Improving education through collaboration, community

Published 9:47 am Thursday, December 17, 2015

Instructional coach Jill Petersen offers advice to Lara Jones, a first-grade teacher at Sibley Elementary School. -Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

Instructional coach Jill Petersen offers advice to Lara Jones, a first-grade teacher at Sibley Elementary School. -Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

First-year instructional coaches at Albert Lea Area Schools are increasing collaboration between all facets of the learning community to ensure growth.

Instructional coaches and long-time teachers in the Albert Lea school district, Amy Schuhmacher and Jill Petersen are assisting the district at the elementary level.

Schuhmacher is an instructional coach at Hawthorne and Lakeview elementary schools, Petersen at Sibley and Halverson. Petersen joined the district in 2001, Schuhmacher in 2002.

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As instructional coaches, Schuhmacher and Petersen work to ensure the best research-based practices for delivering curriculum and building relationships are met. The instructional coaches provide staff development by speaking at professional learning communities that are set around common goals. Professional learning communities feature a group of teachers who collaborate with one another to benefit students. The coaches also assist with whole group staff development and individualized staff development, and provide resources to the families of students.

Petersen and Schuhmacher recently conducted math instructional training at all four elementary schools to assist teachers with a new math curriculum installed by the district at the elementary level this year.

The new curriculum focuses on three areas: conceptual understanding, mathematical thinking and problem solving.

The coaches model the new curriculum for teachers in the classroom and have provided a math workshop to parents of the students.

“It’s great to have people to bounce ideas off of,” said Diane Schultz, Sibley Elementary School principal.

Petersen has taught at the third-grade, fourth-grade and fifth-grade levels; Schuhmacher at the second, third and fifth-grade level. They also served as K-5 interventionists prior to becoming instructional coaches, where they provided extra support for students in a small group setting.

“The district is pleased with the direction of our instructional coaches and the embedded staff development they have provided our staff,” said Mary Jo Dorman, elementary services coordinator for Albert Lea Area Schools.

Schuhmacher said the program is beneficial to students.

“As teachers, we always have our students at the heart of every decision we make in the classroom,” she said. “When we have the opportunity to work as a team with other teachers to help us make those decisions, the child always ends up getting our best.”

An instructional coach is also located at Southwest Middle School and Albert Lea High School.

“I see a lot of benefit and purpose to it,” Petersen said. “Teachers have been reaching out and we are able to support them.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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