How Tiger teachers learn
Posted Monday, March 13, 2017
When you are in the business of education, you know continued academic growth is just as important for the students as it is for the professionals who guide them. Right now Loveland High School (LHS) is abuzz with professional development and collaboration opportunities for teachers: a game-changing book study, the Loveland Innovator Academy, and Loveland[x].
Walking the halls, much of the enthusiastic conversation amongst teachers is centered on The Innovator’s Mindset book study – a gamified class that teachers can take for continuing education credits (CEUs) or graduate credit. It requires teachers to look critically at their own teaching practice, integrate new ideas into their classroom, and share their learning with colleagues.
“The book makes me think about how teaching is like when you first build a house,” said LHS American Government Teacher Kelen Weathers. “You spend a lot of time on the foundation, the supports, and filling it with the things you like. And then, for some people, you just live it in without making any changes to it. But at some point, maybe you should remodel the kitchen because your house and your life will be better if you do. As teachers, sometimes we become too comfortable with how we built our ‘house.’ We become too comfortable with what we do and how we do it. What we need to do is some remodeling.”
“It’s hard to step outside what you know or what you think is successful,” agreed LHS Academic Lab/APEX Teacher John Hart. “How do you convince someone that it’s worth changing? I think we have to take a step back and see how things have changed in order to see why we should change. It’s been 15 years since I went to a college for a reason other than a sporting event, but recently, I attended a college visit. I got to see what the library looks like, what assignments look like, what classes look like, and it turned everything on its ear. What we think we are preparing students for no longer exists. What’s out there now, what’s next for them, is very different from what I experienced.”
Another development opportunity for teachers is the Loveland Innovator Academy designed to foster growth and promote innovation through Innovative Classroom Grants. After undergoing a rigorous application process, grant winners will now participate in collaborative learning and design thinking to revise, hone, and finalize their grant proposals.
LHS Biology teachers Tonya Nkhata and Jaclyn Jones were awarded a grant for digital microscopes.
“The Innovator Academy is encouraging us to be game-changers,” said Nkhata. “We are hearing a message that student-centered learning is our focus, not test scores. When we do that, when we focus on the student, the rest will come. That message empowers me to transform learning for my students.”
“We will be able to expand the understanding in lab work to every type of learner,” Jones elaborated. “We are envisioning a digital portfolio where students can demonstrate their growth in both skills and content knowledge. Their learning can be shared with others outside our class, our building, our district, even our state.”
History teacher Alex Wanstrath is also a grant recipient participating in the Innovator Academy as well as the Innovator’s Mindset book study, and a third opportunity - the Loveland[x] team. This group of teachers meets monthly after school to discuss, plan, and implement innovation at LHS.
“This year, we have a shift in focus,” Wanstrath said. “We are looking more closely at how we reach students, how we advance their achievement, and how we encourage their passions. We aren’t just focused on what new tools are out there, but rather, how we can apply digital tools, collaborative learning, and student-centered choice in order to foster a deeper understanding in our students.”
“In the spirit of George Couros – author of The Innovator’s Mindset – with these opportunities I believe we are experiencing something different as educators so we can create something different for our students,” said Amanda Bimonte, LHS innovative instructional coach. “This is exactly the mindset we see LHS teachers embracing. Couros would be proud of the many teachers at LHS who are choosing to take risks, make changes, and grow as teachers and learners.”
Photo caption: LHS Biology Teachers Jaclyn Jones (left) and Tonya Nkhata (right) planning a future lesson.