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Making the World a Better Place

Stacy Bogard

By Stacy Bogard, CAE, MASB Assistant Director of Communications, PR & Marketing

DashBoard, Dec. 6, 2017

It is heartwarming to read a story, hear about or witness people doing their part to make our world a better place. This is a trait that is inherent to most teachers.

Microscope Mondays in a Calumet math class. A Chesaning reading consultant who is getting her commercial driver's license in order to drive a bus of reading materials around the community to spur early childhood literacy. Partnering with faith-based organizations in Alpena to provide weekend and summer meals to children in need.

These are just a few of the classroom activities and programs shared by teachers on the Michigan Department of Education’s Teacher Leadership Advisory Council during its December meeting in Lansing earlier this week. The day was organized into policy panels focused on early childhood literacy and education, poverty in education, and STEM and technology in education where Council members shared what was working in these areas in their schools, as well as ideas for additional opportunities and resources that could make an impact.

Twenty-four teachers were selected from a pool of more than 310 applicants to comprise the Teacher Leadership Advisory Council, which was developed this summer with a $10,000 grant from the national Council of Chief State School Officers. Their charge is to help guide the state’s plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as MDE’s Top 10 in 10 initiative.

It was apparent during the discussions that being a teacher is much more than setting and following a curriculum. Having an awareness of each student’s family situation, whether or not they’ve eaten that day, how easy it is for them to get to school and many other factors, play a role in how a teacher may have to adjust the day’s plan and/or their overall approach.

Ideas and concerns shared during the early childhood literacy and education panel included:

  • How to help parents realize their child’s development may be delayed.
  • Awareness of numerous free resources like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which provides a free book once a month to children from birth to age 5 in communities that have signed up for the program.
  • Collaborating with pediatricians, hospitals, and WIC, Early On and Head Start programs.
  • Creating unique IDs for children so their records follow them from program to program, helping the child’s next educator to know what works and what doesn’t.
  • Bridging the gap between Early On and K-12 so there is a transition period as opposed to an abrupt break between the two programs.
  • Incorporating “how to be a parent” into the health curriculum.

Jasmine Bates, a seventh grade math teacher in Van Buren Public Schools, Katie Lee, Dean of Students at Thunder Bay Junior High in Alpena, and Rez Kayto, an elementary teacher in Ann Arbor Public Schools, lead the panel on poverty in education. Each of their districts has partnered with other community organizations to provide as much outreach as possible, including Feeding Kids Ministries, DARE, the Besser Foundation, Michigan State University Extension Offices and TLC Mentors. Additionally, the districts are offering Young Fives, adult education, parent groups and more to provide assistance to family members of their students. Kayto noted that she makes phone calls to parents to provide positive feedback about their student, which is usually unexpected since most expect bad news if a teacher is taking the time to call.

Chris Woods, a math teacher at Calumet High School, shared his Microscope Mondays during the STEM and technology in education panel. He took a microscope being thrown away by the district and uses it to capture a close-up photo of everyday items. Each Monday, his math students take a few minutes to figure out what it is. Panelists noted that there’s a stigma attached to STEM that it’s for gifted and talented students who are on the honors track. Ideally, they would like to develop a culture where all students are creating technology, not just consuming it. “We have enough instruction,” Woods noted. “We need more inspiration.”

Do you have any examples of programs like these in your district? Share them with MASB at webmaster@masb.org and we’ll feature them in a future issue of DashBoard.

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