Classroom Support – STORIES FROM SCHOOL AZ

“Can you come in and show me what it is supposed to look like?” (new ELA curriculum) – 4th-grade teacher

“Sure thing, let’s set up some time together so I can come into your room and go through that with you.” – me, the new instructional coach.

I have been in education for twenty-three years. I have taught preschool through second grade. I feel incredibly comfortable working with primary-aged students, but I do not have vast experience teaching intermediate students. This year, I started a new role as an instructional coach in a new district. I spoke about uncertainty in a blog at the beginning of the school year and those feelings were very evident when I was planning to model in her classroom.

When this fourth-grade teacher asked me to come in, here were my thoughts and questions:

What am I going to do with these kids?

How am I going to get their attention? 

Will they listen to me? 

I have never taught this curriculum either, so what now?

Thankfully, I have attended many training sessions on the new curriculum. As the instructional coach, I need to know my way around it pretty well, so I could take the curriculum questions off my list. The other questions I had were not as easy to answer.

When I was a classroom teacher, I knew what instructional and behavioral strategies would work and what wouldn’t work. As I was planning for my time in fourth grade, I realized that I didn’t have the knowledge of students I needed to be successful. I needed to understand what her students’ needs are, not just deliver the curriculum. I also needed to know what the teacher’s needs were. What exactly did she want to see? After meeting with her again, I discovered that she was concerned about the pacing of the lesson and fitting in all of the components of the new curriculum in the time frame allotted for the ELA block. I was able to go into her classroom and deliver the lessons and model how to integrate parts of the lesson into other parts of the lesson and create a cohesive lesson.

My wish for school districts is that they can all provide more support in the classrooms for all teachers. Especially at this time in education. So many teachers are leaving the classroom and the teacher shortage can be felt across the state. Maybe we could retain more teachers in the profession if we could figure out how to get them more support in the classrooms. I am fortunate to work in a district that does offer instructional coaching support in the classroom. We are also a title 1 school, so we have additional resources and support in the way of instructional assistants. Not all districts or schools are as fortunate as mine. There is no quick fix for this. What I am hoping for is that I can assist teachers and support them in a way that makes their job a little less overwhelming. Maybe, just maybe, if we can take a little bit off the plate for teachers, they will be more inclined to stay in education. How could more support in the classroom help you?

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Sarah Kirchoff

Sarah Kirchoff is an instructional coach in Mesa Public Schools. She has over 20 years of experience in early childhood education. She began her teaching career way back in August 1999, when everyone was worried about Y2K. She did not even have computers in her classroom at that time! Since then, she has taught first grade for four years, preschool for three years, second grade for two years and kindergarten for twelve years. She has worked for three different school districts during her teaching career. During this time, she has been able to identify which grade she found to be the most enjoyable. Her greatest teaching passion is for kindergarten. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Arizona State University and a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University. She was teacher of the year at her school in the 2019-2020 school year. She became a National Board Certified Teacher as an Early Childhood Generalist in December of 2020. She currently serves on numerous committees at her school including school site council, the instructional leadership team, and the culture and climate team. She is a mentor teacher at her school and has mentored numerous interns and student teaching candidates. When she is not busy with school commitments, she spends time with her family. She has a husband who is also a teacher, and four children. Two of which are students at NAU and two that are in high school. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, reading books and spending time with family, friends and her two dogs.

Children need a teacher that is always advocating for them, socially, emotionally, and academically. Sarah wants every student she encounters to realize their potential and she is willing to help in any way she can. The impact early childhood educators have on students reaches far beyond their younger years. Sarah wants to leave a positive impact on her students so they can continue to have wonderful educational experiences beyond her classroom and school.

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