Impact Story

Core Value in Action: Placing Students at the Center

Impact Story

At Lead by Learning, we believe that effective teacher collaboration places student learning at the center through the use of meaningful data.

In this example of this core value in action, teacher scholar Suki Mozenter and her colleagues focused their teacher collaboration on student learning and came to important insights about how to improve instruction.

Suki Mozenter joined the Alameda Unified teacher scholars to better understand how to support English learners in her classroom. She was troubled to find that at her elementary school, many English learners seemed to fall further and further behind their peers with each passing school year.

Suki and her teacher scholar colleagues met monthly to discuss and share their various paths of inquiry about their English learners. They brought different pieces of student learning data to inform their understanding of students. Among these were: running records, writing samples, observation notes, and questionnaires students completed about their own identity and engagement in class.

In order to learn more about how her students think and learn, Suki found time to interview several students one-on-one and video record them so that she could analyze the data later with her colleagues.

She was surprised and disheartened to hear what her first grade student, Frankie, said in response to her question, “What at home makes it hard to learn English?” “Speak Pilipino,” he answered. As she shared it with her colleagues, she realized that this six-year-old boy thought that the language he shared with his mother, father, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins was what got in his way when he tried to learn English. And that, in this educational setting, English was the key to any sort of academic success.

In this moment she realized that many of her students saw their primary language as a barrier rather than an asset to their learning in school. She set a new goal for her teaching practice: celebrate and invite home language into the classroom more explicitly. She also came to view student interviews as essential to helping her build relationships and gain insights into what is really going on for her students.

Through a focus on meaningful data, Suki and her colleagues kept her students at the heart of their collaboration, with powerful learning results. Read Suki’s story in her own words.

This article was written in October 2017, Mills Teacher Scholars changed their name to Lead by Learning in the fall of 2020.