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Collaborating for a Stronger Community

By Jennifer Fogarty, communications content manager
Empowering Lower School educators to step into leadership roles.
La Jolla Country Day School educators are teachers but also leaders in their classroom and their field. Head of Lower School Melanie Baier has introduced a new leadership opportunity for some Lower School educators to become peer collaborative teachers (PCT). These leaders can help cultivate a strong school culture through peer support, collaboration and trust.

“I want to develop our identity as a community of collaborators who value the thoughts, questions and ideas of others,” shares Mrs. Baier. “We’re strengthening our collective team that comes together for the benefit of our students.”

Through an application process, three educators have been chosen to become the first PCTs in the 2018-2019 academic year: Anna Fennessey (Early Childhood Center), Alisa Ronis (Grade 2) and Laura Tonini (Grade 3). Generous professional growth funding gave them the opportunity to attend a four-day training in summer 2018, where they learned a number of tools to help facilitate group meetings and mechanisms to pose questions, encourage dialogue and promote effective outcomes.

The PCTs meet several times throughout the year to bring ideas or feedback from their weekly grade-level meetings to the weekly PCT leadership meetings with Mrs. Baier and Maria Curtis, assistant head of Lower School. The distributive leadership model gives Mrs. Baier the teacher-perspective each week and provides a collaborative team to exchange ideas.

Other leadership opportunities included leading the Lower School benchmark math discussions during the January professional growth day. And in March 2019, the team presented a workshop on how to build collaborative groups and ways to effectively run a meeting at the San Diego County Independent and Private School Network conference.

“Our meetings are more efficient and collaborative, where everyone feels their opinion is valued,” shares Ms. Ronis. “This process has given our meetings a focused purpose, opened communications for the Lower School, and showed us different ways to ask questions in respectful ways.”

Inspiration for this new model came about when Mrs. Baier attended the Adaptive Schools Seminars, hosted by Thinking Collaborative. The seminar’s goal is to teach strategies for developing collaborative teams that are equipped to cohesively respond to the changing needs of students and society, and increase the capacity for groups to reach greater levels of success.

The effect can already be seen in the classroom. “The training has helped me pose more open-ended questions, prompting my students to think more deeply about the subject matter,” shares Ms. Fennessey. “Yes and no questions are now replaced by thought-provoking questions that encourage reflection.”

Next year, peer collaborative teachers will lead professional learning communities. They will also focus on enhancing the math and literacy programs.

La Jolla Country Day School

9490 Genesee Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037

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