Coaching an aid to teachers

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
Deb Atherton, left, and Angie Linn gave USD 257 board members a report Monday evening on the district’s teacher coaching program.

Instructional coaches Deb Atherton and Angie Linn told USD 257 board members Monday night that local teachers had embraced the mentoring program.
“We hoped it would work well,” said Dr. Craig Neuenswander, superintendent of school, “and it has taken off quicker than we anticipated.”
Atherton and Linn moved to the coaching positions as part of the assimilation of teachers when LaHarpe Elementary School was closed at the end of the spring semester. They are involved with teachers in kindergarten through fifth grades, particularly newer ones.
“Teaching is tough when you go it alone,” Linn said.
“A coaching relationship provides the opportunity for reciprocity of gifts of knowledge and skill, caring and support, feedback and celebration,” she said. “The true purpose of coaching is to support teachers in improving instruction for the benefit of students.”
Emphasis is on reading and math and the two said they coached some by example, with hands-on instruction.
The coaches attended training sessions at the University of Kansas. Linn said training led them to focus “on the big four: classroom management, content planning, instruction and assessment.”
“In the coaching relationship, the people being coached are the ones in charge,” she said. “They have the agenda, the commitment and the specifics of what they want to know or learn about their skills as a professional.”
The coaching also in-cludes special education and Title I settings.
Linn said an advantage in USD 257 was that coaching wasn’t mandatory, as it was in some districts, and “teachers do not feel threatened by us and look at us as a resource, rather than an evaluator or ‘fixer.’
“We see teachers wanting to learn from each other.”

BOARD members gave their blessings for Karen Jesseph, music instructor at Jefferson Elementary School, to participate in an exchange program with teachers in China in December.
Jesseph will leave Dec. 9 and return Christmas Eve. While in China, she and about 50 teachers from elsewhere in the United States will spend eight days discussing with Chinese teachers how elementary music is taught.
More than an hour of last night’s meeting was given to executive sessions. Board members met for 50 minutes at the start of the meeting for a non-elected personnel issue and later for 15 minutes for a student matter and five minutes to discuss contract negotiations.
Neuenswander said H1N1 vaccinations of elementary students were scheduled to start Nov. 19, in evening sessions so parents could accompany their children. Middle and high schools students will be vaccinated when vaccine is available.
Absences in all schools have not been unusually high this semester, he said.
Bid specifications for replacement of the gymnasium roof at McKinley Elementary School should be ready for contractors by Monday.