can’t write about myself without writing about my unnatural love of the Fox Valley Writing Project, in which I serve as the Co-Director and the Coordinator of Professional Development. The work of the Project is much like coaching: it is exhausting, and simultaneously energizing! I credit the FVWP for the development of my professional life--bursting with gratitude over all of the opportunities and learning National Writing Project has offered me.

I am a National Board Certified Teacher in the area of reading: three year olds to adolescence. I credit the FVWP and UWO Reading Department for providing me with the knowledge, insights, and self-reflection abilities that the Boards require. This was an interesting endeavor, and one that I am glad I pursued. It was not a collaborative for me like it is for some people, but rather introspective and reflective. It required a very different type of writing than I prefer, but it was an important challenge at the time.

Speaking of writing…I want to be a writer when I grow up. I’m a magnet for odd occurrences, so I have a few memoirs in me. If only I had the time to write them…

Who knows? Perhaps one day, I can add that to my list of credentials. A girl can dream.

Bio: Heather Zimmerman

Heather Zimmerman is a literacy coach at the middle school level in the Oshkosh Area School District.  She taught sophomore English,  mass media, and journalism at the high school level for three years.  She then spent three years teaching eighth grade literacy.  Heather received her bachelors from UW-Green Bay and is currently finishing her masters at UW-Oshkosh.  She lives in Appleton with her husband, who is a principal.  They both feel strongly about the importance of a quality education so all children can succeed.  When they are not working they enjoy traveling and sporting events.  Heather also loves to find time to enjoy a good book, go to a yoga class, or complete one of her many sewing/crocheting/craft projects.

Bio: Barb Novak

Barb Novak is a literacy consultant for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Having attended public schools from kindergarten (suburban Milwaukee and Eau Claire) through college (UW-Stevens Point) and graduate degrees (UW-Oshkosh and UW-Madison), Barb is the proud product of and an advocate for Wisconsin's public school system. Prior to joining the DPI in November 2012, Barb served as a literacy coach, reading interventionist, and reading teacher. She prides herself on being a bit of a professional matchmaker by helping the incredible literacy leaders she meets throughout Wisconsin form relationships to improve professional practice. When she isn't working, Barb enjoys eating, drinking, traveling, reading, and laughing.