Here, Jeannette T. Jenkins, a VISTA coach who works with new secondary teachers in Louisa County, talks about her coaching experiences.
I have so enjoyed my experience coaching two 6th grade science teachers in the secondary program the last two years. After teaching middle school science for 30 years and retiring, I was looking for a way to stay in touch with students and to share my passion for science and knowledge of science education by mentoring new teachers.
The VISTA Initiative has allowed me to do that and to continue in wonderful professional development and growth for myself as well. It has been so inspiring to work with dedicated professionals that hold similar ideas and vision for teaching science in more meaningful, challenging, and authentic ways.
I have watched my two 6th grade teachers (Megan Priamo Jackson and Alex Waleski) in Louisa County grow in the knowledge and concepts of science by using hands-on activities, inquiry investigations, and problem-based learning. They have also grown in their understanding of the nature of science, all under the guidance of the VISTA directors and curriculum specialists in classes as well as through my personal coaching, co-teaching, and guidance.
Under the stress of the SOL testing and county benchmark realities, the teachers began to see how using the VISTA concepts to teach many lessons allowed both their students and themselves to have enjoyable and successful learning experiences that enhanced and focused learning. This took practice and determination by all involved to build confidence in curriculum knowledge and understanding, questioning skills, classroom management strategies, and laboratory techniques and safety.
Each of the teachers had different strengths, weaknesses, and needs, but the VISTA program and the personal coaching relationship allowed the individual mentoring and reinforcement that makes a difference. This is the opportunity that all new teachers need and unfortunately seldom are provided.
I am so proud of my two mentees in the successes they have had and the increased confidence in the classroom that I have witnessed. They will be the first to say they have a lot to learn and are always looking to improve lessons and strategies.
If you're a new secondary teacher, please consider applying for VISTA's professional development program, where you can benefit from a coach of your own! More details here.