The following remarks were shared by Peter Ziegler at Partner Day. Mr. Ziegler provides teacher coaching throughout Hope Academy, and so has had opportunity to see teaching in progress schoolwide.
What a wonderful day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it! And you get spend part of the day with the students of Hope that you have partnered with!
I have five grandchildren who attend Hope and I want to thank you for your spiritual, personal and financial support of this school. Like you, my wife and I are also supporters of Hope. But I have had a unique experience here, as an educator.
I have been involved with education for a long time. This is my 42nd year working in schools. Do the math that makes me old.
First I was a classroom teacher, next I worked with schools to improve curriculum and instruction. Then I worked as the executive director of an education district.
In retirement I have worked as the executive director of an education non-profit. I estimate that I have been in over 1000 classrooms during my career.
The highlight of my career came three years ago when my son Nathan, the Upper School Principal and his staff called and asked me to come to work with them as their instructional coach.
As a coach in both the Upper and Lower Schools I work with them in their Professional Learning Communities studying topics that will help them improve their instructional skills. Several times a year I observe them in their classrooms.
We meet before their lesson to discuss what I am going to see. During the lesson I make observations, take notes and video tape. After the lesson we meet to critique the lesson using teacher observations, my notes and the video.
I have never worked in a school system where every teacher takes part in such a rigorous professional development program. The teachers of Hope Academy work very hard to continually improve.
I have personally watched all of them teach – now I would like to take you to see what I see. So put on your imagination caps, and let me take you around the building.
If I was to share all of the great things I have seen here it would take days. We will visit a few classrooms to get a sampling of what happens here.
First stop – first grade where we see Jose and Stella who do not speak English. Their teacher is teaching them not only to speak English but to read and write it. While we are here please take a look this writing by Angel. She reports in her journal that she has been “Inspired” by the writing lesson that day. This is the first month of school and her writing is a couple of pages long, shows a personnel voice and has vivid details.
Shhhh. Now we’re entering a third grade classroom, where Theodore, Isabella and their class are engaged in a Socratic Seminar, I don’t want us to interrupt. These third graders have read a difficult piece of text and are now coming together to discuss it. In the seminar you will hear them support their view, make references to the text they read, build on what their classmates have said – and look – they are taking turns speaking.
Now let’s go into a fifth grade room — Jasmine and Anthony are in a writing conference, learning to critique and edit not only their own work but the work of others. Let’s see if we can get close enough to hear what Jasmine is saying. “Wow those are juicy words Anthony! I feel like I am actually there!” A bit later in the discussion, “Anthony tell me about what you are trying to say here. Listen as I read it to you – does it say that? Can WE find juicy words to make this more precise?”
These are fifth graders, working together, for each other’s improvement. I think this looks and sounds like the type of world that God has envisioned for his servants.
Now let’s go up the stairs to the Upper School, to a Bible class. This interaction was caught on video, unbeknownst to the teacher and me. The class is engaged in a discussion about grace. After Sam gives his interpretation we see Isaiah, on the video reach across the aisle and say “Great answer SAM! – Right on!” and then give Sam a high five.
Mind you these are middle school boy’s high-fiving over an interpretation of grace. Tell me that HOPE isn’t a great place for us to share our blessings.
Down the hall we are going to step into a Middle School math classroom. One of the techniques that our teachers have studied is No Opt Out – students are not given the option to say: ”I don’t know.” A while back the teacher called on Ellen. “How can this fraction be reduced – Ellen?” Ellen – “I don’t know.” “Ellen I am going to ask another student for their response and I will come back to you. Listen carefully.” The teacher asked another student and then came back to Ellen. “I don’t know.” “Ellen I will come back to you. He asks another student and comes back to Ellen – “You already asked me twice – I DON”T KNOW!” “Ellen I will come back to.” Patiently the teacher calls on yet another student who responds and we are back to Ellen – a defining moment. Ellen gives huge sigh and says “Ok all right already here is how you do it.”
Pay attention to Ellen in class today. There she is in the second row. Look at that, she just answered the teacher’s question the first time he asked. The will of this teacher is a testament to our Lord – “I will stay with you and together we will work this out.”
I am very pleased to have this teacher working with my grandchildren.
Now let’s move on to a high school room and peek in the door – notice Nicole who is engaged in her pre-Calculus class. All the students are gathered around tables. Look around – they are all working – or are they? At closer observation you see that they are all playing a game designed by the teacher – Mathopoly. In the game they proceeded around the board drawing Chance and Community Chest cards that require them to solve a complex problem.
I am not sure they even know we are in the classroom, and guess what – they all passed the test. These are the children of the inner city and their teachers are assuring that they will achieve great things.
As the student(s) you sponsor make their way through Hope Academy – I can assure you they are in incredible hands – yours, God’s and these teachers.
I have seen many good teachers in my day, but I would be hard pressed to find an entire staff as committed to their own self-improvement and the improvement of their students, as the teachers here at HOPE.
As you have a chance, thank them for all they do for the children of Hope and for the Kingdom of God.