More than a dozen teachers have accepted positions in the Ames Community School District’s Teacher Leadership program as it enters its second year in 2016-17.  The addition of these new hires brings the total to 67 teachers in leadership positions for the upcoming school year. The state requires that districts have 25% of their eligible teachers in leadership positions. This year’s hiring leaves three teacher leader positions vacant in Ames, with the goal to fill those next year.

Designed to tap into the expertise of top teachers to improve classroom instruction, raise student achievement, attract and retain effective teachers, and reward teachers for extra responsibilities, the Teacher Leadership program is made possible through Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System. Associate Superintendent Mandy Ross said the enthusiasm for the Teacher Leadership program and caliber of second-year applicants is a testament to the successes the program achieved in its first year.

Cappie Dobyns, a seventh grade art and Extended Learning Program teacher selected as a Mentor/Model teacher, said the Mentor Teachers, Model Teachers, Teachers on Special Assignment and Instructional Coaches comprising the Ames Teacher Leadership Program have offered her and her teaching partners the ability to collaborate and grow together.

“That’s the kind of support needed to improve and refine our classroom instruction,” she said. “While I benefit from the connectivity that results, I value the chance to contribute and serve in this capacity.”

Teacher Leader Coordinator Lisa Clayberg said the first year of the Teacher Leadership Program solidified processes that directly benefit teachers and students in using research-based quality instructional practices focused around essential standards, making timely adjustments in teaching strategies based on assessment data and reflection, and improving the communication and support networks within buildings and across the entire District.MarchPLCs

Ames High School chemistry teacher Aileen Sullivan said the success of the  first-year processes made applying in the second year an easy decision.

“I wanted to take a year to see how the program developed with my peers,” she said. “What I have observed is more contact and intermingling by teachers of different subjects and a stronger professional connection within the building. I wanted to be a part of that. Plus, I was already being asked to do certain types of modeling so I thought it would be good to have the training and support provided by the program to fulfill this role.”

Sullivan said the selection process involved creating a teaching video.

“Preparing for the selection and interview was fun,” she said. “I really enjoyed reflecting on my lesson and things that I enjoy about the classroom, such as ways to engage students and find out what they know and watching how students attack application problems. The selection process gave me cause to truly consider what I do and why I do it in the classroom. It was a good experience — teachers don’t often take time to reflect like this during the normal grind of a school year.”

Ross said the District received a grant for about $1.3 million for 2015-16 to cover salaries, stipends and professional development for Instructional Coaches, Teachers on Special Assignment, Mentor Teachers and Model Teachers. She said 2016-17 funding would be included in Supplemental State Aid, which provides state education funds to school districts.