By Elizabeth Hoham for The Fort Wayne Lutheran and TLSP
One of the most thrilling moments for teachers is often called the “Ah-ha” moment: when a concept clicks with a student, and he or she “gets it.” The lightbulb goes off, and it all makes sense. The child smiles. She gets excited. Learning has taken place.
Teachers are also learners. But as adult learners, they often have different needs and best practices for growing in their profession. A growing body of research suggests that one way to assist teachers’ growth is through coaching. This fall, the Lutheran Schools Partnership has launched a pilot program called Progress Partners Coaching (PPC).
Funded by The Lutheran Foundation and EANS grants (Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools), five schools in the Fort Wayne area will have instructional coaches on staff to partner with teachers to improve their work with students. Alicia Levitt, the Academic Excellence Coordinator for TLSP, shares that, “Progress Partners Coaching excites me because it provides teachers with an opportunity to grow in the ways that fit them best. Just like our students, our teachers are all unique individuals with different gifts and talents. Helping them to identify their personal goals and meet them serves not only the teacher, but the school and students, as well.”
Five Fort Wayne schools are involved in this pilot year: Emmanuel-St. Michael, Lutheran South Unity School, Concordia Lutheran (K-8), Woodburn Lutheran, and St. Peter-Immanuel. St. John’s Sauers Lutheran School in Seymour, IN is also receiving coaching. Coach Rachell Stratton notes how difficult teaching has been during the pandemic, and why she is looking forward to helping: “Being able to come alongside teachers as a coach is one way I can alleviate that burden, help them continue to teach with best practices, and be a partner in meeting students' needs.”
Susan Frerking, who will be coaching at ESM this year, adds, “The best part of Progress Partners Coaching is that the teacher is the focus. By invitation, coaches come alongside the teacher in support of their goal setting and action plan.” She is most excited about sharing teachers’ successes: “I enjoy looking at education from multiple perspectives in terms of subjects and grade levels, and talented teachers. As teachers celebrate student strengths and improvements, coaches get to shine a similar spotlight on that of hard working Lutheran teachers.”
Training occurred in early August with Rachel Swanson, an instructional coaching consultant out of Chicago. Over three days at Concordia Lutheran High School, she led the group through the basic theories of instructional coaching, ways to facilitate problem solving with teachers, and practice in data-gathering and role-playing scenarios. Swanson will continue to participate with the PPC program throughout the year, and is pleased to see how coaches can give teachers extra support this year. “I am so impressed with the mission-hearted commitment of each of the coaches in the program, and really eager to see the ways that the coaches elevate the work of teachers throughout this school year,” she says.
The coach meets with a teacher to get to know him or her and develop a “S.M.A.R.T.” goal for the roughly 8-week time period. Often used in business vernacular, SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Coaches then visit classrooms and gather data based on what she and the teacher are trying to achieve, then present this data to the teacher and help her decide how to interpret and use it for instructional shifts. Coach Susan Brockberg is eager to help teachers meet their goals because of those who helped her during her long career in Lutheran education: “Coaching allows me to continue to use my talents to serve our Lutheran schools by supporting teachers, particularly in the areas in which they desire to grow. Now is such a fitting time for PPC to begin as teachers are being asked to do more than ever before with so many limitations as to how they do their jobs and with what resources. My goal is to meet each teacher I work with, where they are and in what area they wish to grow, and then to walk alongside each one to meet their goals together.”
With so much upheaval for everyone in the past eighteen months, the Progress Partners Coaching program hopes to give teachers encouragement and resources to continue their ministries in our Lutheran Schools.
Progress Partner Coaching training at CLHS in August. From L-R: Elizabeth Hoham (and son Peter), coach at WLS and SPI; Rachel Swanson, trainer; Susan Frerking, ESM; Alicia Levitt, TLSP; Julie Dietrich, St. John’s Sauers; Rachell Stratton, CLS. Not pictured: Susan Brockberg, LSUS.