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School of Education

A workshop at UD’s Professional Development Center for Educators.

To help schools integrate Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into the curriculum, the Delaware Department of Education established Delaware Dream Teams, made up of teachers from around the state.

For the past three years, Dream Team members have been charged with bringing new teaching and leadership strategies to their schools and communities. These educators were nominated by their districts or charter leaders for their passion for teaching, interest in collaboration and strong leadership in the classroom.

This year, 13 of the 45-member 2016 Delaware Dream Team are University of Delaware alumni. Ten of these talented teachers graduated from the School of Education’s elementary teacher education (ETE) program and three graduated from UD programs in mathematics, history, or instruction.

Learning through productive struggle

Dream Team members participate in specialized training sessions, such as TeachFest Delaware, a two-day math and leadership-focused program aligned with CCCS.

LearnZillion, a digital curriculum and professional learning provider, led a recent workshop providing structured coaching on key concepts and opportunities for peer collaboration.

“The biggest take-away from TeachFest Delaware was the emphasis on productive struggle,” said Megan Zant, a 2015 elementary teacher education graduate and first-year teacher in special education at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy. “This concept allows students to approach mathematical concepts in a way that makes sense for them, using manipulatives, drawings, numbers or words. Productive struggle encourages students to embrace the challenge and provides a variety of modalities to solve conventional problems.”

In addition to learning new ways to approach instruction, team members were encouraged to collaborate, building on each other’s strengths.

“We were placed in teams depending on our grade level,” said Christine Vinton, a seventh-grade math teacher at Odyssey Charter School. “It was extremely helpful to talk to and plan with teachers who are teaching the exact same content. Although we were all at different points in our curriculum, we were able to share high points and low points about particular concepts and plan what might work better in our classrooms.”

Sarah Bloom, a third grade homeroom inclusion teacher at Brandywine Springs School, looks forward to sharing these concepts with fellow teachers in her school.

“As the math lead teacher for my building, I am responsible for giving occasional trainings on our new math curriculum. I have plenty of experience as a participant in professional development sessions, but not very much experience leading them,” said Bloom. “TeachFest provided us with core principals and strategies for delivering professional development to our colleagues.”

UD provides Common Core training

UD’s College of Education and Human Development has been offering workshops and professional development opportunities on CCSS for several years. A number of the Dream Team members have taken advantage of these courses, offered through the Professional Development Center for Educators (PDCE), helping their schools to successfully integrate the Common Core content.

“PDCE offers personalized professional development tailored to each district, school and teacher,” said Faith Muirhead, associate director of math and science partnerships at PDCE. “We work in the classrooms with these teachers to increase the level of rigorous instruction, deepen students and teachers’ understanding of how to enact teaching that both focuses on the Common Core content and practice standards, and support teachers as they confront real time barriers to student learning.”

The Dream Team members will continue their professional development with three evening workshops throughout the spring, joined by 2014 and 2015 Dream Team alumni. These sessions will focus on models of teacher leadership and meaningful professional learning with colleagues.

2016 Dream Team members with UD ties

UD alumni on the 2016 Dream Team include Brandon Biro, Sarah Bloom, Kristin Brent, Ra’chelle Bull, Katie Diggs, Tenesha Duffy, Stephanie Fleetwood, Andrew Hamilton, Stephanie Huff, Allison Lukaszewicz, Kathryn MacDonald, Christine Vinton and Megan Zant.

Dream Team members Lukaszewicz, Tiffany Lugo, Christine Paoli and Jennifer Wahl participated in responsive classroom PD with Gina Castelli, who specializes in teaching educators how to balance the social and academic curriculum in their classrooms.

Bull, Julie Davis and Bill Curtis have participated in CCSS PD with Muirhead, John Epstein and Debbie Grise, who specialize in mathematics PD and school partnerships.

Article by Jessica Henderson