From Teacher to Implementation Coach: Finding Fulfillment Back in the Classroom

This month’s Coaching in Action blog shares the story of a retired teacher turned classroom coach and the strategies he used to lead a district’s successful implementation of a reading intervention program.

After we retired from a Michigan public school district in 2015, my wife and I moved to California. Antsy after one month, I volunteered in a kindergarten class for the remainder of the school year. When I discovered that my master’s degree and Michigan teaching certificates didn’t qualify me for a 30-day emergency substitute license in the state of California, I explored career options with HMH and have never looked back. It turns out, my background in hybrid/blended learning made me a good candidate to help with the implementation of reading intervention programs.

The Mark of a Successful Implementation

The school district in California turned to READ 180 Universal in 2016 and has since expanded its use from 18 classrooms to 24—along with eight classrooms of third grade after-school classes using the companion program, System 44. In the first year, the district’s Lexile® average grew by 80 points, and by midway through the second year it was up nearly another 90 points. Many students are reaching grade-level proficiency, and our lead teacher in the district was a finalist for HMH’s 180 Educator Awards.

The Key Ingredients to Success 

Here are some positive contributing factors to our success:

  • The district administration was supportive every step of the way, showing patience with a new program and running it with fidelity.
  • We provided 36 coaching days in the first year of implementation.
  • All parties contributed to a positive mindset.
  • Data review was a continual part of the process.
  • Testing windows and running reports were closely adhered to.
  • Coaches or the lead teacher conducted cadre meetings.
The Teachers’ Perspective

During our implementation, teachers began seeing students reading more and more books—and they saw the Lexile scores jump. The students were excited about the lessons and especially about the new software. As teachers learned how to deliver the program properly, it became much more user-friendly to them; they had all they needed at their fingertips. They reached out to me often and were always extremely thankful. 

Many of the teachers expressed to me how they had never seen results like this before. Here are some of the strategic efforts that contributed to the teachers’ success:

  • Participating teachers, who were carefully selected, were held accountable and took ownership of the program.
  • Training was geared toward the district’s specific needs and extended to paraprofessionals and school administrators as well.
  • Teachers implemented an ongoing rewards system to acknowledge victories big and small.
  • Teachers conferred consistently with students on their progress.
Strategies—and Honest Appraisal—From the Coach

As a new coach, I found the implementation process absolutely exhausting! I referred to myself as a “blue collar” coach, literally working 28 days the first September, including Saturdays and Sundays, doing whatever work was needed to ensure that teachers and students got the most out of the program. My coaching strategy included:

  • a true hands-on approach with both students and teachers;
  • 24/7 availability for teachers to reach out to consultants by phone or email;
  • a yearlong focus on the use of the program from the teacher and student perspectives; and
  • ongoing flexibility and troubleshooting to respond to individual needs and issues.

While challenging at the outset, coaching became extremely rewarding as I began to see such positive results. The district is now reaping the benefits, and the results are amazing—that’s what matters most!

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Visit our website to learn more about the READ 180 and System 44 programs, and learn about the full range of HMH coaching options here.

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