By Tara Fort • Photo by Trisha Shaffer
Kelli Bradstreet knew as soon as she visited a school with Instructional Coaches that her calling had taken a new course. At the time Bradstreet, Director of Instructional Support for Prescott Unified School District (PUSD), craved feedback and time with other educators to think collaboratively. When turnover was high and new teachers were floundering in the system, she submitted a proposal to the principal of Prescott High School (PHS) and asked for one period off to act as Instructional Coach for new teachers. A role within the District she created as she went along; the year went so well that Bradstreet was given an additional period off, and eventually developed her position as a full time Instructional Coach. Four years later, Bradstreet now oversees six Instructional Coaches, who all bring a variety of insight and experiences to their roles individually at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels.
For those not familiar with Instructional Coaching, the concept is new and necessary to those schools looking for forward-movement and expanded thinking. Formerly known as a mentor to new teachers, Instructional Coaching takes a broader approach. At one time to support the mentoring program, PUSD offered Master’s teachers credit hours if they met on a regular basis with new teachers. While successful, the mentors realized they needed to include training and better structure to the program, so they hired teachers to “coach” their peers before and after school. The description of an Instructional Coach has expanded as it has evolved, and has now become a way for educators to find space to reflect and evaluate their approaches to education and their thinking processes. The coaches support teachers in a variety of capacities, with the number one focus to improve teacher skill and capacity through on-site coaching and mentoring. When Bradstreet asked instructors what specific support was most impactful when working with a coach, one instructor replied, “My ability to draw out what my vision was for my class as well as myself, and to do so with concrete application.”
In addition to peer mentoring and listening to each other, Instructional Coaches take on a multitude of tasks such as: working to maintain effective relationships with personnel and the public, seeking out new resources to enrich teacher’s skills for the current curriculum, implementing orientation programs, facilitating student achievement data and assessment tools, and coordinating intervention strategies. The scope is broad with room for more.
Bradstreet is energized and inspired each time she meets with the other coaches, and recognizes the value of coaching in other aspects of life. She is not alone in her thinking that Instructional Coaches remain of value with the District, and that the model will continue for those seeking life-long self-improvement and education. She states, “Our coaches are treasure hunters. Through questioning they help others discover their own strengths and find the answers to their own challenges.”
For more information about Prescott Unified School District, visit www.prescottschools.com.