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Educators talk collaborative teaching in De Pere

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – The De Pere school board received a glimpse of some of the ways teaching has changed over the years, Monday, Dec. 2, when administrators talked about staff efforts to teach collaboratively.

Shelly Thomas, director of curriculum, along with principals Nick Joseph (De Pere High School), Adam Kraemer (De Pere Middle School), Luke Herlach (Dickinson Elementary), and Mark Kirst (Susie C. Altmayer Elementary) said students and teachers in their schools are benefiting from the move away from “teaching in isolation.”

Professional learning communities, or PLCs, aim to build a collaborative teaching culture.

“For years, teachers worked in isolation,” Thomas said.

They’re now working in collaborative teams along with administrators and making a joint group effort, which adds consistency to the student experience because more than one teacher can jump in and help a student who may be working at a different level, she said.

“It’s about recognizing kids at all levels, for the work and grit they’ve put into it,” Thomas said.

Teachers are moving away from the old model in which the teacher asks questions, students give answers, and the teacher deems them right or wrong.

“For teachers, it’s always been ‘I taught it, they learned it,’ but now we’re saying, ‘Did I really teach it, and did they learn from it?’” she said. “They’re asking themselves how to know if students have really learned and how to respond when students have not.”

Joseph and Kraemer said teachers of algebra, geometry, physical science, and biology are working in collaborative PLCs at the high school and middle school, meeting once a week for preparation and discussion on how to best teach their subjects.

“It’s important to get together for an hour a week,” Joseph said.

One problem he’s encountered is it’s hard to allow multiple teachers out of classroom duties at the same time.

“It has really helped focus our professional development, especially on those late-start or early-release days when the school day is cut short,” Kraemer said.

Loan update

District Finance Director Dawn Foeller updated the board on the status of the $1 million line of credit the board voted recently to renew.

Foeller said the end of November is typically a low-cash period for school districts due to the state’s payout cycle on the equalization aid it provides.

“We will receive $23.8 million in equalized aid, however, (the district) had only received 14 percent, or $3.4 million, by the end of November,” Foeller said. “The state doesn’t make its second payment until the first Monday of December, so we have to borrow on our line of credit to cover our payroll paid out Nov. 30.”

Compounding the situation is the tax dollars the district receives aren’t available until after Jan. 15, or 6 1/2 months after the July 1 start of the fiscal year, she said.

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