Collaboration and PLCs

"The KPBSD teachers are a deeply caring group of people. They care about the success of their students inside and outside of the classroom. Consequently they take seriously their own leaning so they can provide the best education for all of their students." – Merrilou Harrison, Solution Tree consultant

Collaboration and PLCs

Why collaborate? Would it make a difference if KPBSD teachers came together in Professional Learning Communities (PLC) to improve teaching in order to increase student learning? The answer is, "yes, it can, will, and does." KPBSD initiated six early-release days in the 2013-2014 school year to provide educators time to work collaboratively and improve skills. These days are in addition to end of the quarter days, and other times built into the calendar specifically for collaboration. In September, school principals and a team of teachers from their respective schools attended a district training with presenter Merrilou Harrison from Solution Tree. The day was designed to take a clear look at their individual schools and develop an intentional, deliberate plan for effective and efficient staff collaboration and professional development in 2013-2014.

Al Plan, a math and science teacher at Seward High School said, "Our collective knowledge as a group of teachers is far greater than any one person's alone. I think that we have an obligation to our students to work together to make their access to knowledge as streamlined and useful as possible. One of the best ways to do that is to share ideas and practices that we have found successful. That time is fairly limited at this point and I applaud the school district for trying to make more of it available to us." Dr. Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent is convinced: "Our improvement efforts are primarily based on small initiatives that are generated by teachers who are working collaboratively. The need to train our teachers to work in this way is ongoing. I am pleased that the district's level of support of collaboration is increasing and is ultimately leading to improvement in instructional practices."

Collaboration and PLCs

Barbara Ralston is a first grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary with twenty-eight years of experience. She reflects, "Last year I worked with an outstanding collaborative team. As teachers we worked diligently on reviewing data, making intervention plans, implementing these interventions, and reviewing data again. Through this process, we were able to move students from far below benchmark to below benchmark, to benchmark. This was the first time as an educator that I have been blessed to work on a fully collaborative team. This is because of our grade level commitment to a professional learning community. Without the support of our team, the school leadership team, the school administration, parents, community, and school district this would not have been possible."

"It is my belief that collaborating with fellow teachers is fundamental to increasing my effectiveness as a teacher, as educating the 21st Century Learner presents challenges that are overwhelming and difficult to address in isolation. Collaboration creates opportunities for dynamic learning, shared responsibility, and accountability," said Cam Wyatt from Homer High School. A teacher for twenty-eight years, Wyatt shared, "This past summer I was able to spend a week working with CTE [Career and Technical Education] instructors throughout the United States. The collaborative process was evident in all aspects of the experience. Establishing a mutual respect, identifying the strengths and unifying for a common goal was extremely powerful. It is from this experience that I was able to establish a network of knowledge, additional resources, affirmation of "getting it right' and addressing needed corrections within our current program at Homer High School. The result will improve the learning experience and educational environment at Homer High School."

Collaboration and PLCs

Reid Kornstad, a teacher at Nikiski Middle-High School has been in the classroom for sixteen years and believes authentic, trusting relationships with colleagues provide an environment for authentic reflection. "Collaboration allows me the time to be inspired regularly by high functioning, hardworking people who I have great personal relationships with," said Kornstad. "The kids see this, and the result is an extremely positive environment in which to learn and grow for both teachers and students."

"The notion that All Kids Can Learn has inspired many, becoming the catalyst for change in public education, and the proclamation is embedded in mission statements throughout the country. School mission statements that promise 'learning for all' have become a cliché leading the masses to believe if they are taught then they will learn. This is far from the truth," said Wyatt. "What is needed is a simple shift—from a focus on teaching to a focus on collaborating to improve teaching, creating significant learning opportunities and challenging all to invest in the process."

Ralston agrees, "Collaboration increases my effectiveness as a teacher because it allows me to work collaboratively with other professionals to improve student learning and meet the diverse needs of all students. Through the collaborative process, teachers are able to have a better understanding of where students are excelling, struggling, and performing. Collaboration provides teachers with insight to new ideas, research, and trends in education. It challenges teachers to review the standards to determine exactly what the standards are asking and to create formative assessments to check student performance to meet that standard. By comparing student data it challenges us to provide new interventions to meet student needs. This allows for a more appropriate education that meets students' individualized needs."

KPBSD is thankful for our staff and their commitment to professional development and excellence. The next time you are in one of our schools, please say thank you to the dedicated women and men who make a difference every day in the lives of their colleagues and most importantly, our students.

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