Annie Evans, Instructional Coach, Buford Middle School
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The Instructional Coaching model is new to Charlottesville this year, so we are all learning together as we receive job embedded professional development in year one of the implementation cycle. In many ways it is almost like going back to the beginning in this new role. As coaches, we are here to work alongside teachers, helping them reflect on their craft and providing opportunities for growth through participation in professional learning communities, site-based professional development and exposure to the best research-based instructional strategies. We have amazing teachers in our division, and working within the coaching models allows for increased collaboration, which leads to data-informed decision making to best meet the needs of all learners. Wearing many “hats” as a coach (data coach, curriculum specialist, resource provider, learning facilitator, etc) can keep us on our toes! Luckily we have received excellent training and support at the building and division levels.
What’s the most common misconception about your job?
In some divisions, the coaching model is seen as a way to provide support to a specific group of teachers, such as first year teachers, teachers who are struggling with providing good classroom management, or those in need of assistance with providing good first instruction. In Charlottesville the coaching model is for everyone. In August, most coaches in our division worked alongside our best content lead teachers or department chair to model, plan and co-teach or collaborate on lessons as a means of getting to know the teachers and students in our buildings. This helped us develop a plan for what content areas and aspects of teaching and learning we needed to provide support and at what level. I have learned so much in this first semester of working at Buford Middle from our teachers and students, and even in my 27th year of teaching I still have “aha” moments every day! The best teachers continue to experience success in the classroom because they constantly strive to grow and learn and say on top of best practices to ensure their students receive the very best first instruction possible. The day we quit growing as educators is the day we need to find another profession, and the coaching model is designed to help teachers at all levels continue to stretch and grow and excel in their craft. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens in small changes, with honest reflection and constantly fine tuning our instructional practices.
Where do you see the teaching field in five years?
I see a real shift in our educational horizon in Virginia, moving away from high stakes, multiple choice testing and back to creating lessons and multiple opportunities for our students to experience success and show what they have learned in a format which best showcases the students’ strengths and provides multiple pathways for growth and success. With the use of performance-based assessments, teachers and students are now able to build upon skills needed in the workforce of tomorrow, such as creativity, collaboration, communication, critical thinking and problem solving. Technology has greatly enhanced the ability of teachers and students to harness these skills, but it does not replace them. Students still need to learn how to think and problem solve on their own in the real world.
What outside experience best prepared you to become a teacher?
Early in my career I was fortunate enough to join a wonderful organization, the Virginia Geographic Alliance. This group is part of a larger network of state alliances across the United States which is supported by the National Geographic Society’s Education Foundation in support of promoting GeoLiteracy in all communities. The VGA provides excellent workshops and resources for teachers and pre-service teachers free of charge. As I began my teaching career, they supported me in many ways, including opportunities for me to travel and develop leadership skills. Twenty-two years later I am still actively involved as the State Co-Coordinator! Participating in professional organizations as a new teacher and now a veteran educator continues to provide me with a community of colleagues who work in a blended learning environment to share, create and collaborate. I hope all new teachers are able to find a support system such as the VGA within their content area, online or in their local school divisions. This will help sustain and support the next generation of great teachers!