Joyful Educators, Successful Students: Supporting Teacher Growth
Studies show time and again that teacher experience and instructional quality are among the most important factors in student success. So how can schools make sure that teachers are satisfied, energized, and prepared to guide students in their pursuit of learning?
Attracting and cultivating phenomenal teachers is central to the work of school leadership. We have a strong philosophy about education shaped by our 25+ years of experience educating girls in Washington. We look for educators who share our vision, yet also bring their own unique perspectives and creativity to the classroom. Then we:
WSG takes great care to orient and support new teachers. Middle School Social Studies teacher Trina Ratchford joined the WSG team as a long term substitute this year. She plans to return as a full time teacher for the 2023-24 school year, which wasn’t part of her original plans.
“One thing that really impressed me was how student leaders made me feel welcome. The student body president made sure to say hello and ask me how I was doing during those first few weeks I was here – and still does. Beyond that, the orientation was very comprehensive, and I have been so grateful for the ongoing support from the administration and my teacher colleagues. They always take time to answer my questions, genuinely are interested in my perspective, and no question or concern is too small.”Ms. Ratchford, Middle School Social Studies Teacher
WSG’s compensation package includes a per-semester education benefit for teachers to pursue additional degrees or certifications that will help them become better educators. We know that the best teachers are those who are on a life-long educational journey and are invested in their own growth – so we invest in that growth, too.
“I have always loved being a classroom teacher, but I also know that I have more to share with my school community. With the encouragement of school leadership, this past year I both became the Campus Dean and participated in the Archdiocese of Washington Leadership Academy. I am still a teacher first and foremost, but through my new role and with the skills I have developed through my program, I am also able to shape the experience that our students have beyond just my own classroom.”Essence Moore, Middle School Reading and Language Arts Teacher and Campus Dean. The Archdiocese of Washington Leadership Academy is a program designed for Catholic school teachers to develop their leadership skills. Participants are nominated by their school principal.
Whether it is a masters degree or a specialized program like the one that Ms. Moore recently completed, WSG is invested in providing opportunities for teachers to learn beyond our walls. Internally, teachers also have many opportunities to take on formal leadership roles if they are interested in building their experience.
In some schools, teaching is a lonely experience: educators are assigned to a classroom and operate on their own. In others, curriculum is deeply prescriptive and assessment-driven, and autonomy can be hard to come by. At WSG we aim for the happy medium: teachers have dedicated time to collaborate and work together to bring forward a consistent and effective learning environment for students, but also have freedom to apply those shared strategies in a way that is most impactful for their curriculum. As a result, students experience a diversity of teaching styles that are all grounded in shared goals. Furthermore, our teachers develop strong partnerships with one another and help each other grow as educators.
“I wanted to be part of an environment that supported my professional growth while allowing me to be my authentic self. My colleagues encourage me to be myself but also to strive for excellence, nothing less.”Ms. Rushing, 4th and 5th Grade Math and Science Teacher
Most importantly, we have designed our schedule so that teachers can meaningfully undertake collaborative work during the school day. For example, we have developed partnerships that allow instructional staff to have a half-day once per month for their core team sessions around evaluating academic data. During this time, students participate in high quality arts programming. Our intentional scheduling protects individual planning periods and prevents meetings during out-of-school hours.
Our student-centered model relies on having small classes where students are known by each of their teachers. Most classes have 12 students, and will never have more than 15. A small classroom makes a big difference: teachers can provide more individualized attention to students, more quickly identify when a student is having a hard time with the material, and have a smaller volume of administrative work outside the classroom. It is easier to transition between multiple activities during a single block, which makes the instruction more engaging for students, and breaking into even smaller groups when necessary can help each student thrive.
“Because my 5th grade reading classes are about 10 students each, I can vary my teaching style throughout the class period to keep students active and moving without worrying how long it will take the class to settle into a new activity. For example, I love having students hop on our classroom stage to act out what we’re reading. It would be so hard to do that with 30+ students.”Ms. Whitney, 5th Grade Reading and Language Arts
Interested in learning more about working at WSG? Current openings are listed here.