HOUSTON – Oct. 8, 2018 – The district’s first designated day of professional development for the 2018-19 school year gave thousands of teachers and campus staff the opportunity to become students themselves, learning everything from classroom management to customer service.
“We were very excited about the participation and enthusiasm we saw throughout the day,” said Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Rodney Watson. “This is a great start to the school year and gives us a lot of momentum as we plan for our next full day of trainings in November.”
Professional development for teachers is a key focus for the district this year as it works to improve student outcomes through targeted trainings for educators. This school year marks the fourth year of the district’s strategic plan EVERY CHILD 2020 and is officially known as the LIFT Year.
With the LIFT Year placing an emphasis on expanding best practices, the district is embarking on a cohesive approach to its teacher training program, using the proven methods of Get Better Faster and Teach Like a Champion.
Under that umbrella, the district created a new workforce development department to oversee and implement those teaching strategies across the district. Known as TeachUp Spring, the effort is well underway, with not only planned professional development days throughout the year, but classroom-specific trainings at every campus.
“Our goal is to make sure all our teachers get the support and development they need to perform at the highest levels in the classroom,” said Lupita Hinojosa, chief of school leadership and student support services. “There is nothing more important to student achievement than the quality of the teacher in the classroom, and TeachUp Spring is about boosting student outcomes.”
The effort drew praise at a recent workshop of the Board of Trustees, who got to hear firsthand from principals and coaches about their work to date.
“We like to think of ourselves as a LIFT army,” said Development Specialist Monea Beene.
Over the summer, campus coaches received intensive training on how to provide effective feedback to teachers and implement methodologies used in Get Better Faster and Teach Like a Champion, such as the scripted “I do,” the threshold practice and the strong voice technique.
“We can see a difference in the way coaches prepare teachers,” said Cooper Elementary Principal Lettie Gonzalez about the coaches. “They have a clearly defined role, their time is sacred and they focus strictly on working with the teachers.”
In the past, campus coaches sometimes got pulled into other administrative duties. Now they can focus entirely on growing teachers, which is what their role is designed to do.
Superintendent Watson acknowledged that this year’s emphasis on teacher development has not come without challenges — noting that some teachers have expressed frustration and stress about the required trainings.
“Change is hard,” Watson said. “And we understand and appreciate all of the work our teachers are doing in and outside of the classroom. We’re going to be learning and growing alongside our teachers so that we can move the district forward. Our students deserve the very best from all of us.”
Cooper Literacy Coach Kathy Cromwell said any initial teacher reluctance that existed has been replaced by enthusiasm as they work together, develop trust and see meaningful changes in their instructional techniques. She noted that most educators are passionate about learning or they wouldn’t be teachers in the first place.
“As a teacher, when you feel like you’re done learning, it’s probably time to retire,” she said.