Successful collaborative teachers in inclusive environments all possess one basic belief — that all children can learn,” says Jill Anderson, principal at Lakewood Elementary. “Special educators have a passion for providing a service to children with unique needs…(They) are masters at creating learning opportunities for all students within their classroom.”
For Sarah Huff, collaborative teacher at Lakewood Elementary, this rings true. The career path to creating unique learning environments was natural for her.
“I actually had the opportunity to complete my student teaching in Norwalk at Oviatt in a third grade collaborative classroom,” she says. “It didn’t take long for me to realize I really wanted to be a part of this district and community.”
As luck would have it, a collaborative teaching position opened in the district the summer after Huff’s student teaching concluded. Ten years later, she is still getting to do what she loves best — partner with teachers to provide meaningful education and, most of all, work with students in their classroom settings.
“Students think it’s pretty cool when they get to have two teachers,” she says.
Huff shares the responsibilities of data analysis, planning instruction, team teaching and goal setting with classroom teachers. She also continually develops new ideas for unique learning and co-teaching.
“I have gained so many ideas… from all the different classrooms I have had the opportunity to work in,” she says.
Moreover, the collaborative teaching program allows educators to focus directly on what individual students need to thrive.
“With this teaching model, our collaborative teachers are able to help provide extra support within the classroom,” Huff says.
For example, support may promote academic learning as well as social and behavior development. This learning can occur in small group, large group or individual settings.
A new benchmark tool for reading and math, AIMSweb, will make identifying and implementing new ideas easier.
“This testing will help classroom teachers and collaborative teachers to target deficit areas as well as see growth and progress over time,” Huff says.
“The AIMSweb screening measures are a form of ‘well checks,’ or vital signs of reading development,” says Anderson.
Assessment results will allow educators to differentiate their instruction in the classroom based on what students need. This will allow educators like Huff to do what they do best — create empowering, meaningful learning environments where all students have the chance to succeed.