Academic coaches: Tahoe Truckee School District’s secret weapon
In an era of potential staff cuts and increased class sizes, the Tahoe Truckee School District is armed with a secret weapon to assist in its campaign for a superior education. Basically, academic coaches act as safety nets, sounding boards and creative curriculum conundrum solving gurus for classroom teachers.
Nicole Sayegh has served as an English language development (ELD) academic coach at North Tahoe Middle School for the last four years. Academic coaches are specially trained in the strategies to help struggling students, use of data to make decisions, facilitation of collaborative groups, change process, leadership and student focused lesson planning.–
“As an ELD coach, I have the flexibility to work with teachers one on one,” she explains. “And at North Tahoe Middle School, for instance, we only have one math teacher in each grade level, so they don’t really have another math teacher to bounce ideas off of. This is where I come in. Two heads are better than one and I can help to brainstorm, analyze data and help with early intervention.”
Conversely, academic coaches can be a great asset in larger schools, Sayegh notes.
“Academic coaches help to facilitate the best practice strategies and collaboration between teachers, which is key,” she says.
Additionally, academic coaches can help fast track the implementation of new curriculum materials. For instance, last year the middle school received a reading fluency grant from Excellence in Education.
“This was brand new material and it was hard for teachers to integrate it into their busy schedules,” she says. “I was able to go in and meet with the teachers and help each teacher to determine how this new material could work for them.”
Unlike classroom teachers, academic coaches have scheduling flexibility. This means Sayegh can drop in, observe the classroom dynamics and offer helpful input to the teacher.
TTUSD Director of Educational Services Dave Curry notes the academic coaches are some of the most highly trained educators in the district.
“And instead of putting them in a classroom with 30 students, we pull them out so they can have an impact on every teacher ” maximizing their skills and in turn helping more students,” he explains.
Curry says recent academic successes at Kings Beach Elementary School can be attributed, in part, to academic coaching.
“They really focused on the learning that was taking place and were able to make adjustments on the fly,” Curry says. “In the end they were able to bring the test scores up by some 50 points.”
-TTUSD Superintendent Steve Jennings adds that now, more than ever; academic coaches provide an important resource for teachers.
“Research is clear that change and adoption of new strategies is best learned by working collaboratively with another professional,” Jennings says.