In a unique partnership with the University of Maine at Orono, a Wiscasset Elementary School classroom will transform what literacy training looks like in Maine.
Literacy workshops that will be instituted in first-grade teacher Clara Brown’s classroom will serve as a model for teachers across not only the district but the state, Wiscasset School Department Superintendent Heather Wilmot said during the Wiscasset School Committee’s Thursday, Aug. 25 meeting.
The University of Maine’s Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy Program is devoted to long-term professional development for teachers and administrators to increase students’ reading and writing skills.
The program typically focuses on training literacy coaches who return to their school districts to work with educators to hone their skills. In UMO’s partnership with Wiscasset, Brown’s classroom will serve as the training ground.
“This is a win for both students and teachers,” Brown said. “We’re going to be exposed to the most advanced research in literacy training. It’s really going to benefit students.”
Since she first began working in Wiscasset about three years ago, Brown has used a reading workshop model to teach her students. The model focuses on a whole group lesson, then small group and one-on-one instruction to apply the lesson in a variety of formats.
“The more they hear it, the more they apply it, the more likely they are to carry it with them,” Brown said. “I’m excited to learn and grow (in the model) and get better at it.”
It is not typical for a school district to have as many trained literacy coaches on the administrative team as Wiscasset does, Wilmot said. As a trained literacy coach prior to her work as an administrator, Wilmot has had a long-standing professional relationship with Dr. Marcia Nye Boody, director of Maine Partnerships in Comprehensive Literacy.
Wiscasset School Department Curriculum Coordinator Patricia Watts is also a trained literacy coach, as are other administrators in the district, Wilmot said.
The idea to use a classroom in Wiscasset to model literacy workshops for the professional development of teachers across the state came out of a brainstorming session between Watts, Wilmot, and Boody, Wilmot said. “We got together as thinking partners and asked, ‘What else can we do to serve our kids?’” Wilmot said.
Teachers within the district and across the state who are going through literacy coach training will be able to visit Brown’s classroom, which will have a fully implemented workshop model, and observe it in action. Through the observations, Brown and the visiting teachers will be able to continue to improve their skills as educators, Wilmot said. “It’s really about the feedback loop,” she said. “As much as we want learning to be for our kids, we also want it to be for our educators.”
Through the partnership, Boody will work closely with Kirsten Perry, the district’s literacy coach; Brown; and seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher StacyLynn Rouleau in graduate-level professional development, Wilmot said.
The observations are already a standard part of the culture in Wiscasset, with administrators sitting in on classes throughout the district, Wilmot said.
“This is us doing something innovative,” Wilmot said. “It’s us focusing on always getting better at our craft, and never losing sight of the fact that when we get better as educators, we have the opportunity to directly impact our kids and give them access to the highest quality of instruction.”
Wiscasset is also continuing a partnership with the University of Maine at Farmington in the area of professional development for mathematics. Math coach Charles Leitzell is going through his second year of training with the Maine Mathematics Coaching Project to continue to support the professional development of the district’s teachers and improve the quality of teaching and learning in math, Wilmot said.