YOUNGSTOWN — While Ohio schools are closed to slow coronavirus spread, Youngstown City School District educators are hard at work, sharpening their vocabulary instruction.
East High School launched its online professional development and coaching last week with ninth through 12th-grade teachers meeting virtually for the first time in teacher-based teams.
Other schools will follow using a virtual meeting platform as all sixth-through-12th-grade teachers have been a part of the literacy initiative initiated this school year.
“Aside from the engaging discourse, witnessing the camaraderie of the East staff being reunited, department by department with their building leaders, was very heartwarming,” said Maria Pappas, YCSD’s chief of core curriculum.
Improving scholars’ literacy is one of the early goals CEO Justin Jennings set as he began to craft his strategic plan for YCSD. Building background knowledge and vocabulary was the first step.
“Every teacher is a teacher of reading,” Jennings said.
East Principal Jeremy Batchelor lauded his staff for adapting to the challenging circumstances.
"Obviously we were not expecting to have to move to this mode of training,” Batchelor said. “However, our staff has been extraordinary in adjusting. Their professionalism and engagement in working through the state-mandated closure has been second to none.
“The Keys to Literacy PD [professional development] has been a vital part of our work to address literacy in our district,” he said. “The virtual professional development will allow us to continue that work at a high level. I am so proud of the participation and engagement that took place today on our first session and we've already scheduled a follow-up session."
Christine Sawicki, chief academic officer for YCSD, agreed.
“Improving literacy instruction for all of our scholars has been the district's main focus this year,” she said. “All of our staff members have been involved in ongoing literacy professional development sessions throughout the year.
“In order to continue this level of support and learning for our staff members during the mandated school shutdown, we have scheduled several virtual professional development sessions for them,” she said. “We commend them for their dedication each day and are impressed by their actions.
“Our staff has truly embraced the newly learned strategies this year as well as the new mode of professional development delivery.”
The district is utilizing "Keys to Literacy," a leading provider of literacy teacher training, curriculum, ongoing coaching and materials for educators across the country.
When used across multiple grade levels, students benefit from a consistent approach to vocabulary instruction as they move from grade to grade and subject to subject.
“That is the beauty of our work this year,” Pappas said. “We are making an impact through the use of a set of consistent, winning strategies to teach vocabulary across subject areas and grade levels.”