Program Turns Cedar Rapids Teachers into Students

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- A program, already in place at elementary schools throughout Cedar Rapids helped the district secure about $5 million in grant funds. Now the district will use that money to expand their teacher leadership program. We first told you about the grant award earlier this month, Cedar Rapids was one of 39 schools in the state selected to receive Leadership Compensation Grant Funds.

The money will put about 614 teachers in leadership positions such as instructional coaches. It's a program they've seen work at the elementary level, and want to implement at middle and high schools starting this fall. So we went inside a classroom at Hiawatha Elementary School to see how the program works for ourselves.

Once a week Sharon Boring, observes Lisa O'Donnell in her classroom. As an instructional coach it's Sharon's job to help teachers become better educators.

"Helping teachers look at data, helping teachers with student achievement. That's my job, how can we best serve students in the amount of time we have," said Boring.

For Lisa, having this kind of one on one coaching on a regular basis is a relatively new concept, something that wasn't offered when she started teaching.

"We were more on our own to figure things out, it's much more collaborative now," said O'Donnell.

O'Donnell says that collaboration has made her a better teacher.

"We'll go over things she noticed in a lesson, specific feedback about my instruction, things she noticed about a particular student, she might offer suggestions of where to go next," said O'Donnell.

Sharon was a teacher herself once. So now, as she sits in the back of the room, she knows there is no one best method for educating students.

"Different kids learn in different ways, different teachers have different teaching styles, different buildings have different cultures so it kind of has to evolve," said Boring.

Which means as she coaches teachers her advice to each is as unique as the students sitting in the classroom. Sharon admits the fact that there is no "one size fits all" answer for teachers can make her job challenging. But she adds that individualized instruction is what's best for the kids.

There are currently 21 instruction coaches in the district, this grant money will more than double that number. Other schools in our area that received the same grant include: Linn-Mar, Waterloo, and Dubuque.
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