When teachers are acknowledged for their contributions to the school as experts, it opens doors to creating credibility with colleagues. This collaboration between teachers, in turn, facilitates improvements in instruction and student learning. These changes in school culture often result in an improved partnership between the school and the community.  

At East Middle School, a Professional Learning Community (PLC) was formed that involved the participation of Stevenson University interns, three EMS teachers, the EMS Principal, four 2015 Stevenson University graduates teaching in Carroll and Howard County Public Schools, and the IHE Liaison. This group of individuals met three times to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve the interns’ teaching and leadership skills. Professional literature that analyzed current trends in the teaching profession related to each perspective was examined in order to support and develop proactive strategies for success. Each of these sessions provided a unique perspective for the interns.

Samantha Atwell, Courtney Lichtenberg (Class of 2014), Sean Kelley (Class of 2015)

Not all interns want to admit they are nervous about having their own classrooms. During the session with first- and second-year teachers, you could see the relief that their concerns were real and were shared. “It is important to get insight into your future career and what better way to do that than to hear it first hand from someone who went through the same program and is in a position that you will be in in less than a year,” explained Courtney Lichtenberg (Class of 2014), a second-year teacher at East Middle School. Samantha Simpson (Class of 2015), a first-year teacher in Howard County, confirmed those sentiments. “It was so nice to connect with the seniors to give advice and answer their questions to prepare them for their future!”

In the spring semester, interns began interviewing with counties across Maryland. Mr. Roemer, EMS principal, shared his insight as an administrator about what he looks for in potential teachers. Intern Samantha Atwell said, “It was nice talking to the principal about what types of questions he asks his teacher candidates. Additionally, after holding informal practice interviews with Mr. Roemer and Mrs. Lutz, I feel like now I have a better idea of how a school interview will go.”

Amanda Meskill, Grant Disharoon (teacher), Jolena Frankenfeld, Samantha Atwell

The interns also had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Grant Disharoon, a sixth grade science and mathematics teacher who has spent time this year focusing on a successful classroom and building a relationship with his students. The primary focus during this discussion was the correlation between classroom management and instruction. Intern Amanda Meskill has learned the importance of asking higher-level thinking questions. After participating in this PLC, Meskill said, “I learned how to modify my questioning techniques to support the needs of my students and ways to improve my instruction. Establishing that set of rules and expectations for the students in the first couple of weeks can really set the tone and make it easier with keeping the classes attention throughout the year; making it easier for you to teach and easier for them to pay attention and learn.” This PLC allowed the interns to grow as educators and learn from a teacher who is constantly innovating and taking risks in his classroom.

The overall goal of this PLC was to help the interns prepare for their first year of teaching. Jolena Frankenfeld commented, “These PLCs just show how much we can get accomplished while working as a team toward a common goal through this community of learners and doers.” Sean Kelley (Class of 2015), a first-year teacher at East noted, “The dialogues between everyone that participated was positive and encouraging. It was clear that the interns grew as educators and found new ways to help their students.”

(Submitted by Barbara Lutz)