ACE Teachers-in-Residence Return to Campus for an Instructional Leadership Summit
“The classroom,” writes teacher educator Sharon Feiman-Nemser, “is not only a place to teach children, but a place to learn more about teaching and learning.” Graduates of ACE’s Teaching Fellows Program often express similar sentiments, seeing their first two years of ACE-sponsored teacher training as a beginning phase of what might more accurately be called a career-long continuum of teacher learning.
This past summer, ACE presented its Teaching Fellows graduates with an opportunity to continue their formation as effective teachers through the Teachers-in-Residence Program. Fifteen ACE Teaching Fellows graduates were admitted into the 2017-18 cohort because they showed potential for instructional leadership and effective mentoring of new teachers. In addition to mentoring the newest cohort of ACE Teaching Fellows in their field placements in schools throughout the South Bend area, these Teachers in Residence assumed clinical faculty roles in content courses, conducted research alongside M.Ed. faculty members, and designed curricular materials for the ACE Teaching Fellows Program. To support their development as mentors, the Teachers in Residence met on a weekly basis for an evening seminar dedicated to practicing the core practices of teacher mentoring.
While the content of the weekly seminars proved helpful for participants’ formation as effective teacher mentors, many participants said that the simple act of coming together as a group of professionals was itself beneficial. Their observations resonate with the findings of teacher-education scholars who have noted that the isolation of teachers in their classrooms might be one of the greatest influences on teachers’ stymied development. Isolation contributes to complacency, or a weddedness to familiar teaching practices, without justification.
The desire for collaboration and community propelled six members of the most recent Teachers in Residence cohort to return to campus in mid-October for an inaugural instructional leadership summit titled “Building a Culture of Student Engagement, Fostering an Ethos of Teacher Leadership.” Coming from Boston, Vancouver, New York, San Diego, Milwaukee, and the Twin Cities, these ACE graduates journeyed back to Notre Dame for a weekend of fellowship and inquiry around what it means to foster a culture of student engagement in their own classrooms.
To keep this question as specific to their own teaching context as possible, each teacher brought with him or her a short film clip from their own classrooms. In addition to giving each teacher the opportunity to receive feedback from peers about a specific student engagement-oriented practice, these video feedback sessions allowed the teachers to brainstorm, with ACE faculty and with each other, possible questions to pursue in the quest for continued professional growth.
- Mary Grace Mangano, now a high school teacher at Cristo Rey High School in New York, walked away from the weekend interested in investigating how her opening question in a discussion influences the student dialogue that ensues.
- Kelden Formosa, a fifth-grade teacher in the Catholic Independent Schools system in Vancouver, Canada, raised questions about the degree to which students ought to rely on other students, rather than the teacher, for explanation.
- Melissa Flynn’s sharing of a clip from her AP Calculus classroom inspired a discussion among the six teachers about how she had managed to support such a productive environment of student autonomy in her high school math classroom.
- Katie Kraemer’s video footage from her middle school Spanish class prompted her to think about what it has meant, and might continue to mean, to co-plan with the other Spanish teacher at Faithful Shepherd Catholic School.
In addition to pursuing questions and conversation around their own individual teaching practices, the teachers participated in three summit sessions devoted to practices aimed at fostering teachers’ growth as leaders in their subject areas and schools. Dr. Jodene Morrell, an Institute for Educational Initiative faculty member, talked to the teachers about her own work in forming a professional learning community of teachers as researchers through Teachers College, Columbia University–giving the teachers the opportunity to imagine possibilities for virtual collaboration. Sessions on composing conference proposals and grant applications—prepared by members of the Institute for Educational Initiative’s STEM faculty—allowed the teachers to practice some of the skill sets necessary to generate resources within their schools and dioceses, as well as share their own knowledge and insight with colleagues in the field.
With over 1,000 ACE graduates teaching across the country, the possibilities for collaboration between and among committed educators are many. “You wouldn’t think of it, but even the car ride from South Bend to Chicago with like-minded teachers was inspiring,” said Ashley Currey. In spite of any lingering jet lag from East-bound red-eyes, Ashley and Kelden’s conversation about their most recent school contexts and challenges as teachers was what they described as “an unparalleled professional growth opportunity.” As Kelden said, “When, as a teacher, do you ever really get a couple hours just to be and to talk about the past several months of life and teaching?” To quote Jackie Salas, “It doesn’t get much better than talking to other teachers who speak the same language of faith and practice and who care deeply about getting better for the sake of their students.”