January 31, 2013

White Gloves: Long-Term Impact

Friends' School Teacher Candidates learning about
integrating music into their classroom teaching
Last week we welcomed eight visitors to Friends’ School who were here to carry out a special mission and take a recommendation back to the State Board of Education.

As you know, Friends’ has an extremely well respected Teacher Preparation Program (TPP).  Officially, our school is ‘a designated agency of the state of Colorado for alternative teacher preparation’. 

Our visitors were Educator License Specialists from the Colorado Department of Education as well as leaders from two other similar programs in the state.  Their mission was to learn all they could about our TPP and make a recommendation about whether we would be re-authorized as a designated agency and therefore continue our good work.  This is our TPP’s first re-accreditation process since we were first accredited eight years ago.

Re-accreditation is always an interesting process. It’s a little bit like having your fussy great-aunt visit your recently cleaned house, inspecting the quality of your dusting with her white gloves on.

Not really of course.  It’s actually a wonderful and useful tool for any educational institute to get professional and objective feedback on what we’re doing well and how we can improve.

We are lucky to have seven fabulous Teacher Candidates (TCs) at Friends’ School.  Overall, there are 30 TCs in our program, scattered throughout five public schools and five independent schools in Boulder and Lafayette. They spend each Monday-Thursday in elementary and preschool classrooms learning from an experienced mentor teacher. They come together every Friday for seminars that are a blend of presentation, discussion, activity, and dialogue, and aim to present and model best instructional practices.

Our TCs come from across the county and across the country to be trained in the Friends’ philosophy of integrated and experiential learning that focuses on the whole child.  Shelby Pawlina and Ed Walent, the program’s co-directors, are exceptional educators who are passionate about teacher training. 

All of our TCs from Friends' and our partner schools.  The co-directors
are Ed Walent (top left) and Shelby Pawlina (bottom right)
Our seven TCs at Friends’ have rich and varied backgrounds. Among their many skills and experiences, one or more of them sing opera, are certified Doula birthing assistants, have Wilderness First Responder qualifications, play women’s rugby, volunteer with Special Olympics, taught ESL in Italy for many years, have a Master’s Degree in Peace Studies, led expeditions for Alaskan native youth, and taught at Keystone Science School. It is a talented bunch to say the least.  They bring their skills and passions to our children every day. And they are well on their way to becoming first-class teachers.

Following the Department of Education’s visit, Shelby and Ed received a letter from the chair of the visiting team stating, “Across contexts, Friends’ has strong evidence that their preparation work is of high-quality with long-term impact.”  They added “There is deep integration of the Teacher Preparation Program into the structure, culture, and fabric of the school itself” and “a sense of trust, responsiveness, and support permeated all layers of stakeholders in the program.  It is clear from the site-visit that Friends’ is rooted in relationships of trust and transparency…the foundation on which a high quality teacher preparation program has been built.”

Many congratulations to Ed and Shelby, to all our TCs, to our Board of Trustees and staff, and to all of you as parents who wholeheartedly support this important work – not just for Friends’ School, but for the thousands of children in dozens of schools where our  TPP graduates teach.  The visiting team is recommending to the State Board of Education that the TPP be re-authorized and I am proud to be part of it.

If you know of any prospective teachers who may want to join the TPP, please ask them to visit the program’s pages on our website.

1 comment:

Jessie said...

I was lucky enough to get to participate in this program. I am even luckier to get to have Teacher Candidates in my classroom. Each new person brings their excitement, fresh ideas, and unique perspective. Having new people in my classroom opens my mind to see things in new ways and helps me to reflect on my teaching. I get to grow as a teacher and a learner. Carol Dweck - author of Mindset - has a favorite quote:
“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures…..I divide the world into the learners and non-learners – Benjamin Barber

Way to go Shelby and Ed! Keep helping us learn and grow.