educators shed light on what exactly happens once the kids are dismissed each Friday at a workshop of the Enumclaw School Board that was held on campus Monday night.
Called Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), Friday afternoons are set aside for teachers to review their work with their peers each week, get advice and ideas to take back to their classrooms and collaborate to find solutions for helping students who might need a little extra help.
According to Superintendent Mike Nelson, the district has been utilizing PLCs for the past four years, and the teachers at Sunrise said they are appreciative of the extra time to consult with one another and generate ideas.
The kids might be dismissed early, but "Fridays are the day everyone goes home late," said educator Desiree Gibb.
Gibb's role at the school is that of an interventionist -- an educator that works with students identified by teachers during PLCs as needing extra help in a particular subject.
"It's really fun to see how they [the teachers] work," Gibb told the Board. "The teachers know the kids so well -- they'll be able to tell me exactly who needs what help -- it makes my job easy."
Part of Monday's workshop featured a reenactment by three teachers, 4th grade teachers Elisabeth Carlson and Nicole Leahy and 5th grade teacher Nancy Tubbs, along with Gibbs, of what might happen at a given PLC session on a particular Friday.
The group discussed how students did in the latest assessments, who needed extra help, and how to arrange time with Gibb for these students to get extra help. They also shared ideas for how to help kids grab concepts such as greater than/less than in math. (see video for a clip of the session)
The demonstration was followed by a presentation by several students who shared what subjects they were identified as having trouble in, and how they grasped the concepts thanks to the teachers' intervention. (the second segment of the video clip shows one of these students' presentations)
Because of these PLCs, said Gibb, the school has seen marked improvements in math in 3rd through 5th grades.
Board members marveled aloud at how there appeared to be no stigma suffered by the students at realizing they needed help in something, and they congratulated the teachers for helping them shape this positive attitude.
Fifth grade teacher Marsha Henderson explained that with her students, she moves them around so much in groups, depending on the topic they're studying, that they all have an opportunity to demonstrate that they're good in something and need help in something else. Consequently, when they do get placed in a group that needs intervention, it's not a big deal, they learn to catch up and just move on, she said.
Nelson asked the teachers how working in PLCs now differs from the way they used to teach, which was largely in isolation.
Carlson responded that whereas teachers before just did the best they could following a recommended curriculum, there was no cohesive direction that the teachers all pursued. Nowadays, "we're all dealing with the same thing," she said. "We're unified in what we're doing and we're staying on task."
Henderson added that the isolation of the past often fostered a feeling of competition between teachers that caused them to hide not only their weaknesses from each other but also what works well in their classrooms. There was no sharing of ideas, whereas now, "we're celebrating our accomplishments as a whole team."
Editor's Note: Patch incorrectly identified 5th grade teacher Marsha Henderson in an earlier version of this article. The mistake has been corrected. We regret the error.
In other News:
- Sunrise PTA President Mary Alicea reported that Sunrise has a Facebook Group page (search 'enumclaw sunrise school' to join) along with its website for parents to stay up-to-date on what's going on in the school.
- Nelson acknowledged the tremendous work the PTA did in helping the district and Enumclaw High School prepare Thanksgiving meals. Principal Chris Beals added of the Sunrise students, "The kids took such ownership of that... and pride," he said. "They saw it was bigger than themselves."