In a Commitment to Excellence meeting Friday at Mountain West Insurance, teachers from throughout the district expressed their opinions on the school district’s new curriculum.
And by the sounds of it, they’re fans.
Sara Linsacum, a kindergarten teacher at Sunset Elementary School, said the Understanding by Design curriculum allowed her to teach her students a uniform curriculum while still adding her own touch.
“We’re not bogged down by the cutesiness of kindergarten,” Linsacum said. “There are big ideas that are universal. This is where the state is going, and it’s going to take us in great directions.”
Linsacum said she and other teachers take big ideas and apply them to their lessons, such as similarities and differences or comparing and contrasting.
When asked by business members of the Commitment to Excellence Committee if the curriculum alignment allowed teachers to teach differently within their classrooms, Superintendent Joe Petrone answered a swift and curt, “No.”
“I say no because there may be stylistic differences,” Petrone said, but he went on to explain that every child in the district is supposed to be prepared to move from first to second grades and so on.
“We’re not as good as we’re going to be yet because every group is different. But we’re collaborating. The outcome is to have aligned curriculum throughout the district,” Petrone said.
Bobbie Evenson, one of the middle school physical education teachers, said teachers seem enthusiastic and willing to learn more.
“I hear comments from staff, ‘I want more training, I want to know.’ Obviously great things are coming from it, but we still need tweaking,” Iverson said.
Jennifer Stagner, a second-grade teacher at Ridgeview Middle School, said she has seen vast improvements in students' learning already, along with changes in her own way of thinking.
“My life is organized by the (Understanding by Design) pattern now,” Stagner said, citing an example of framing a lesson on the playground earlier that day.
With the Earth Dome coming to Craig this past week, Stagner said the UBD curriculum allowed her to prepare her students for the presentation they would receive. Her students were able to name the seven continents and define latitude and longitude, among other things.
“We were directed. We knew what we were going to teach, what we had to get through and the kids rocked it,” Stagner said. “It was very easy and makes a lot of sense. I’m super excited about it.”
Vera Turner, literacy coordinator at Sandrock Elementary School and gifted coordinator for the district, said the program is more like backward design.
“We’re setting a goal and saying how are we going to get there? It’s been powerful so far in bringing teams together,” Turner said.
Turner added lessons are meant to be living documents with students taking what they have learned and transferring it to real-life situations.
“It interweaves all those subjects we try to teach in school so that they get the connection. Authentic assessments go with that so kids are able to authentically show what they have learned,” Turner said.
Requiring a three-year implementation period, teachers and administrators explained that results will not happen — nor could they be expected to — overnight.
Iverson said, “In my mind, we should start to see results in TCAP testing, but still not something we’ll see overnight. We have to start building through the different levels. It’s a process.”
Fifth-grade teacher Stacy Ponikvar dovetailed on Iverson’s comment: “We’re starting to see it slowly by slowly. We’re still trying to learn it, too, but we’re seeing it in our classroom. I don’t know that we’ll see a huge jump this year. It won’t happen overnight, but kids are excited and starting to make connections that maybe they’ve never made before.”
Sarah added that during her training at the Colorado Department of Education, she heard that concept-based learning will allow students' learning to skyrocket.
Committee member Dave DeRose said he felt the new curriculum would prepare students to be valuable members of the Craig community, noting the skills taught through the curriculum could be applied to work in students' specific fields.
Another question posed be board members was whether the district jump ship if a new curriculum came along down the road that seemed more appealing.
In reply, Assistant Superintendent Brent Curtice said, “If you commit to this and you do it well, you won’t jump ship. If you jump ship, it’s because you did it poorly. That’s what we’re guarding against. If you don’t have that, you’ll be lost.”
Darian Warden can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“We were directed. We knew what we were going to teach, what we had to get through and the kids rocked it.”
Ridgeview second grade teacher Jennifer Stagner
on the understanding by design curriculum and her class