Pendleton schools encourage teachers to teach teachers
Pendleton School District is encouraging its teachers to take a page from fellow staff members this school year.
For more efficient training, Pendleton is joining 23 other Oregon school districts in the Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success program, which puts teachers in instructing roles with other teachers.
The program was designed last school year, said Athena Nelson, part-time Washington Elementary School third grade teacher and program coordinator, and aims to improve evaluation, expand career paths, aid professional development and explore new compensation models.
Teachers can lead workshops at in-services or independently, or lead book studies, for example. Nelson hopes to have four teachers develop workshops based on things such as general instruction improvement and tips for specific subject areas at the October 12 teacher in-service.
“We’re hoping (to have) the opportunity for people ... to move up without moving out,” Nelson said.
Any teacher who wants to run an educational project needs to propose it to the CLASS committee for approval, said Nelson, who has taught in Pendleton schools for 11 years. She said the district will compensate teachers for leading the training with stipends, and giving masters credits from Eastern Oregon University to teachers who receive training. Assistant Superintendent Tricia Mooney will facilitate the credits, and is working with the university to have teachers participate in it this school year.
The program was started with a $30,000 grant from Foundations for a Better Oregon, said Michelle Jones, director of business services, and stipends and all training projects will be funded by a $260,000 Oregon Department of Education grant. Teachers will have to pay for their college credits, but anyone who coordinates a training project will be compensated for doing work outside their contract terms.
Teachers are typically compensated for this kind of work at a rate of $25.73 an hour, Jones said. The committee will have to find other funding for next year, which could come from another organization, or possibly the school’s budget.
To improve evaluation, the school district hired a retired contracted educator from another Oregon school district to train the 18 teachers at the September 7 in-service. All the district’s six schools now have three teachers trained in employee evaluation.
To improve professional development, teachers participate in “learning walks” — taking half a school day to observe other teachers to learn from their instruction techniques. Judy Chesnut, a contracted retired elementary principal from Milton-Freewater Unified School District, currently organizes these evaluation days, but Nelson said teachers will eventually fill this role. This also allows them to assume more district leadership.
Every school has teacher-led professional learning communities organized by grade-level at the elementary schools and by department at the high school and middle schools that meet before school on Wednesdays. This unites teachers to collaborate on common areas of improvement. The district has had these cohorts for three years, but this is the first time teachers are leading them.
“I think teachers felt pretty empowered that they were being instructed on this by their peers,” Nelson said. “And the goal is to have 100 percent of people involved in some CLASS project initiative (by the end of the year).”
Mark Christensen, a Pendleton High School physical education and health teacher and CLASS committee member, said the project offers an organized way for the school to utilize the training resources it has available in its teachers. This may save the school district money on paying for teachers to travel elsewhere for training.
“Now it’s the teachers doing the planning, and this is what we need accomplished,” said Christensen, who started teaching in Pendleton in 1986. “It goes back to us making that happen.”
This article originally appeared in the Sept. 18, 2012, edition of the East Oregonian, with story and photo by reporter Chris Rizer. It has been posted to this web site with permission from the East Oregonian.