City School educators to be featured in state training video

Published 10:22 am Thursday, January 22, 2015

West Side Teaching Video E

Teachers in the Elizabethton City School system soon will be adding adults to their student rolls.
These aren’t just any adults. The ECS teachers will share their teaching skills and tips with other educators throughout Tennessee.
Elizabethton was among three school Tennessee systems surveyed and filmed by Lisa Coons, Tennessee deputy director of instructional leadership and support. The state will use the film in training sessions and workshops for other Tennessee teachers. Most of Coon’s visit Tuesday was centered at West Side Elementary.
Interim ECS superintendent Corey Gardenhour said Coons toured the school system and observed the teachers’ instructional practices using the Response to Intervention program, specifically those in reading and math. She then made a video of some of these practices to use in training sessions in the future.
“They are all so dedicated to insuring student success,” Coons said. “We heard about the principals, teachers, learning coaches and the work they are doing, and we want to share that with other systems.”
Because Gardenhour implemented the RTI program before it was state-mandated, Elizabethton teachers are “ahead of the game,” reading interventionist Tabitha Wandell said.
The Tennessee Board of Education mandated the Response to Intervention program be in all schools beginning in 2014, but ECS started teaching with the program six years ago when it was first discussed as a future education mandate.
“It is exciting for us to be recognized like this,” Wandell said. “We have been working with this for six years, so for other schools to be looking to us for advice is amazing. For the teachers, it is exciting that their hard work has been recognized.”
West Side Elementary Principal John Wright described it as a “big deal” for the ECS teachers to be involved in videos that would be used for statewide teacher training.
“I’ve been to several of these summits and workshops where they have used training tools like this,” Wright said. “When people want to know what you are doing because it works, that is satisfying. The teachers work so hard at this and it is good for them to be appreciated for what they do.”
When RTI was first introduced, some school systems were a little hesitant to embrace the learning system because they felt they would be losing classroom instructional time, Wright said. Elizabethton teachers became more eager to use RTI practices when they saw how much progress students were making in their lessons, he said.
“They can see the students are learning more and they are progressing,” Wright said. “You can teach all day, but if the students are not learning, then it is lost time.”
Through the RTI program, interventionists, or coaches, work with teachers to assess the students’ learning styles to determine whether the students are progressing as they should and retaining the information they have learned. The students then are given time either in the classroom or with interventionists to go over what they have covered in class.
During her visit Tuesday, Coons observed West Side’s fourth-grade teachers in their classrooms. She stopped in at Tammy Markland’s class, where the students were divided into small groups to discuss a story they had read recently for class.
From there, Coons went to Laura Blevins’ class, where students used tablets to work on math problems. The final stop on the classroom tour was Amanda Righter’s class, where students worked on developing plot lines for stories they were writing.
After talking with and observing the teachers, Coons set out to record some of the information she gathered.
Coons credited the ECS administrative staff’s support and the teachers’ abilities for their progress with the RTI program.
“I want to share all of the hard work and success they are having so others can know it is possible,” Coons said. “I will be sharing their visions, their stories and advice. These teachers are the Maseratis on the highway. They are working way ahead of others.”
The ECS’s recognition for their work with the RTI program didn’t end when Coons left. Gardenhour will be representing the school system at a panel next week where he will discuss the accomplishments of the school system with other education leaders.
“I will be sharing the best of our knowledge with the rest of the state,” he said. “It feels great that the teachers are being recognized. They live it everyday and are passionate about what they do.”

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