A year of leaps and bounds

By Mary M. Vagner

Every school year we select a theme that contributes to our ability to sustain our focus on our Vision, Mission and Strategic Goals. This year we selected “Making it Possible – One Step at a Time”. With the implementation of the Idaho Core Standards, we knew our teachers would be challenged, and stretched to their capacity, to teach to new standards and to facilitate learning in a different way – One Step at a Time.

I could not be more proud of what has been accomplished by our teacher and our students. One Step at a Time rapidly turned into leaps and bounds.

Our wonderful teachers spent several years aligning curriculum to standards and implemented a more rigorous curriculum to meet the Idaho Core Standards this school year. The curriculum is much more challenging to students and also much more challenging for teachers. It has stretched teachers to dig deeper with regard to their own content knowledge which has led to additional professional development in all subjects. Teachers of all subjects are embedding more literacy strategies in daily instruction; requiring students to read multiple informative texts at higher levels of difficulty; and engaging them in more writing. Consequently, more instructional time has been required of teachers to engage students in using several different informational texts in a subject to help them draw reasonable conclusions and develop arguments for writing papers. Teachers have also been challenged to make math more relevant by helping students solve word problems to connect math to real life situations. Challenging students to work through these problems develops their problem solving skills. The new Idaho Core Standards have fewer standards but expects teachers to take students to deeper levels of understanding. Teachers use problem solving, across all curriculum areas, to develop this deeper understanding in students. We are seeing improvement in student learning, understanding and writing as a result of our teachers’ efforts. As teachers continue to fully implement Idaho Core Standards in our schools they will continue spending more time with students on problem solving, more time taking students to a deeper level of understanding and expression and more time providing feedback on written assignments. I am proud of our teachers and the increased workload they have undertaken in “Making it Possible – One Step at a Time” for our students to graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

Equally and perhaps even more important, is the ability of our teachers to develop positive relationships with students and inspire them to do their very best. The circumstance of every individual student is different. Some students are high achievers while others struggle; some come from supportive environments in which education is a valued while others come from environments in which education is less valued; some are happy and well-adjusted while other are overwhelmed with life. But teachers find a way to reach and inspire them to do the best that they can do. The words of students who nominated our teachers for the Simplot Inspirational Teacher Awards tell the story of teachers love and dedication to the success of students:

·       Math is hard but my teacher helps kids like me who just don’t get it, she never gives up on us

·       He taught us 22 happiness skills

·       Class is like a family, she cares about all of us, class is a safe place, she doesn’t think about who we are she just respects all of us

·       She inspired me to be a selfless person, she was the teacher who asked me to try and she made me feel important

·       She is kind, she taught us that 5 x 5 is 25, we love her

·       He saved my life, he makes us want to care, he doesn’t give up on us, he inspires us to want to learn

·       She works miracles and has changed the lives of children

I continue to be amazed with our teachers’ love of and dedication to their students; and the positive response of students to those relationships. We are successful when we have developed the minds, bodies and character of students, through their K-12 educational experience, to graduate from high school prepared for college or a career to successfully build their own futures.

 

Mary M. Vagner is the superintendent of Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25.