Monday, April 27, 2015

Governor & Lt. Governor visit Benton Community Schools

“You guys are doing it right” – Branstad, Reynolds praise Benton TLC program

by JMAGDEFRAU on APRIL 16, 2015
Governor and Lt. Governor visited Atkins Center as part of teacher leadership listening tour
Star Press Union editor
Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds were greeted by a sign from Atkins Elementary students when they visited Benton Community on Wednesday, April 15.
Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds were greeted by a sign from Atkins Elementary students when they visited Benton Community on Wednesday, April 15.
ATKINS – The Teacher Leadership and Compensation System is in its first year in Iowa. It is the centerpiece of education reform approved in 2013. Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds stopped at the Atkins Elementary Center at Benton to see how it was going.
They came away impressed.
Benton is one of 39 schools in the state to use this program. The leadership team gave a presentation on how the system is working so far, and what they plan to do with in the future.
Benton Board President Dan Voss welcomed Branstad and Reynolds. He said, “Continually, we hear success stories about students and the staff in this district.” He was glad they were at the school to hear Benton’s story.
Branstad appreciated the opportunity to hear first-hand of how Benton was doing. He said when the reform legislation was signed in 2013 they began a journey to transform education in Iowa. Benton is in the first phase of this, with two more phases to come. Once it is phased in, it will become permanent and be a part of the school aid program.
“There is broad agreement that we must do everything we can to restore Iowa’s leadership position in student achievement,” he said, providing kids the skills they need for the jobs of the future.
“You are truly on the front lines of Iowa’s sweeping, systemic approach to improving instruction and raising achievement by better utilizing teacher expertise and collaboration,” Branstad said. The system also helps drive other reforms, he said, including increased literacy.
He liked that the program is designed to meet local needs.
Reynolds related educators play a critical role in the lives of children.
“It’s important that we do everything we can to attract and retain really highly effective teachers in the teaching system,” Reynolds said. The system helps do this and is changing the culture of schools with more opportunities to work together.
While it is taking great teachers out of the classroom, they can assure there is a great teacher in every classroom, by having the TLC team be mentors and models to other teachers, she said.
Branstad and Reynolds commented throughout Benton’s presentation on the program.
Dr. Jo Prusha, Benton Community curriculum director, led the presentation. She stressed, “The best resources that we have are each other.” Tapping into that knowledge base allows the school to work smarter, and not harder.
Benton started planning last summer with Dr. Ryan Wise, deputy director at the Iowa Department of Education. Branstad related that Wise introduced them at a meeting earlier that day, and told Branstad of Benton, “You guys are doing it right.”
Prusha said Benton has a great connection with Wise to make sure it happens in the right way. They also have a great relationship with Grant Wood AEA.
Branstad was encouraged to hear the collaboration goes beyond the district to the state and the local AEA.
Team members explained their foundation work, action plan, collaborative learning and data teams, positive behavior, prioritizing the standards and common formative assessments to gauge how they are doing in meeting the needs of students.
They also explained the role of a model teacher and instructional coaches. Collaboration and working with one voice in the district were keys in areas they wanted to improve, such as technology.
Every 30 days the staff is surveyed to provide feedback and monitor the process, as well as, plan the next steps. Teachers have become more willing to meet with the coaches. Data are also used to improve instruction. Coach Alex Olson said, “This has really had a big impact on giving students what they need and meeting their needs where they’re at.”
The data-driven approach, Branstad said, is what medical education is moving to as well. He was former president of Des Moines University. “It provides better outcomes, whether in medical school or elementary school,” Branstad observed.
Olson agreed, saying, “With the data changing so frequently, we want to meet the students’ needs as soon as possible.”
Prusha said the school is data driven, but student focused.
The team also wants students to look at data. Through profile sheets, elementary students can see how their scores are, and goals are set for each testing period. They hope continue this at the middle and high school levels.
Branstad liked that students have their goals. He said he sets his own goals and it’s a great motivator. “Different kids learn differently, but having specific goals really makes a lot of sense,” he said.
Profile sheets are also shared with parents.
Another key is using social media to get information to all of the stakeholders through blogs, Facebook and Twitter. It’s no longer just pencil-and-paper communication or email.
They are still working on communication through face-to-face and social media. Another goal is helping with realignment of the elementary centers. They want to shift to a student-centered coaching philosophy or making sure their work is impacting the students.
Prusha added the school needs to plant seeds for what students will need when they graduate. “We’re not just preparing them for college. We’re preparing them for life,” Prusha stressed.
Reynolds said she’d like to see career opportunities tied into the system and student goals. Branstad said there is a career readiness assessment available so students can see where they are.
“A lot of jobs of today didn’t exist a few years ago,” Branstad pointed out. He added, “A lot of the jobs of tomorrow don’t exist today.” He said that’s why they need lifelong learners.
Coach Lois Deerberg said teachers are encouraged to be learners. She’d also like to have teachers become leaders.
“I’m very impressed with the culture of collaboration that you’ve developed here in a relatively short period of time,” Branstad said. He was also impressed the school was using communication tools that were not available on the past. “You’re on the cutting edge of doing this,” he told the team.
Branstad said he wants to share Benton’s story with others as they embark on their journey. Reynolds said she loved the energy, passion and engagement shown by the team.
School board member Pat Stepanek pointed out this is not an “8 to 5” process and the dedication of the group is outstanding.
Branstad replied that he and Reynolds both have daughters that are teachers. He said, “We know the really great teachers put in long hours and they care deeply about their kids. They want to help the ones that are struggling. This gives an opportunity for collaboration so you’re not all in it by yourself. You’ve got other people who are there.”

Friday, April 10, 2015

I Appreciate.... Thoughts from a Veteran Teacher


Reflections from a Veteran Teacher   

What do I appreciate?
I appreciate working at the same school for thirty years and loving it.
I appreciate kids who say thank you and work hard, spending long hours practicing.
I appreciate meeting the parents who show up for parent-teacher conferences, attend activities, sporting events, and musicals, and say thanks for working with their kids.
I appreciate custodians who clean up the messes we make each day with a smile and a kind word as we leave the building.
I appreciate being lead by a school board who is not afraid to make the tough decisions to keep a district strong.
I appreciate having the support of a superintendent who cares about what is best for kids.
I appreciate collaborating with a team of teacher leaders who listen to each other, laugh together, push themselves to be better every day, show support and encouragement when situations become frustrating, are not afraid to try new things, can work hard and long without complaining, and who really care about each other.
I appreciate administrators who listen and do their best to support and encourage, who take hiring new teachers seriously, and who back up a teacher who has discipline issues with a student.
I appreciate principals who have an open door policy and stop what they are doing to listen, even when they have had a busy or rough day.
I appreciate working with staff who care about kids.
I appreciate teacher friends who are excited to eat in the lounge and share war stories over lunch.
I appreciate staff who invite me into their rooms to collaborate and create rubrics so kids can be more successful.
I appreciate staff who sit through professional development and say, “Thanks. I learned something today.”
I appreciate teachers who ask why, and challenge my thinking, so I can challenge them in return.
I appreciate teachers who step up to be leaders.
I appreciate new teachers, many of them former students, who come back to teach with me so I can watch them grow into leaders and parents and school board members who care.
I appreciate working in the same school district for thirty years and loving it.
I appreciate being a Benton Community Bobcat.

Lois Deerberg 4/8/15

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Moving into Year 2 of #BCTLT

John Hattie  in his research entitled Visible Learning has given educators much to reflect and act upon in regards to what factors have the most impact on student learning.  

In this video he reflects on how his thinking has changed on student reported grades and how important it is that we have high expectations for our students and not let them settle for anything less than what they are capable of.  

Much like Hattie changed his thinking as he learned and reflected, moving into year two and planning for #BCTLT,  we knew we wanted to refine the application and interview process @BentonCSD for teacher leadership positions.  As we planned for and thought about the application and interview refinement process, we bounced an idea around with the administrative team we learned about from @LionLeaders

#BCTLT, along with LinnMar and other school districts, had shared some of their interview processes at the Effective Hiring Practices workshop hosted by @IowaSEA and @sai_iowa in February.  LinnMar required a presentation from each candidate being interviewed for their teacher leadership positions.  

LinnMar's idea was for each candidate to showcase their abilities within the job description they were interviewing with some type of presentation.  We added a small tweak from LinnMar to our presentation requirements and asked each candidate to share how they would "value add" to the #BCTLT.  

This change was one that threw some of our potential candidates a curve ball.  After opening up our application process, our superintendent, @GZittergruen shared with me the following:   "The quick initial reaction is "what does this mean" and "what do you want to see"!  Seems like value added may have more of a context in the business community than the educational community?  According to the Urban Dictionary website:  value added means:  A business euphemism for "the reason I'd like you to think I'm useful."

Fast forward a few weeks, with interviews completed, the review council was blow away by the depth of reflection and the level of "usefulness" our teachers shared during the interview process.   

As we move into year two with TLC implementation knowing we are on a journey of continuous improvement.

Below are portions of some of the presentations shared with us.  Thanks to those who were willing to not only share with the review council, but also for our blog.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Kim Fisher (#BCTLT Model Teacher) Shares With Us...

Positive Post-It Tuesday and a New Challenge

If you follow me (@Mrs_KFisher) on Twitter you will see that I am pretty active in #edchats and connecting with other educators and education leaders globally.  It has been addicting for me!  My husband just shakes his head when I have my earbuds in listening to a podcast, or when I am feverishly typing in the #edchat of the hour (my favorite is #iaedchat on Sunday nights at 8:00, thanks +Dan Butler +Jimmy Casas and other moderators!).  Ryan is very supportive and even will dive into topics with me when the chat is over!
Last weekend I was thumbing through Twitter when I read an education challenge posted by +Tony Sinanis (he is an elementary principal at #Cantiague in New York).  Obviously I have never been given the opportunity of meeting Tony, but I heard him speak on #iaedchat LIVE and starting stalking his Twitter feed.  What I stumbled upon was this, Positive Post-It Tuesday!  So I emailed all my colleagues at Van Horne Elementary and some other Twitter faithful ( +Jen Bange +Andrea Townsley) to see if anyone wanted to join!  In true Bobcat spirit the entire VHE staff, Jen, and Andrea joined!  We had post-it notes and positivity flowing everywhere!  Students were writing feverishly, staff were sneaking around so we wouldn't see who left anonymous notes for each other, buckets were not only filled; but were overflowing!  It was amazing!  The students were talking about it with each other at recess, staff were tweeting during lunch, parents were starting to respond with stories they were hearing from home!  Such great energy.

KF kinders working hard on their post-its!

My door, it is even exciting to get them as a teacher!

We put them on student lockers so we were surprised at recess to read our special guest's note!

Mrs. Bridgewater's student lockers...(side-note, aren't her locker tags the coolest?!?!) 

I walked away from school this week feeling very positive and recharged to keep pushing forward these next few months.  But I realized something very sad too throughout this challenge.  We don't spread the positivity enough.  I hear teachers saying great things to kids, but does it outweigh the redirections we give?  I hear students say things to their friends, but how about the new student that started last week...has his bucket been filled lately?  The biggest realization I felt and heard others comment on was that teachers don't fill each other's enough.  We talk all the time about our next endeavor, our reflections on how to make student learning more impactful the next time we teach a lesson, but when are we ever patting each other or ourself on the back?  This needs to happen every day...not just March 31st.  So my new mission for myself is to keep Positive Post-It Tuesday alive and well every day with myself, my students, and my colleagues (and probably my family for being so supportive) because I see how infectious positivity can be!
If you are new to Twitter, or are an educator that would like to start feeling the passionate charge of these education challenges, I encourage you to join in with the #LoveMySchoolDay challenge on Friday, April 10 ( @JohnWink90 ).  For more details check out this link #LoveMySchoolDay

Thursday, April 2, 2015

My Leadership Story

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What is leadership?  Are you born to lead?  Can anyone lead?  As part of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation Grant, which Benton Community received this school year, I was fortunate enough to be selected to fulfill a leadership role.  However, I don't believe it takes a title to become a leader.  I think leadership can evolve from your desire to excel as a professional.  As a Basketball Coach, I have the privilege of meeting great leaders who inspire and drive their team.  As an Instructional Coach, I have the honor of working with great leaders that motivate students within their classroom.  As a Professional Develop Leader, I am blessed to work with great leaders who model professionalism within our district.  I am surrounded by great leaders that I try to emulate and learn from to improve myself.  So, what sets you apart?  What makes you unique that others might want to follow your lead?  I have found this year that many teachers don't view themselves as leaders.  They think what they do within their classroom is their job.  They don't view themselves as special or exemplar.  They do what they need to do to help students.

More than anything else this year, I have found that teachers need to see themselves in a different light.  Teachers need to realize the special qualities they bring to the table and have the confidence to share that with their colleagues.  Within you, there is something that drives your work.  We wouldn't be in education if we weren't inspired to be here.  What is your passion?  What do you bring to the table?  What sets your classroom apart from everyone else?  To lead, you need to answer these questions and then have the confidence to share.  

I think my leadership story began when my first principal at Benton Community, Mr. Gary Zittergruen, showed me that I had something to offer.  He challenged me to share my partner activities with others and helped push me to learn more.  I feel there were many principals after Mr. Zittergruen that continued to instill confidence in my work and challenged me to keep growing.  Principals can develop leaders.  However, don't wait for your principal to inspire you to lead.  You have what it takes!  Find what you do well, challenge yourself to grow in that area, and then share your knowledge with others.  Sharing is the first step in leading.  Start small, share a new idea this week with one other person.  Continue to push yourself out of your comfort zone and next week post your idea on social media.  Set the goal to share your gift with 10 people by the end of the month.  It won't take long.  People will hear what you say, learn from your knowledge and start seeing you in a different light.  The leader is there within you and you just need to share it!