Instructional Partners Get Charged Up at Retreat

The Alabama Best Practices Center (ABPC) held its second annual retreat for Instructional Partners this week, and experienced an incredible turnout of educators eager to network and prepare for the upcoming school year.

“This is our first year,” said Brian Clayton, the new principal at James Clemens High School in Madison City, referring to the school’s participation in the Instructional Partners (IP) program.

But this isn’t his first experience working with the powerful IP program. Clayton served as the principal at Liberty Middle School, which is a part of ABPC’s successful Cohort 1, and he has seen first-hand how collaboration can transform a school. “We’ve also visited some of the other participating schools and continue to be amazed by the energy and collaboration. I can’t wait to learn more and bring more innovative ideas to James Clemens HS.”

The Alabama Instructional Partners Pilot Program was initiated by the Alabama State Department of Education with professional development support from the Alabama Best Practices Center. The essential goal of the project, which is expanding this fall, is to prepare teacher leaders for roles as school-based “instructional partners” who facilitate transformative professional learning among their peers.

The retreat’s agenda began Monday with Cohort 1 reflecting on the past year and generating more discussion for improvements in their collective efforts. Lead by ABPC executive vice president, Cathy Gassenheimer and her staff, the sessions were crafted to engage networking, problem-solving and new ideas.

“With the implementation statewide of more rigorous college and career-ready standards, it’s so important to have support through partnerships and expand the type of effective teaching methods students of the future will need for success,” said Gassenheimer. “This retreat has provided a remarkable opportunity for us to really focus on adult learning and how we can support each other in our schools.”

Jeanne Welt is the assistant principal at Bob Jones High School in Madison City. As an Instructional Partner for the past three years, she helped to pilot the program and wrote recently about her experience, how important it is to build solid relationships with teachers, and how positive partnerships can impact in the school.

“What I have learned in my growth journey is that for change to occur and be owned by teachers, they have to be a valued and respected partner in the dialogue,” said Welt. “We should be humble about this work — there is so much to know and so much we not only give but gain from working with other teachers around practice.”

The four-day workshop was held at the beautiful Children’s Harbor Conference Center. Cohort 2, the newest members of the IP program, joined Cohort 1 on the third day and was welcomed by a series of humorous skits produced and performed by the experienced Cohort 1, to help introduce them to what they can expect as Instructional Partners and in working with ABPC.

The school systems in the Instructional Partners Cohort 1 are:  Atalla City, Blount County, Madison City, Talladega County and Tarrant City. Cohort 2 systems are: Elmore County, Huntsville City, Madison County, Tuscaloosa City and Tuscaloosa County.

“We are so excited to be a part of the program this year,” said Susan Goodin, principal at Coosada Elementary School in Elmore County.