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Tolt Teachers Share in an Incredible Learning Experience

Photos courtesy of Mark Klune and Tolt Middle School staff.

On April 27-29, 2022, nine Tolt Middle School teachers participated in a unique and intensive professional learning experience with Dr. Adeyemi Stembridge, through a partnership with the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP). Middle school teachers, from the areas of language arts, social studies, and science, received coaching, facilitation, and technical assistance in the areas of providing culturally responsive education in the classroom.

Schools in our state had the chance to apply to CSTP for this residency opportunity and Riverview’s Teaching and Learning Department was approved to host Dr. Stembridge, following an application process led by Riverview Professional Learning Leader Mark Klune.

Over three days of learning, Dr. Stembridge shared how culturally responsive education applies within a classroom setting. In this instance, teachers applied these practices by teaching a lesson to sixth grade students on genetics.

Based on six themes (rigor, engagement, cultural identity, relationships, vulnerability, and assets), Tolt teachers learned how to understand, validate, and care more deeply about students as they plan lessons. The teachers learned how to build lessons around a state standard, attach increased rigor, and best increase the amount of strategic thinking and extended thinking for students. The nine teachers will be using these planning strategies during their teacher collaboration days.

When planning a lesson, teachers learned to keep these five questions in mind:

What do I want students to understand?

What do I want students to feel?

What are the targets for rigor?

What are the indicators for engagement?

What are the opportunities to be responsive?

Research indicates that lessons designed with these questions in mind prove to be more inclusive and engaging for learners. Teachers were able to implement these strategies first-hand as they designed and taught a lesson on genetics to a sixth grade science classroom. Students were able to connect with the lesson’s materials in a meaningful manner and learn about key scientific principles in a new way.

One teacher shared that, “Though we all respected each other before, it now feels like we are all on the same page and have a shared mission. Aside from the actual content learning, the biggest takeaway for me was feeling like I was at a school where I belonged, with this group of teachers. I am lucky to work in a place that values this learning.”

“I have participated in a lot of amazing professional development over 22 years of teaching, and this, by far, is one of the most valuable sessions I have ever been a part of,” shared an additional participant. “There is the potential for some incredible change with this learning for all of us.”

We thank Dr. Stembridge, our Teaching and Learning Department, and CSTP for bringing such powerful and engaging learning to our staff at Tolt Middle School. We are excited to see the positive impacts these efforts will have on student learning.

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