BY KAREN CAMPBELL
Weakley County Schools Communications Director
WEAKLEY COUNTY (November 23) – Elementary Instructional Supervisor Terri Stephenson says during a season focused on gratitude she is especially thankful for the addition of math and reading veterans assuming coaching roles in Weakley County.
Megan Moore, District K-5 Math Coach, joined the team in 2019. In 2021, April Fishel, RTI Coordinator, assumed the role previously held by Jessica Glasgow. After adding Moore and seeing the growth occurring with a focus on teaching concepts and then procedures, Wes Morgan, the new Math Instructional Coach for middle and high schools, was also added in 2021.
“We do look at the data and we do see when we have deficits and strengths,” said Stephenson. “But we never want to stop there and just say, ‘do better.’ Through these coaching positions and the expertise these veterans bring, our district is making strides in supporting our teachers in ways we only dreamed of a few years ago.”
That expertise is being expressed in a variety of ways.
Moore taught for 16 years, a majority of those spent with third graders at Martin Elementary. When she made the decision to take on her new role, she knew she would be helping with a new approach.
“Instructional shifts are common in education and frequently, teachers are left guessing as to what and how concepts, especially in math, should be taught,” she explained of the attempt to explore more of the ‘why’ of mathematics as opposed to simply the ‘how.’
“Instead of Googling lesson ideas and explanations, like I did on numerous occasions as a teacher, a math coach collaborates with teachers to answer questions, find resources, and plan lessons addressing the instructional shifts and standards,” she said.
When Moore joined the administrative staff in 2019, like others, she could not have guessed that one of the major accomplishments of her first year as a coach would be in responding to a pandemic. When COVID forced an early end to the academic year, she and a team of teachers and other administrators created a weekly enrichment resource which was distributed with meals and in the pages of the Weakley County Press. Math exercises included there showed how children’s games and even musical notes could be learning opportunities.
To inspire her and those with whom she works, she soon articulated a vision for her work: Weakley County will create student mathematicians as teachers incorporate practices which develop conceptual understanding and procedural fluency and help students apply math to daily life.
To accomplish the vision, she is relying on collaboration with fellow teachers. And, if allowed a wish, she could stand to have more “more time in the day to accomplish everything I want to accomplish and see everyone I want to see.”
Fishel was just shy of 20 years in the classroom when she took over the Response to Intervention assignment. As a teacher of 3rd and 4th grades at Martin Elementary, she felt finding time to analyze student data and then find the materials best suited to meet individual student needs was a challenge she was ready to take on.
In accepting the role, she hopes to alleviate some of the stress teachers experience by helping them analyze student data and help them gather the needed resources to meet student needs.
“I want the time designated to RTI to be utilized in an effective way so that student success is the ultimate outcome,” she said.
Since she arrived on the countywide scene, she has already implemented a Student Recognition Program in which students who are showing growth in their RTI group are presented a certificate and a coupon to a local business. She also identified a connection between the Weakley Playhouse’ theatrical production of Peter/Wendy and reading excerpts for fourth grade students. A few visits and phone calls later, and she had arranged for all fourth-grade students in the county to be bused to Westview for a special performance.
Fishel finds inspiration when “student achievement soars as a result of small group instruction. I want all students to see that they are capable of achieving great things,” she noted.
“I strive to be in schools as much as possible. I want teachers to see that I am a resource for them to use. I want teachers and students to know that their success is my primary goal,” she said.
Morgan began his career at Gleason School, teaching math and chemistry, and then moved to Westview. He has been in the classroom for seven years. He says he responded to the opportunity out of a desire to help teachers.
He is excited by the strides that he and the district are making as related to Mastery Connect, a competency-based learning platform that helps teachers identify levels of understanding, target students for intervention, and inform instruction. His assistance means teachers having more time to teach and students having more time to learn.
By providing in-person training for Mastery Connect in all Weakley County Schools, he is helping teachers grow in their understanding of the new Benchmark delivery system.
Teachers’ planning periods, professional development meetings, and after school trainings are the avenues through providing the much-appreciated assistance.
“I am thankful that I have been able to do this. Teachers have a mountain of responsibilities to manage every day and I have been able to alleviate some of those responsibilities,” he said.
Moving in and out of the schools has opened his eyes to the diversity of the county.
“Every school in our district has their own identity. Every school has its own set of challenges in trying to educate their students. I have seen great solutions to overcome those challenges. Some of those great solutions can work in other schools as well; however, several cannot because each school is unique,” he underscored. “I never realized how complex and diverse of a school district that Weakley County is until I was in my current position.”
Donald Ray High, the Instructional Supervisor for Grades 6-12, has already witnessed the impact Morgan’s knowledge of digital resources is having.
“Learning a new task often means a learning curve, and frequently teachers postpone digging into a new resource or time-saver because they are caught up in the immediate assignments demanding their attention. Our coaches are serving as much needed guides, who know great short cuts, and can offer safety nets, and our system is gaining ground as a result,” he said.