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Coaching Academy Can Advance Teachers’ Skills

The ultimate goal of all professional development for teachers is to improve student learning. So, again this year, the District is increasing its commitment to instructional coaching, an initiative that adds an energizing layer to and helps strengthen the effectiveness of teachers’ professional development. Three of our teachers are enrolled in a Coaching Academy offered through Just ASK, an organization that provides expertise and consultation for helping educators plan, implement, and assess instructional practices and learning environments. Michelle Restivo, Karen Shuskey and Karissa Santy will attend five days of training, interspersed through the school year, at the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES to help them learn the best ways to adapt coaching principles to individual teachers’ goals for learning. Mrs. Restivo brings a focus on English language arts to the training, while Mrs. Santy brings a focus on social studies and humanities, and Mrs. Shuskey brings a focus on math.

“We could only send three teachers to the academy this year, and these three were not only interested, but also represented three subject disciplines where we wanted to provide a boost,” says Dr. Molly Corey, the District’s Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. “Our intention is to grow the availability of coaches, or learning partners, so that we will have expertise in coaching combined with expertise in specific content areas.”

Common sense reasons and research shows that teachers who reflect on their effectiveness and then set goals to improve their strategies become better at their job. They can boost their own learning curve more, however, by utilizing a partnership that weaves their knowledge about themselves and their students with the coach’s knowledge of best practices, available resources, and data that measures student achievement. A coach can also assist in setting targeted and tailored goals and providing valuable feedback. In addition, even though the coach is not a supervisor, human nature is such that having another person to check-in with increases accountability, follow-through, and even retention of principles.

Mrs. Restivo, Mrs. Santy, and Mrs. Shuskey agree that their favorite part of coaching and of being coached are the innovative ideas that come from the partnerships. Educators, they note, teach mostly in isolation every day, so the coaches hope to form relationships, or learning partnerships, that break that isolation and provide structured opportunities for thought-provoking conversations. Because coaches are not supervisors, the partnering relationship allows more room for creative collaboration and constructive feedback.

Most importantly, however, is that the data is showing that skills targeted by teachers for their professional growth through learning partnerships are much more likely to be retained and applied in the classroom, and that measurable progress in professional development also translates into students’ academic progress.


The three instructional coaches are (pictured from left) Michelle Restivo, Karen Shuskey, and Karissa Santy.Three coaches: Michelle Restivo, Karen Shuskey, and Karissa Santy.