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Coaching Teachers to Success

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Staff development teachers in the Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools are coaches, mentors, and on-site resources for classroom teachers. Many bring years of teaching experience and a desire to help their peers do the job. Included: A description of how staff development teachers help classroom teachers.

Two staff development teachers in the Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools told Education World they relish their roles as coaches and mentors and enjoy collaborating with classroom teachers. Montgomery County assigns a staff development teacher to each school.

"I don't set myself up as an expert on anything; I try to ask coaching questions," said Joan Mory, staff development teacher at Lois P. Rockwell Elementary School. "What I knew I had to do in the beginning was make it clear my role was not evaluative."

School-Based
Staff Development

Read how several schools are using school-based staff development in an accompanying article, Schools Bring Professional Development In-House.

Mory started working as a staff development teacher five years ago, after spending 20 years as a special education and reading teacher. She also teaches a graduate course at Western Maryland University. "This has been a good way to marry my interests in kid and adult education."

When Mory gets to school each day, she spends time planning with the third, fourth, and fifth grade teams.

She also gathers resources for teachers and works with new teachers on implementing curriculum, models lessons, and team-teaches. Mory's day also might include meeting with a new teacher about a student issue, observing a student, preparing for conferences, or preparing to teach a lesson.

Reviewing data also is a major component of her work. "A large part of my job is using data to adjust curriculum," Mory said. "I try to do a task analysis of student responses to see if errors on an exam could be because students misinterpreted something."

Her presence also adds planning and professional development time for teachers. "It's a chance for them to evaluate progress and plan the curriculum."

Assigning a staff development teacher to every school gives the program consistency and depth. "This works well because of the decision to have a teacher in each school -- I spend a lot of time evaluating programs," she said. "The goal is to involve teachers in decision-making."

BEING THAT HELPING HAND

Tom Gillard, staff development teacher at Julius West Middle School, tries to be the resource person he wished he had, particularly as a new classroom teacher.

"I rarely had a chance to see how others worked, or to plan with other teachers," said Gillard, who spent 27 years as a high school and middle school English teacher. "That gives you a different view."

"When I started teaching, there was only one seasoned teacher, and that was the department head. Other people also were new, so I couldn't go to them to collaborate and plan. And it's very difficult to go to your supervisor. You are not going to say you're about to make a mistake. I could have used some support with parents and student issues; and it's nice to get a fresh look at things. A neutral party can provide a good look at things."

Being able to teach adults and stay connected to the classroom attracted Gillard to the job. "I do like the opportunity to help people get better at what they do. It's nice to be part of teacher growth, and to help new teachers. I'm someone in a supportive role."

Gillard also tries to match up teachers who might be able to help each other. "I show people what other teachers are doing down the hall."

Some of the topics with which teachers seek help are classroom management, curriculum, and time management. He also meets regularly with the principal, and his work is tied into the school's development plan.

For Gillard, the position has allowed him to expand his reach as an educator. "For five years, I've been learning and growing in this position," Gillard said. "It's been a revival for me. It's allowed me to use what I learned over the years."

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