Written by Nella Garcia Urban, YES Prep Senior Director of Teacher Development
The teaching profession is one of the largest and oldest career options in this country. It has gone through some major shifts and changes over the course of its long history. This makes the work challenging, and it also provides us with an environment that allows for us to problem solve and innovate when it comes to preparing teachers to teach our students. This question of how to teach teachers to teach is on the front stage of education as many schools are thinking about new talent.
At YES Prep, we have been working on this question for a number of years. It’s an area in which we pride ourselves. In order for our students to have the best education, our teachers must also have access to professional learning that sets them up for success. And that’s just the beginning. In order for us to develop our teachers, we need to take an approach that meets the needs of all stakeholders: school, teacher, student and parent.
The Teaching Excellence Program offers a four-part model of teacher development:
1. INDUCTION: In order to be ready for day one, week one and trimester one, we need to start early. Induction is the foundation of all teacher learning and development in the first year. For two weeks, teachers and coaches are working together to prepare for setting up classroom culture, plan lessons, and operate as an education professional. This intense two weeks takes place in July and brings together all of our cohort in community and learning.
2. INSTRUCTIONAL COACHING: The true heart of our model is the working relationship between the Instructional Coach and the teacher. We have a cadre of Instructional Coaches who work with a cohort of about 15 teachers throughout the year. They observe their classes, debrief lessons, plan together and use a wide variety of coaching strategies and skills that allow for teachers to receive feedback frequently. This coaching and support defines the success of our teachers in their first year.
3. PROFESSIONAL LEARNING SATURDAYS: There is an immense amount of learning that must take place in the first stages of a teacher’s career. It cannot all happen in the summer. Each month, teachers gather together for PLS, which consists of a focus on content pedagogy as well as their instructional and cultural needs as teachers. The courses are taught by master teachers and Instructional Coaches, who work in order to create an experience of learning for teachers as well as an opportunity to collaborate.
4. DATA DRIVEN COACHING & LEARNING: Our program is in constant assessment in a variety of ways. We ask ourselves these questions frequently: How are our students learning? What areas of instruction are our teachers excelling at in the classroom? Where do we need to focus our energy as facilitators and coaches? How are we as a program functioning and providing a quality experience? This cycle of investigation keeps us grounded and focused on improvement.
Our team includes 13 Instructional Coaches and one Operations Coordinator. We currently serve 159 teachers on 30 campuses. We love what we do, and we strive to become the premiere learning institution for novice teachers.