Over the summer, many of the teachers at Pioneer Central came together to work on designing their curriculum, improving instruction and creating common assessments. All of them deserve recognition for the work they accomplished, but the teachers in 5th grade really caught my attention. Not only did they re-design their common core math units, but they consistently displayed the qualities of a great team. As a group, they set clear and demanding performance goals. Each of their math units include “big ideas”, essential questions, Common Core Standards, goal sheets, problem sets, exit tickets, student note sheets, power vocabulary and “I can” statements. They incorporate Thoughtful Education tools and strategies and use a combination of direct instruction and gradual release to help their students learn together and succeed independently.
Their work environment was comfortable and relaxed. I witnessed several discussions in which everyone participated and it was obvious that the teachers felt comfortable expressing their feelings as well as their ideas. There was laughter as well as serious moments when disagreements occurred, but in the end everyone worked together and the group produced student workbooks that will be shared and used in all of the Grade 5 classrooms. “Our job is to teach students how to think, and not just put a workbook in front of them” states Julie Gates . . . “Everyone is humble and everyone gives ideas. It makes you want to work for your team, when you are supported”. Colby Rehrauer added “There is so much to do, and it’s always changing . . . you have to be unselfish – you have to be willing to share. We are professionals. We are in it together.”
The 5th grade team is made up of Julie Gates, Michelle Kline, Jessica Kamats, Colby Rehrauer, (all pictured above) as well as Eric Kramer and Jessica Kleinschmidt. In addition, Yvonne Gillette and Ellen Farrell will assist in the classroom as Special Education consultant teachers, and RTI specialists Stephanie Jordan (math), Mark Mitrowski and Cheri Ludwick (ELA) will be working with struggling students.
By Mary Morris, CA BOCES and Pioneer Central School