We continue to get feedback after the publication Monday of our report on an anonymous teacher’s letter and the perspectives on it offered by school officials and other teachers. Today, we have a letter written by Cider Mill principal, Dr. Jennifer Mitchell; and assistant principals Catherine O’Keefe and Lauren Catalano, about the teachers and the professional community at work in Wilton’s school for grades 3-5. In addition, they forwarded a compilation of thoughts from several teachers in the building.

GOOD Morning Wilton will continue to print what we hear from professionals in the district.

Coaching and Instructional Leadership at Cider Mill–a Letter from Administrators

Dear Dr. Kevin Smith and Mr. Bruce Likly,

We believe in our teachers. We believe that they, above all else, impact the success of our students. They make the difference, each and every day. Teacher quality matters. In today’s world of large-scale educational reform, our teachers cannot do it alone. Our district’s number one priority is to support teacher effectiveness by supporting high- quality functioning teams of teachers who have the collective responsibility for making our district great–one child at a time.

Education is in a time of transition. Wilton Public Schools, along with every other district in our country, is feeling the push and pull of unfunded government mandates (e.g. teacher evaluation, SRBI/RTI, high-stakes testing), tightening budgets and meeting the varied needs of all of our students. We have the added pressures of a changing society which requires us to reflect upon and revise much of our curricula and instructional strategies to maintain student engagement and prepare our learners for a future that is still to be determined. Indeed, we are in the midst of heavy, whole-system change and this has put a tremendous amount of pressure on our teachers. We are expecting our teachers to personalize instruction for each learner, to use data to inform instructional decision-making, to collaborate and plan with colleagues, and to communicate with our families. These expectations require a consistent effort to build the professional capacities of each and every teacher throughout the district.

The goal of our professional learning in Wilton is to grow and support high quality teachers. This is because we know our teachers have the greatest impact on our learners. Research proves that the most effective type of professional learning occurs within a team of collaborative teachers and instructional leaders. Professional learning is “embedded” within the context of instruction and the classroom. Therefore, Wilton has chosen to invest in the roles of the Humanities and Math/Science Coordinators and Coaches since they are a critical part of our job-embedded professional development process. They work side-by-side with teachers in the classroom and with teams of teachers during Instructional Effectiveness Team meetings and faculty meetings. They also support teachers through coaching cycles focused on new instructional techniques and programs such as our personalized spelling program, inquiry-based math anchor tasks, accountable talk through read-alouds, implementation of new Teacher’s College reading and writing units of study and planning for small group instruction using student work and data. They support teachers in the reflective process and continually help them in their effort to be the most effective teacher possible. Coaches are supported by coordinators, administrators and the teachers they partner with throughout the year. Coordinators work in collaboration with building coaching teams, building administrators, central office administrators and teacher leaders to plan for professional learning, curriculum development and implementation, and meaningful assessment practices. This is not a linear process, but rather a cycle of learning and improvement that supports the primary goals of student learning and achievement.

We are proud to be part of the Wilton Public Schools and Cider Mill School Learning Community. We are so thankful for the support the coaches, coordinators and teachers provide for our school every day. We are also sending a small compilation of teacher feedback that supports the excellent coaching program at Cider Mill School.

Sincerely,
Jennifer Falcone Mitchell, Catherine O’Keefe, Lauren Catalano

Teacher Feedback

I am truly grateful for the support of the Cider Mill coaches and curriculum coordinators.  The coaches consistently push me to learn, explore, and be the best teacher I can be.  They are in my classroom problem solving with me, collaborating, and working to meet the needs of all students.  I consider myself incredibly lucky to have their support.

Jackie Levenherz

***

Our Literacy Coach, Jennifer Felipe, is invaluable. Our coaching cycles with her have enables us to grow professionally and have had a profound impact on student learning. In addition, she is always willing to support us with additional curricular materials to enhance lessons and small group instruction. In the face of incredible expectations and time constraints, Jenn is always willing to lend a hand to assist us.

Anonymous

***

As a parent and educator in the Wilton community, I’d like to express my support of the coaching program at Cider Mill. The rapid changes and increased complexity of how we educate our children have put new demands on teachers, whether they are new to the profession or tenured.  Instructional coaches are essential as teachers work hard to align our curriculum with common core standards, as well as updating instructional strategies needed to enhance learning.  I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with Randi and Jennifer this year and last year and feel fortunate to have their support.

Randi Randano has been Instrumental in helping me to implement anchor tasks.  Not only did we work together last year through a coaching cycle, but Randi is always available for questions and additional support whenever I ask. For instance, this year I wanted to try something new before my coaching cycle and she carved out time to help me make this a reality.

The same can be said about Jennifer Felipe. Anything I ask, she delivers. Last year she came in to coach me on book groups, when it wasn’t even part of a coaching cycle. She helped me with writing lessons and provided much support with the roll out of Words their Way. I don’t think I can list all the ways she has supported me over these last two years.  This year she worked with my team during IET to help us create new groupings for WTW after the Winter Assessment. The list can go on, but I think I’ve made it clear how valuable the coaches are to our building.  I hope that many other teachers see the value in this position.

Best,
Julie Gillespie

***

I feel so lucky to work so closely with the wonderful coaches at Cider Mill. They are supportive and helpful and have definitely made me a better teacher. I can undoubtedly say that I have improved the quality of my instruction through our coaching cycles. They make me feel comfortable to approach them with any questions or concerns I may have, and when I (frequently) do, they drop everything to assist me. They are truly a gift!

Sarah

***

Dear Dr. Kevin Smith and Mr. Bruce Likely,

I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to work with all three of the coaches Jenn, Lisa and Randi. They work tirelessly to ensure they are helping the teachers. The help that they give me in turn helps the students through an enhanced learning experience. On a daily basis you can find them individually helping teachers, working with students, coaching teachers in small groups, creating anchor charts to enhance instruction, updating curriculum, adapting assessments, analyzing data and so much more. As an added benefit, the students get excited when I am getting coached. The three coaches are invaluable assets to our school. I am so grateful to have them working at Cider Mill.

Sincerely,

Emily Mason

***

The opportunity to learn from coaches throughout the school year is a true gift! Ready access to experts in the field of reading, writing, and math enhances teachers’ expertise, with a direct link to improved student performance. The shared vision and collaborative work builds community, with personalized student learning at the heart of ALL work. How fortunate we are to have a model in place that supports ongoing learning for both students and teachers!

MEH

***

I am proud to be a member of Cider Mill community and feel so lucky to be part of such a special school.  Our instructional coaches have been a wonderful part of my own professional learning and have been an invaluable resource to our staff.  They are always available to meet with our team, are eager to collaborate, and are always there for help, be it a book or to come and model a lesson with my class.  I feel that the coaching cycles have helped me become a better teacher, have helped me reach all my students unique needs betters, and have given me more confidence in my ability to embrace new initiatives and try new things.  Thank you for all you do for us every day, Jenn, Lisa, and Randi!!!!

Third Grade NH Teacher

***

As far as I’m concerned our three coaches are amazing at what they do!  They are organized, always available, and helpful in teaching the curriculum, always supportive, as well as resourceful in helping me to become a better teacher. I have always felt very supported by our literacy and math coaches, and I’m grateful to have such dedicated and knowledgeable people to guide me, and to reinforce the work I do in my classroom.

Most Sincerely,

4th grade teacher

***

My experience with the coaches here at Cider Mill have been nothing but positive. They are always prompt with requests for advice and come fully prepared to answer whatever questions I may have. They are upbeat and very encouraging with feedback from the coaching cycles. Our coaches have a realistic understanding of a teacher’s day, and frame their coaching with that understanding. I have been supported by our coaches in many ways, and I don’t know how we ever got along without them!

–experienced teacher

***

To whom it may concern,

As a team, we feel supported and we support our coaches in Cider Mill School.  There are several of us that are first year teachers here at Cider Mill, and we feel that our coaches have provided us with an endless amount of support and resources and have helped make this year as successful as possible.  Their willingness to be available to us and to answer all of our questions has played a vital role in both our students’ success and our own.

Anastasia Skroubelos
Melissa Cirillo
Joe Pullia
Catherine Westby
Kim Sakamoto 
Maria Corti

***

I want all three of you to know that I absolutely love working with each of you and I cannot thank you all enough for all of your continued support in reading, writing, and math. I love the coaching cycles and feel that I have become better in teaching the workshop model because of the 3 of you!! Thank you again!!

Cider Mill Teacher

***

During the past few years, our current literacy coaches have been extremely supportive in helping us implement the workshop model in reading and now (starting) in writing. Anytime a new initiative is added, they work tirelessly to make sure that the implementation is smooth within our classrooms. They anticipate what we’ll need and provide us with resources, materials, and an outlet for discussions. They go above and beyond to ensure that we and our students are comfortable by modeling lessons, checking in with us, helping us analyze student work, and creating goals to help our students grow. These coaches get to know our students’ strengths and weaknesses and help us support them as learners.

anonymous