Advancing the Legacy of Learning
For Kristen Lenza G’10, being a teacher is more than a career. It’s a tribute to the teachers that informed her early years as a student.
“I was a pretty good student when I was younger, but it didn’t always come easy to me and I had to work very hard and put a lot of effort into studying,” she says.
“The teachers that I had growing up were always very enthusiastic and understanding. I have never forgotten the huge part they played in my learning experience.”
Today, Lenza is living out that legacy in front of the classroom at Sabold Elementary School in the Springfield school district, helping 2nd- and 3rd-grade students who have myriad struggles with learning.
She teaches guided reading, shared reading, writing, and Wilson Fundations (a decoding program) most mornings, and co-teaches math with the regular education teacher in the afternoons or works on specific IEP (Individualized Education Program) goals and objectives with small groups of 2nd- and 3rd-grade grade students on her caseload.
“All of my students have IEPs and range from specific learning disabled to autistic to emotionally disturbed,” she explains.
“I spend two consecutive years with most of my students, and actually see first-hand how all of the hard work pays off. All of my students have such different personalities and are so very unique. I just couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Her fellow educators at Sabold couldn’t imagine their school without her, either.
“Kristen is an asset to everyone who gets the pleasure of working with her,” says Principal Cindy Mattei. “Sabold is very lucky to have Kristen.”
With a desire to help students who struggled with learning, Lenza pursued a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Bloomsburg University and a master’s degree and reading specialist certification from Cabrini College.
“I choose Cabrini’s program because many other teachers and educators in my building were either beginning the program or already in it,” she says. “I liked how the entire program was already mapped out and geared toward already-working teachers.”
The 30-month program flew by for Lenza, who found that she could balance both her master’s degree requirements with her teaching commitment.
“I never felt too overwhelmed by the program. The professors were all very understanding and extremely helpful with not only their lessons, but also with giving us great ideas and assignments that tied in nicely with our classrooms and students we already had,” she says.
With eight years under her belt as a teacher, Lenza thinks it’s early yet to think about future career options that would change her current classroom participation. But if she were to project ahead a few years, reading specialist might be a good fit.
“For the time being, I am very happy with my position and enjoy every minute of it,” she says.
“In the future, I could see possibly becoming a reading specialist since I truly enjoy learning new ways to help students who struggle with reading. I have always loved being able to specifically target one area of need for a student and really work on strategies to help them succeed to be better readers.”
In May 2013, the Springfield School District named Kristen Lenza Employee of the Month.
Data Show Highs and Lows of Tracking Trends
A recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) study, The Resurgence of Ability Grouping and Persistence of Tracking, indicates that more schools are reinstating the controversial practices of ability grouping and tracking systems in reading, math, and English language arts.
As revealed through data collected between 1998 and 2009, the percentage of 4th-grade students placed into ability groups for reading instruction accelerated, shooting up from 28 percent to 71 percent.
Conversely, the percentage of surveyed teachers who did not create ability groups plummeted, falling from 39 percent in 1998 to eight percent in 2009.
In 4th-grade mathematics instruction, the NAEP study collected data from 1992 to 2011. Results showed that ability grouping dropped in popularity in the early 1990s, dipping from 48 percent in 1992 to an approximate constant of 40 percent from 1996 until 2003. However, by the mid-2000s, that number spiked, reaching 61 percent in 2011.
Exploring the use of tracking, NAEP compiled data from 8th-grade instructors between 1990 and 2011. Data fluctuations were not as dramatic, especially in mathematics instruction, which can be attributed to varied course offerings. Data on tracking in English language arts, though limited, suggests a similar resurgence pattern to that observed in ability grouping.
The data trends coincide with those observed in the nationwide policy discussion on ability grouping and tracking. Because they were widely criticized as discriminatory practices in the 1990s, ability grouping and tracking became less popular. In recent years, the debate has cooled off, resulting in an emerging resurgence of ability grouping and tracking.
Learn more about the NAEP data findings at www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2013/03/18-tracking-ability-grouping-loveless.
New Technology For Tech-Savvy Educators
Interactive components are becoming more commonplace in classrooms, helping students take a more active part in their learning experience. One innovation that can enhance learning is the interactive white board (IWB) or SMART Board™, which offers many practical advantages over traditional white boards.
Designed to promote content interactivity between teachers and their students, IWBs feature special functionality that can help visual learners as well as aural and logical thinkers.
The key is to harness the board’s user-friendly functionality, including:
Dragging and dropping content, which prompts further comments or action from students
Hiding and revealing content, which encourages conceptual understanding
Movement or animation, which promotes illustrative learning using multimedia resources
Coloring or highlighting content, which adds visual emphasis to enhance interest
Matching items, which draws literal and figurative connections to content
While these tools can be employed to benefit students, other IWB features can be just as instrumental for teachers. For example, notes can be written on the IWBs, saved to a file, sent to other computers, or printed.
In addition, most IWB vendors have created resource and lesson sharing networks—digital, interactive communities designed to help teachers discover new ways to use their IWBs. These networks often include assessments and tutorials that can help teachers build their own interactive lessons.
Teacher Liability: Assuming the Responsibility
For better or for worse, as a teacher, you assume responsibility for your actions—actions for which you can be held legally accountable. While some liability issues may go beyond your control, it is important that you understand how to safeguard yourself against those which are avoidable.
Three ways to reduce your liability include: ensure that your classroom is safe, provide the same standard of care as other teachers, and understand and act on foreseeable threats.
Ensure classroom safety: The expectations of courts are that schools provide safe environments for learning. For this reason, if a student’s safety is at risk, as their primary supervisor, you are liable.
Therefore, it is critical that you do everything in your power to ensure that your classroom is safe for your students. You are expected to use reasonable diligence in inspecting and securing your classroom, to provide appropriate instructions to your students, and to suitably supervise them.
Provide comparable standard of care: While copying others may be discouraged in academic settings, for teachers, behavior replication can also lessen liability.
As an educator, you are expected to maintain the same standard of care as other teachers, while realizing that required degrees of supervision can vary based on student age, maturity, and the nature of the material on which they’re working.
Understand and act on foreseeable threats: Doing nothing to prevent a forthcoming incident is considered negligent behavior. You must take necessary precautions to avoid anticipated situations, such as bullying, that could harm your students.
When you consider a potential exists that can harm a student, it is crucial for you to inform your principal of such concerns. This helps to protect your student from the foreseeable threat and lessens your liability should a foreseeable threat become real.
“Don’t Get Sued: 5-step Guide to Teacher Liability.” N.L. Essex. Available online at http://www.teachhub.com/dont-get-sued-5-step-guide-teacher-liability.
“Giving Teachers the Tools to Teach: Training in Liability Issues and its Potential for Enhancing Working Conditions and Reducing the Nationwide Teacher Shortage.” Elisabetta Daneu. - PDF
Lisa Jones G’10 has been named principal at Ringing Rocks Elementary School in the Pottsgrove School District.
Jones, who holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Cabrini College, will begin taking over the role officially in early July.
Michael Sim has been named principal at Upper Dauphin Area Middle School in the Upper Dauphin Area School District.
Sim received a master’s degree in curriculum and Instruction and principal certification from Cabrini College.
July 10Graduate Programs Open house. Information available at www.cabrini.edu/graduate.
August 8Graduate Programs Open house. Information available at www.cabrini.edu/graduate.
September 5Graduate Programs Open house. Information available at www.cabrini.edu/graduate.
September 6Cabrini Night at the Phillies. For tickets and more information, visit www.cabrini.edu/Phillies.
September 27–29Homecoming at Cabrini College is a campus-wide celebration for students, parents, families, and alumni. For more information, visit www.cabrini.edu/Homecoming.
Stay tuned for a complete schedule of events.
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