On Target articles report on the progress of the 2017 Strategic Plan. This article focuses on Strategic Imperative #4 - Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning.
Annunciation Orthodox School has a strong history of academic excellence. This was very apparent to me during my interview process and throughout my first two years at AOS. Our classrooms are filled with passionate, caring, and masterful teachers. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to work with as we seek to continually improve upon all that we do for our students.
After a full year of evaluating our curriculum, exploring how comfortable our faculty is with traditional and innovative teaching methods, and measuring the effectiveness of our overall delivery, the academic team and I plotted out a course of action for the 2019-2020 year. The primary objectives of this plan were: instituting two school-wide priorities, launching an academic coaching program, redesigning our professional learning communities, and expanding the academic support team.
However, like most schools, we had to halt our on-campus learning in March of 2020 due to COVID-19. This forced us to “hit the pause button” on several of the initiatives outlined here, but we continue to develop many of these ideas for the 2020-2021 school year. We are excited to pick up where we left off.
We started the year by introducing two school-wide priorities: student engagement and community strengthening. The majority of our academic work with teachers centered on our student engagement priority, which led to various new initiatives and methodologies being introduced by our teachers. For example, some teachers introduced the Harkness method of instruction, while others had students research and teach topics to their peers that had previously been taught through direct instruction. On the whole, this priority led to a wide variety of shifts in many teachers’ instruction because we clearly identified a need to increase student-centered learning, while providing room for teacher autonomy and innovation.
In order to support teachers with these new priorities, we assigned a member of the school’s administrative academic team to each teacher as an academic coach. These coaches met with teachers multiple times throughout the year and tailored programs according to each teachers’ skills and needs. Coaching included activities such as unit development, lesson development, observation and feedback, and connection to outside professional development resources.
Professional Learning Communities
In addition to this support, teachers also all participated in professional learning community (PLC) meetings every Tuesday morning during our school’s “late start” day. Twenty teachers received training during the summer of 2019 in preparation for leading their respective PLC groups. These groups all focused on aspects of our student engagement priority. Examples include groups that focused on project-based learning, authentic engagement in mathematics, math & science “play” in early childhood, and elevating student work.
Academic Support Team
AOS also hired its first math coordinator prior to the 2019-2020 school year. This person worked directly with math teachers to identify our most pressing needs with regard to mathematics. Our math coordinator assembled a team of faculty to examine options and ultimately select a new math curriculum. Teachers piloted lessons from multiple curriculums and traveled throughout the country to speak with educators about various curricula. The team landed on Math in Focus, which is based on Singapore Mathematics and is widely used across the United States.
This article was originally published in the Fall 2020 issue of The Delphian.