Students in one of Veterans’ Memorial Elementary School’s fourth-grade classes share a special bragging right on the playground — one that administrators hope will transfer to boast-worthy test scores.
These kids have two teachers.
Facing some of the lowest state test score results in the district last year, Superintendent Richard Safier took action in implementing a new-to-Gloucester co-teaching program in one of two fourth-grade classes at Veterans and one of the two first grades also.
“We were looking for innovation. We were looking for some change,” Safier said in an episode of Superintendent’s Corner. “We were comparing Veterans with similar schools across the commonwealth. In a number of schools that were performing relatively well, we found this co-teaching model.”
Students in Kristie Lambert and Amy Clayton’s fourth-grade class have embraced that model. Some carried novels zipped into plastic baggies over to a reading corner, while others pulled textbooks from shelves and joined Clayton. One student settled in for some extra reading help with Lambert, and another group of kids sat around a table with a reading packet Tuesday morning.
Amy Clayton, who hones in on the special education portion of the teaching, said though she was initially apprehensive about such a program, she has seen an “endless” list of positive results.
“All kids learn differently, so we’re able to hopefully touch upon each learning style,” Clayton explained. “The kids are more confident, too. It’s been a really great experience.”
Clayton added that having two teachers in a classroom also aids the students’ development of social skills.
Clayton and Kristie Lambert, friends before their dual teaching assignment, not only plan lessons before class together but also model social and behavioral interactions just through their conversations in the classroom.
The kids have noted their teachers’ connection, too, dubbing the co-educators “Claybert.”
“Two teachers, one brain,” the kids say to describe their co-teachers. And, at Veterans,’ that’s one popular brain.
“All my friends in other classes get jealous,” 9-year-old Jhailenny Tejada said.
The added one-on-one time with teachers stemming from the lower teacher-to-student ratio in the co-teaching classrooms appeals to the 9- and 10-year-olds in the class, who willingly contributed to a conversation about the program with a classroom visitor Wednesday. The students said they feel more comfortable raising their hands or sharing opinions in the smaller groups, each of which is overseen by a teacher.
“It’s easier to learn more having two teachers. They’re able to teach you more when there are less kids to worry about,” 10-year-old Eliana Faria explained.
Lambert later agreed, saying that having that mutual support throughout the day energizes her.
“She has particular strengths; I have particular strengths. We bring out the best in each other,” Lambert said.
Lambert noted, too, the benefit of providing the special education services, like reading intervention, right in the classroom.
“It really takes that transition time away when the kids would be walking to another classroom,” Lambert said. “They don’t miss any of the whole group instruction and don’t have to leave the classroom.”
Many in the district, including Lambert and Clayton, hope to see co-teaching expand next year to follow the two classes of students on their next steps up the ladder — into fifth and second grade.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.