Mills Teacher Scholars First School Site: Roosevelt Elementary School Five Years Later
Five years ago Mills Teacher Scholars was encouraged to take its brand of teacher-led inquiryoff of the Mills campus and out into local schools. San Leandro Unified Roosevelt principal, Victoria Forrester, welcomed the pilot program to her campus.
Five years later 20 teachers—98% of her staff —are engaged in teacher-led inquiry to better understand student learning. Victoria, also active on the Mills Teacher Scholars advisory board, credits the program with building broad-based teacher leadership among the teachers at Roosevelt, leadership that carries over from the Mills Teacher Scholars work to all the other aspects of Roosevelt’s efforts to improve learning outcomes for all students.
Victoria points to the MTS practice, now a part of Roosevelt’s culture, of teachers going into each other’s classrooms to help each other collect learning data for individual students and she says that this practice, along with the MTS meetings, has led to teachers working not just with grade level colleagues but also with teachers from other grade levels to understand and improve student learning and to move towards vertical alignment of teaching and learning at Roosevelt.
Teachers Cynthia Epps, Kenny Moy, and Wendy Papciak lead the Mills Teacher Scholars work at Roosevelt ,with support from the Teacher Scholar Leader Network, which focuses on developing teacher scholar leaders’ facilitation skills and on building their capacity to move their colleagues’ forward in their inquiry work.
Recently the Roosevelt teacher scholar leaders shared how they had grown as a result of engaging in and leading the collaborative inquiry work. Wendy talked of how the work has changed her interactions with colleagues recalling, “I was at the Xerox machine and another Mills scholar came up and started talking about their question and picking out some data. Now people come up and start talking about their Mills inquiry. That didn’t happen before. We didn’t have those interactions.”
Cynthia described her approach to pushing her colleagues’ thinking along, “We’re listening for something that maybe they don’t hear inside their question….I’m listening for the question inside of what they’re not saying.”
Kenny shared his development in the inquiry process, reflecting, “When we first started doing the work I wasn’t sure what my question should be….But if someone threw my current question out I could come up with another because I’m used to thinking about my classroom in a more methodical way.”
As our first teacher scholar leaders, Wendy, Cynthia, and Kenny have been passionate advocates for the MTS work at Roosevelt, working to involve the majority of Roosevelt teachers in our opt-in program. They have also helped MTS better understand how to support our 18 teacher scholar leaders at school sites across the East Bay.
The work at Roosevelt has shown that in partnership with school sites, Mills Teacher Scholars can be an integral part of building sustained teacher leadership and capacity in authentic professional learning communities.