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Teacher helping studentIt's A Wild Ride - Supporting Success

"We really rely on our administrative personnel in the building. They are supportive of the whole teaming process. " Jill Whitesell

In addition to effective leadership, the teachers recognize a team of like-minded colleagues, a block schedule, and district innovation for supporting their success.

Effective Leadership
Principal Wiley Dobbs has been a leader in middle school reform in his building and beyond. He has served as president of the Idaho Middle Level Association and has been recognized nationally as well. Soon after joining O'Leary as principal he began to look for strategies for school improvement at the middle level. One of those was teacher teaming.

"I don't visit individually with 55 teachers. I go and talk with teams. That gives me much more time to be an instructional leader. I do much less managing, and I am able to really concentrate on creative ideas and ways in which I can remove barriers for teachers." Wiley Dobbs

With a teaming structure in place, administrative tasks become streamlined, providing more time for in-depth conferences. Curriculum planning can be conducted with teams instead of individual teachers. Students and parents benefit from the coordinated communication and monitoring across the students' courses and activities.

Block Schedules and Project Learning

"What I appreciate about Wiley is that he's willing to do the research... how is this working at other places? ... so we're not just jumping through the latest education hoop. He will actually gather the data. He brings everybody in on the decision, even our parents. He creates the opportunities." Meile Harris

With teaming well established, Wiley began researching alternatives to the typical seven-period, junior high school schedule. He prepared a proposal to implement a block schedule at O'Leary. His report addresses the history, pros and cons, and conclusions from experienced schools.

The move at O'Leary to block scheduling has afforded teaching teams the opportunity to develop extended units, and to take advantage of interdisciplinary teaching for in-depth student learning.

Meeting Standards: School Reform in Idaho**
Theresa, Meile and Jill all acknowledge that the standards are essential for defining curriculum priorities without constraining classroom methods and teaching style.

Technology Leadership
Twin Falls District has made a commitment to install and improve technology. Approximately 16 miles of fiber-optic cable connect more than 1,200 district computers to the Internet. Voice messaging and email keep communication channels open among the district, teachers, parents, and the community.

In the state of Idaho teachers are required to pass the Idaho State Technology Competency Exam certifying knowledge of effective uses of technology for teaching and learning. Twin Falls District set a goal to be the first district with 100% technology-certified teachers. All three teachers have passed this exam.

Improving Access and Use
All O'Leary staff communicate through email. Each classroom has at least one computer. Most language arts rooms have six computers to maximize the use of various reading programs. O'Leary's library is equipped with 25 computers with Internet access.

Acquiring New Tools

"When it comes to new technology you have to be resourceful at times. Not many districts supply exactly what you want or need to enhance the curriculum. Perseverance is the key to getting what you need for your classroom."Meile Harris

For the It's a Wild Ride project, the teachers wanted to use p hotogates, a probeware tool which offers precise measurement of motion. The school had not acquired any, yet Meile and Theresa managed to convince a company to send them two.

In 1998 O'Leary Junior High was chosen by the Albertson Foundation to receive one of the Albertson's High Tech Classrooms complete with 25 computers, Pasco probes, graphing calculators, a SmartBoard*, and videoconferencing equipment. When not in use with students during the school day, these classrooms are used for staff development for teachers in the local area.

Technical Support
O'Leary has one full-time technical support person who is responsible for maintaining and upgrading machines. Additionally, each teacher-team identifies one team member to fulfill the role of 'technology support person' for that particular team. This person represents his/her team on the District's Technology Committee yet usually has time for only minor technical support.

** Supporting Success; References

  * Legal Information and Privacy Policy © 2002 Intel Corporation