IKM-Manning teachers (from left) Beth Hagedorn, Joy Gross and Ben Booth learn about QR codes during digital training through the school’s new TLC program. The teachers then developed individual lesson plans about digital skills for their students.
IKM-Manning teachers (from left) Beth Hagedorn, Joy Gross and Ben Booth learn about QR codes during digital training through the school’s new TLC program. The teachers then developed individual lesson plans about digital skills for their students.

November 1, 2016

Teachers are like silos. Historically, they often have stood alone in their work — they are in a room alone; they teach alone; then they send their students on.

Iowa schools are looking to change that trend, and this year, the IKM-Manning Community School district is joining in.

The Iowa Department of Education’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation Program, or TLC, has been implemented in schools around the state; IKM-Manning is now in its first year of the program, said Tiffany Hoogestraat, IKM-Manning’s TLC coordinator.

“The overall goal is to create a culture of collaboration where the teachers are learning from each other, reflecting together and using the expertise of their colleagues to increase student learning,” Hoogestraat said. “They’re all our kids; we’re all working together for them.”

The program, funded by a state grant for its first year in each school system, is tailored to fit individual school districts. At IKM-Manning, that includes a TLC coordinator, Hoogestraat, and an instructional coach, Corey Sebetka, both former IKM-Manning teachers who now concentrate on the TLC program full time. They plan professional development and events and co-teach, coach and plan with teachers as needed.

The program’s goal is to increase collaboration between teachers. At IKM-Manning, that also means teacher-mentors who work with new teachers, a district leadership team that helps plan professional development and other initiatives and model teachers who invite their peers into their classrooms to learn specific skills and techniques.

“Teaching is a challenging job, and it’s made even more so by the isolated nature of the profession,” IKM-Manning high school principal Brian Wall said in a news release. “The TLC system is breaking down the culture of isolation and replacing it with one of collaboration.”

The program plays out in various ways — coaches work with teachers to reach specific goals, whether that’s better classroom management or having 90 percent of students become proficient in reading based on certain standards. Six-week coaching cycles focus on student data and reaching specific goals.

“Through the TLC system, our teachers have been able to support one another and learn from one another like never before,” said Sharon Whitson, principal of the district’s elementary and middle schools, in the release.

Early implementation of the program also has included working with a technology consultant to learn digital technology techniques, such as the use of QR codes, that teachers could then use to develop individualized technology-based lesson plans.

Working with teachers through the program, Hoogestraat said, she already has received good feedback about new technology skills, the alignment with special and general education curricula and behavior management.

“It is evident through these shared leadership roles that instruction and learning will improve for all students,” IKM-Manning superintendent Tom Ward said in the release.

The grant includes a stipend and additional training days for the teachers who have taken on leadership roles through the program while continuing to teach. Training has been provided through area education agencies.

“I think it’s really been a positive thing for our school to get that culture of, we’re all in this together,” Hoogestraat said. “Historically in schools — not just at IKM-Manning — that’s just not been the case.”