By Tara Fort
Collaboration of any kind requires time, effort and flexibility. And, Pam Willard and Janice Yargo-Gatchell, English teachers at Prescott High School (PHS), know just how much their teaching collaboration impacts their students who take part in the Dual Enrollment program offered there. With Dual Enrollment, high school students can take a college course that will earn them credit for both the high school class and the college class. So far, the program has been successful. District Superintendent Joe Howard states, “Dual Enrollment programs at PHS are serving a surprising number of students. In fact, our senior class has more students enrolled in Dual Enrollment English, than in Senior English. The value of these programs to our students is hard to beat. Not only are they getting a head start in their college credit earning, they are getting a true taste of the college culture right here in their own school, where they are familiar with the teachers and surroundings. It’s a great way to transition to the next stage of their lives.”
Inspiring students in this program means juggling the balance of building confidence while teaching them how to become active and conscious writers in college and in the working world. Finding time to collaborate, however, has not always been easy. During the early years of the program, the planning period occurred at the same time for both women. Over the past four years, schedules have differed and now the women collaborate when possible at school, and get together outside of work other times. PHS Principal Stephanie Hillig sees the two in action daily: “Ms. Willard and Dr. Yargo-Gatchell have spent countless hours building the Dual Enrollment program at Prescott High School. Time and time again graduated students share with us how well prepared they are for their college courses because of the curriculum they were given in English 101/102. These teachers have high expectations for their students and help them reach those surpass these expectations.” Willard enjoys the collaboration and states, “It’s good to have another person to go to for ideas or grading advice. Luckily, we have the same philosophy which is to build the students’ confidence while making sure they complete the assignments as asked.” Willard and Yargo-Gatchell echo sentiments of educators who are passionate about their chosen profession. Says Willard, “I love interacting with the students. It’s great to see students start treating English as a subject that matters, not just a subject they can work on at the last minute to get an ‘A’. I get to watch them mature into writers who can hold their own in a college classroom, and that is very gratifying.” Yargo-Gatchell agrees, “I love teaching students writing and seeing their ‘ah-ha’ moments as they write better.”
For the students, many understand the payoffs of earning a dual credit in an environment that supports higher education. Willard says, “The challenge is that I must show my students that what they have learned before is writing at the high school level; now they must write at the college level, and I need to convince them that they can do it. It’s about teaching them to think differently about the process. If they want to get an ‘A’, they have to change their approach.” Yargo-Gatchell adds, “This level of writing also assists in writing across the curriculum.”
Educators within the district face their challenges with grace and flexibility and, with rules governed by the district and the college, juggling can be tricky. At the high school, both women must ensure they are teaching within district standards, following school policies, adjusting time for school events, and remaining prepared for classroom interruptions. On the college level, they must follow department policy and keep to course objectives. Administratively, ruling bodies that govern community colleges can also raise requirements for educators, meaning that the educators themselves must take classes to continue with their certifications. As a result, both women have returned to college to complete a second Masters. Says Willard, “We are three courses away from graduating in May, and you can bet we are taking the day off work! We earned this degree!”
For more information about Prescott Unified School District, visit www.prescottschools.com.