It’s a tag-team effort in the classroom for Lyra Wikert and Brittany Schwartz.
Wikert, an eighth grade language arts teacher, and Schwartz, who teaches special education, co-teach a class at South Middle School in Waukee. The arrangement means they share teaching responsibilities, collaborating on lesson plans to address the needs of their wide spectrum of students, including different levels of learning and interests, Wikert says.
There are a number of benefits to co-teaching, the two educators say, for their pupils, as well as themselves.
The set-up enables Schwartz to provide the attention needed to her special education students in the class.
“The purpose is to provide instruction to differentiate for their needs,” she says, “and it may help the other students as well.”
Having Schwartz in the classroom is important because her specific students know her well enough to feel comfortable asking her questions, Wikert adds. They may feel less at ease speaking to her.
Co-teaching also gives students of varying levels the chance to work with and learn from their peers. That involves forming groups with the right mix of individuals, where they best complement each others’ abilities, Schwartz says. In this setting, those who are more advanced have the opportunity to be leaders and mentors to others who may need extra help.
Schwartz adds that having two teachers in the classroom means more individualized attention for students.
One of the benefits of co-teaching for educators is the ability to share different ideas and perspectives, Schwartz says. Having a colleague in class provides an extra set of eyes and hands, and someone to confer with, Wikert says.
While Wikert co-teaches for just one block every day, Schwartz co-teaches a class in algebra as well. Her day also involves meeting with small groups of students for reading, writing and math instruction.