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Focusing on the students

August 11, 2016
Adri Sietstra ( ,

Administrators and staff in the Webster City School District are stepping into new roles during the 2016-2017 school year. A number of new full-time and stipend positions have been created in connection with the Teacher Leadership Compensation program.

"Teacher Leadership was designed by the state originally as a grant," said Dr. Adam Zellmer, Webster City district TLC program coordinator and director or learning. "Schools have been going for the first two years that schools could implement this program by applying for a grant."

"For the 2016-2017 school year, every district in the state of Iowa has an opportunity to participate," said Zellmer. "The state legislature and the governor have made it a priority and made it a separate line item in the funding stream."

Article Photos

Pictured are Tammy Massman, Kim Schimp and Mike Kruger, all of Northeast Hamilton, and Dr. Adam Zellmer.

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to lead this program," said Zellmer. "Kids do matter most and that's why we are all here."

"This is a new program. It's going to take time to build, but we're excited about the possibilities of what this means for our students, first and foremost, and for our staff here at Webster City Community Schools," said Zellmer.

"Every school has to have an approved plan, but now every school in the state can take part," Zellmer said. "This is the first state-wide teacher leadership program in the United States, and Iowa is pushing it forward."

Fact Box

The Webster City School District also came up with five specific goals for the district.

Improve student achievement by strengthening instruction

Continue to strengthen Professional Learning Communities (PLC) by developing and supporting opportunities for teachers to learn from each other

Integrate technology within the PreK-12 curriculum

Reward professional growth and effective teaching by providing pathways for career opportunities that come with increased leadership responsibilities and involve increased compensation

Retain effective teachers by providing enhanced career opportunities

In addition to Zellmer's new job, the Webster City School District has five more full-time positions.

"These were teachers in our district who were selected by their peers and by an interview panel to be the full-time coaches for our district," said Zellmer. "We have four individual building instructional coaches who will be working in a specific building everyday. They will have no specific teaching duties, but they will be working on collaborating with teachers, working with our professional learning communities, and improving instruction."

District Technology Integrationalist Gary Scholtens, will be overseeing and helping integrate technology in grades Pre-K through 12.

Along with Scholtens, four instructional coaches will working in the Webster City School District.

"They will be working in a specific building everyday. They will have no specific teaching duties, but they will be working on collaborating with teachers, working with our professional learning communities, and improving instruction," Zellmer said.

The four instructional coaches are Rachel Chamberlin at Pleasant View, Dawn Scholtens at Sunset Heights, Michael Ross at Webster City Middle School, and Jama Hisler at Webster City High School.

Zellmer also explained that along with their duties at their individual school building, they will each be responsible for a district-wide goal.

"Each of these five people has a role outside of their main role where 20 percent of their time is going to be focused on a district focus or goal," said Zellmer.

The five areas that will be looked at by the instructional coaches in a K-12 district perspective are classroom management, positive behavior and individual supports, improving the ELL population, literacy, and mathematics.

The Teacher Leadership Compensation program also provides for several stipend positions for teachers. These teachers will work full-time, and then outside of their contract day they will be completing other roles.

Data coaches will help take district-wide assessments, state assessments, MAPS assessments, ACT testing and use the results to see what needs to be worked on at each building and throughout the district.

"They're going to be working to collaborate and crunch data and help us use data to drive our instruction," said Zellmer. "We are trying to be much more data-driven. Teaching is an art and a science and we need to make sure that that science component of teaching, that data-driven component of teaching is there."

"We want to take tests to help us make decisions on how to improve instruction and how to help each individual student become their best," said Zellmer.

Data Coaches include Michelle Lovelace at Pleasant View, Diane Bahrenfuss at Sunset Heights, Theresa Turpen at the middle school, and Ayn Eklund at the high school.

Tech coaches will be working with teachers outside of the normal school day. They will be working with teachers before school, after school, and putting on technology meetings after school to benefit other teachers.

"These tech coaches are there to help with the technology at each individual building," said Zellmer. "They might be helping a teacher use a new educational technology platform in their classroom."

Tech Coaches include Deb Dunham at Pleasant View, Andy Brim at Sunset Heights, Dane Barner at the middle school, and Mel Cramer at the high school.

The program also allows for Mentor Teachers. These positions are still working on being filled and approved.

All new teachers coming into the district will also have a mentor which they will meet with once per week for an hour outside of the contract day. New teachers to the state or profession will go through a two-year mentoring and induction program. Teachers who already have a Standard Iowa Teaching License, but are new to the district, will be mentored for one year.

"These are really our engagement people at the building level that can really help us to move that dial forward as far as student engagement goes and technology integration," said Zellmer.

According to Zellmer the teachers, administrators, and instructors in Webster City are taking the student-centered approach. They are going through the Diane Sweeney training module. Sweeney's whole philosophy is called student-centered coaching and puts the kids' education first. The module is based on concerns with students grasping concepts and how teachers can come together to improve students' abilities.

National consultant, Julie Wright, was hired by the AEA to work along side teachers and administrators and teach them about Diane Sweeney's Seven Core Practices during a two-day consortium on August 1 and 2 at the Webster City Middle School.

"All of the instructional leaders in this room have varied experiences, so my goal is to always hope that people get some tools or strategies they can use to help with the work that they're doing in their school buildings and in their district with a focus on students," said Wright. "They're working so very hard here today."

"All of this will be centered around the student," Zellmer said. "There have been schools for many years that have done instructional coaching, student-centered coaching, things like that. Just as a district by district level or building by building level, but this is a statewide initiative."

"We're wanting to make teaching exemplify a little more of what happens in the business world as far as there being opportunities for promotion, more leadership," Zellmer said.

According to Zellmer seven school districts joined Webster City at the event. Representatives from Eagle Grove, Clarion-Goldfield, North East Hamilton, South Hamilton, Gilmore City-Bradgate, Sioux Central, and Humboldt. An estimated 80 participants were present to learn about Diane Sweeney's consulting methods.

"Every district is different. The culture and climate. The goals of every district are different," said Zellmer. "We'll just continue to analyze and tweak and improve as we go throughout this coming school year and the school years ahead," said Zellmer.

Zellmer is excited to implement the program during the upcoming school year.

"The bottom line is we are looking to improve instruction and kids matter most," said Zellmer. "We want every kid to be able to be successful."

"The number one thing that improves student achievement is high quality instruction," said Zellmer.



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