The Campbell River School District is investing in student success.
This year, more than half-a-million-dollars will be committed to 11 new positions in the district. Their title is teacher coordinator, but rather than teaching students, these teachers will be leading their peers.
The teacher coordinators come from all walks of life: some have been in the district in another capacity for years, while others are fresh from the Lower Mainland. But they’re all aligned in one goal: improving student success.
Campbell River’s grad and literacy rates have been much lower than the district would like to see. Over the last six years, the district’s six-year completion rates have shifted between 75.9 per cent and 84.4 per cent. Last year, it was 81.3 per cent. The Indigenous graduation rates are even lower, ranging from 50.6 per cent to 67.9 per cent over the last six years, while last year’s six-year graduation rate was 65.7 per cent.
The district’s reading assessment shows that an increased number of students are not yet or are minimally meeting standards in Grade 3. But the district’s writing results are within the provincial average.
Superintendent Jeremy Morrow said that while the results are concerning, they aren’t the result of poor intent nor are they a lack of effort from the system.
“We know that we have a dedicated, committed group of educators and so what this presents is an opportunity to do some things differently because we need to see some different results,” he said.
The new positions: District Teacher Coordinators in Mentorship, Elementary Literacy, Educational Technology, Student Opportunities and Options, Adolescent Literacy, Indigenous Cultural Resource, English Language Learners, Healthy Schools, French and Teacher Librarian are in place to support current efforts, but also to remove learning from silos.
“Their work is going to be really to align our strategic plan and the goals within the strategic plan and really try and align the work that’s being done in schools,” says Associate Superintendent Morgan Kyle, so that if you went from one school to another, the teachers will have the autonomy to do what they’re going to do, but these coordinators will be working side-by-side co-planning, co-teaching, observing, doing professional development around best practices.”
The district released its newest five-year strategic plan last fall. Its three priorities include: improve student achievement, build a culture of learning and wellness and honour Indigenous world views and perspectives. Among the success measures are a 25 per cent increase in students fully meeting or exceeding expectations in literacy and a five per cent improvement in the five-year and six-year completion rates.
With the investment in the new positions, Kyle is optimistic that there will be a tangible improvement in that first priority of the strategic plan: student achievement.
“We should be able to see a demonstrable difference in a very short period of time,” she says. “We want to see a gradual increase on our grad rates. We want to see an increase each year on our literacy.”
Part of the challenge these days is the changing definition of what it means to be literate.
“We’ll be working with science teachers, we’ll be working with PE teachers,” she says, because literacy isn’t just up to the English teacher. It’s “an everybody thing.”
The sentiment is echoed by Morrow.
“Literacy is not a K-3 piece or an English teacher’s job,” he said. “It is all our work. Literacy is a collective responsibility within every experience in our system.”
When they were exploring a teacher coordinator model, the district looked at other areas in the province where the positions were already in place.
Most districts have teacher-leader positions.
“It’s not an unusual way to go in terms of district centralized teacher coordinators, so teachers leading teacher work,” says Kyle.
What is different is the sheer amount of resources the district has committed to the model and during a pandemic no less.
In districts like Sea to Sky, just north of Vancouver, that have adopted the teacher coordinator model, Kyle said they’ve seen a significant increase in grad rates, especially within vulnerable and Indigenous student populations. But, she insists, “This is a Campbell River model.
“We’re really excited to get some teacher leaders working with teachers and supporting the investment and commitment and passion that they’re putting in their work and now to have some support on that I think will be welcomed by many.”
On a sunny week in early September, the new teacher coordinators gather to brainstorm ideas, meet each other and introduce newcomers to Campbell River.
They’re district veterans and fresh faces; former Campbell Riverites returned home and newcomers.
Many were drawn to the position by the promise of mentorship and collaboration.
“As teachers, we’re continuous lifelong learners, so at any point, you can be a mentor or a mentee,” says Erin Pickering, district teacher coordinator of mentorship.
Pickering is an 11-year veteran with the Campbell River School District and recently finished her master’s degree in teacher collaboration.
“I’m very passionate about getting teachers together as an effort to improve their practices, to sustain themselves and to make great differences for students,” she says. “I think it’s really awesome that our district is recognizing the importance of teachers working together to advance student achievement.”
Rachel Friederich, district teacher coordinator of adolescent literacy, came to Campbell River after nearly 20 years in the Surrey School District. She’s returning to the community she grew up in, graduating from Robron Centre.
“I love working with adult learners,” she says of her new position. “I miss kids, but I really am inspired by the work of teachers.”
One of the goals of the new teacher coordinator team is to promote and develop best practices across the district. The hope is that departments and schools will collaborate further to find Campbell River solutions for students, increasing their grad rates and literacy skills in the process.
If the first week of meetings is anything to go by, they’re off to a strong start.
“I’ve been going home every night with a giant smile on my face,” says Pickering, “and that’s a wonderful way to start the year.”
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