A team of teachers, specialists and administrators at Mayflower High School (MHS) have come together this school year to make an impact on students that is “altering for MHS,” team member and Mayflower Public Schools District Math Specialist Veronica Hebard told the Log Cabin on Monday.
The group, an Instructional Leadership Team (ILT), came together after the district started National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) training last year. The NIET, training that is delivered with the support of the Arkansas Rural Educator Network and the Walton Family Foundation, has served 25 rural school districts in the state since it was introduced last year. Mayflower, as previously reported in the Log Cabin in November, is one of those schools.
The team, made up of teachers Heather Malone, Andrew Harrsion, Courtney McSpadden and Sabrena Thacker, specialists Hebard and Lynn Raney and MHS Principal T.J. Slough, meet three days a week “to look at data, [consider] next steps and conduct learning walks,” Hebard said. In addition to ILT meetings, each team member meets with MHS content area teams (CATs) “to implement new learning.”
“The ILT teachers have invested time in trying new strategies in their classrooms to pilot the new learning,” Hebard said. “They bring back student work samples and videos to share with their CATS. Through this process, ILT teachers are able to discuss what went well and where there were issues before asking the rest of the faculty to implement these strategies.”
Since the group started meeting, Hebard said it’s created an environment of collaboration among school staff. Team members visit classrooms and complete learning logs that help the ILT collect data that guides them in providing MHS teachers with “strength-based training,” Hebard said, that directly applies to their classrooms and teaches them new things that they can put into practice.
“As the Math Specialist, the work of the ILT has deepened the ongoing work the math teams have participated in the past few years while implementing a new curriculum,” Hebard said. “It aligns to the values and beliefs of our work.”
Teachers both on and off the team have felt the positive effects of the ILT’s work.
“The Leadership Teams that we have established have had a huge impact on my teaching,” Malone, a Spanish Teacher said. “I am looking deeper into my standards and I am trying to plan meaningful lessons that will leave my students wanting to know more. I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to discuss with my fellow educators about what works and what doesn’t work, and most importantly, why something works or doesn’t work.
Harrison, a history teacher and sports coach, also said the ILT and CATs have had a significant impact on his teaching.
“These teams have helped me provide a better learning environment for my students,” Harrison said. “My growth as an educator has been accomplished through teaching me new reflective strategies, co-planning, data analysis and collective efficacy. The end result of this growth has truly created student-centered instruction.”
And the impact of the ILT isn’t just being felt by teachers from a qualitative perspective. Hebard said math scores have gone up this semester since the ILT started meeting, as are informational text scores that deal with students’ ability to analyze. The impact on students has been great, Hebard and other team members said.
“Because the teachers have been working together to determine the expectations for student work, the students have increased the quality of their work,” Raney, the district’s english and language arts coordinator, said. “I am proud to be a part of this group of hard-working educators and students.”
From an administrative perspective, Slough has also seen the impact the ILT has had on teachers and students at his school, saying that “our ILT process has created opportunities for teacher leadership in our buildings.”
“Students have become very aware of what we are trying to change and accomplish in our building,” Slough said. “Because every teacher is on the same page with our building needs, students are meeting the expectations established by our staff. We are seeing these results in not only testing data, but the improved work samples from the students.”
Hebard’s excitement for the ILT and CATs teams and the impact they’re having on students is clear. Seeing her district succeed is also personal for her. She graduated from MHS in 1995 and has since had a 24-year career in education.
The ILT and CATs teams have “changed the culture” of MHS for the better, Hebard said.
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