TKY at Olmsted Academy North
As Teach Kentucky matures as a program, we are beginning to see more clearly how our recruitment, retention and networked teacher support can have a positive impact, especially when there is a high concentration of TKY alumni and current participants at a single school. At Frederick Law Olmsted Academy North, an all-boys middle school in JCPS, we currently have 9 educators who came through Teach Kentucky. They range from a 10 year veteran to a brand new teacher.
A group of teachers volunteered to talk to us about their appreciation for the innovative work at Olmsted North, their supportive administration, and their love for the boys they teach. Below are stories from Daniela Delvescovo (2017 cohort), Kennita Ballard (2015 cohort), Kiersten Kolstad Davis (2017 cohort) and Andrew Beaver (2009 cohort).
What is your favorite thing about working at FLOAN?
Kennita: Of course, the boys! Our boys are viewed by society as underdogs but when I look at them, I don’t see deficits. Instead, I see a gold mine of potential not yet tapped.
In order to do this, it’s crucial to have the systems within the school that allow me to work on drawing out the potential. From our administrators to counselors to teachers, we are a family at this school. There is no competition or spite, just people working together to understand the purpose and mission of educating our boys.
Dani: I love the support we get from our administrators. We get to do out-of-the-box instruction and try new things and they allow us to feel like it’s okay to make mistakes and improve our craft. I also love the boys and how goofy and fun they are.
Kiersten: The boys are really funny, and our administration is rock-solid. To me, that makes all the difference in a school.
Andrew: It’s the people. The culture of treating all faculty members like adults and allowing for teachers to take risks is what I love about working here.
What growth have you seen your school go through during your tenure here?
Dani: We have become a completely STEAM school with tools to do project-based learning effectively. The integration of iPads and technology has also been a game-changer for my instruction and the boys’ learning.
Kiersten: It’s been great to see both the implementation of technology and the training to allow teachers to use it in a meaningful way. I’ve loved the professional development and collaboration around effective use of technology to enhance instruction.
Kiersten Kolstad Davis uses her iPad to guide students through a NearPod activity
Kennita: When I got here, we were building what we have now achieved. I credit this to our administration because they are focused on realistic growth rather than just putting forth some image to the public. This growth has stemmed from authentic and genuine goal-setting for the school—we see everyone doing the work to grow daily.
Andrew: The climate and culture have changed dramatically in my tenure. It’s almost unrecognizable.
In my time, I’ve seen the implementation of PLCs (professional learning communities), intervention programs, Positive behavior systems, and the transition into a STEAM Academy, and the adoption of 1:1 technology.
There is a much more positive culture in the building that when I first started. Teachers are much more positive in the classroom and we have shifted our focus to be more on content and instruction.
Andrew Beaver works with his students during 8th grade math class
What personal/professional growth have you experienced during your tenure here?
Kiersten: I’ve found myself more willing to try more teaching strategies and learned from the kids what works and doesn’t work. My hope is to keep refining them by next year. Our use of technology has streamlined processes to allow for improvement of formative assessments and communication with students, and I’ve embraced trying it all out!
Dani: I’ve learned to let go of some of my control and thus allow more hands-on projects with the kids I now embrace organized chaos because the kids are learning and engaged!
Kennita: I’ve grown so far since I got here! I’m ready to help others reach kids like me and like my kids now. My capacity as a teacher has grown to a point where I want to work on systems implementable across schools to reach struggling students.
Andrew: I have had many opportunities to be a leader within the school and district. I have served on SBDM, been a team leader, been a part of district committees for middle school math and was a Hope Street Group State Teaching Fellow.
I also completed my principal certification at Bellarmine University.
How has TKY helped you as a teacher? What impact do you see with the concentration of TKYers here?
Kennita: I love that my first year, I has mentors through Teach Kentucky and now I can turn around and act as that mentor to new teachers. It’s been an excellent and transformative process. I also love using my TKY connections to develop my brand as an educator, particularly after being named middle school English teacher of the year.
Dani: I loved that since we hold Summer Institute here, I already knew the building! I felt like I was a step ahead of other first year teachers after my lessons from Summer Institute and UofL. Since our instructors were JCPS teachers, I felt like I knew realistically what was coming from JCPS-specific schools.It was also invaluable that the Summer Institute instructors stressed relationship-building with students, because I feel like that’s what has led to so much of my success here.
In terms of having a Teach Kentucky network here, I’ve loved the immediate community it gave me. There’s always someone willing to help and talk!
Kiersten: It has been so valuable to have a strong foundation of support from teachers who have been through what you’ve done before. They have an understanding of the alternative certification process and mentality, and can help advise you. I also love having a community of teachers to look to for guidance within the school.
Andrew: Teach Kentucky has offered a network of support from both my peers and professionals throughout the city. I started teaching midyear on a team of almost all new teachers and Teach Kentucky was able to help me connect with experienced teachers to help guide me through the challenges my first year.
When I became a team leader and needed a new teacher to my team, I purposely helped the hiring committee recruit Teach Kentucky teachers who have gone on to be tremendous assets for our school and district.
Which passion projects and areas of growth are you currently working on?
Dani: I’m working on creating PBL (Project Based Learning) curriculum for science and heading toward using exclusively that kind of instruction next year since it is such a great hands-on way for the boys to learn science.
Kiersten: I’m working to improve formative assessments next year. My goal is to be able to group and align students with appropriate levels and thus be able to work with students in small groups more effectively. I think our extensive technology resources will be so helpful in turning around immediate feedback.
Kennita: I was selected this year to work as part of a School Startup project, so that has been a great experience. I’m also working to incorporate more hip-hop education curriculum and expanding on it next year by using hip-hop as activist text and connecting lyrics to other activist texts.
Andrew: Implementing 1:1 technology in the classroom and pioneering an Illustrative Math Curriculum