As our Mission Statement explains, the all-embracing purpose of the Weilenmann School of Discovery is to promote “engaged, authentic and effective learning” that prepares students for the 21st century. Effective learning is influenced by a wide variety of factors. Some of them are beyond a school’s control, such as individual or family circumstances and experiences. Other factors are within a school’s control — academic program, services, facilities, leadership, and so on. Not surprisingly, the most important school-related factor in student success is an effective teacher.
We all want the best possible teachers in our students’ classrooms — those that both challenge and support them, who meet them where they are and take them as far as they can go. Effective teachers find ways to reach students of all achievement levels.
“They know how to invite students of any age into a culture of learning,” notes Cindy Phillips, Executive Director. “It’s much harder than it sounds and is equally hard to detect, it feels so natural. The teacher becomes so good at setting up conditions for learning and engagement that she almost disappears from view.”
Effective teachers are continually learning. They are lifelong learners themselves and never feel they have “arrived’” as teachers. Instead, they are always striving, excited to learn and implement new knowledge and skills in the classroom. “These teachers are willing to move way outside their comfort zones to learn ways to support students who are moving way outside their comfort zones to learn,” Cindy adds.
WSD teachers, like WSD students, are valued and respected as the heart of our school. Once hired, they are supported with continuing professional development that keeps them up to date on research, teaching strategies, emerging technology, resources, curriculum, and more. “The best teachers are also the most eager learners,” observes LS Director, Melissa Shunn-Mitchell. “They attend conferences, seminars, workshops, trainings and faculty discussions on an ongoing basis.”
An effective teacher gets to know each student well enough to love that student unconditionally. This shapes the way he interacts with them. They are much more to him than simply kids taking a test or doing a project. As Steve Williams, MS Dean, describes it, “We see who students will be tomorrow, and do everything we can to make sure they get there.” The students feel this, and that alone can make a huge impact on their learning.
Effective teaching is an acquired talent. The goal for every WSD teacher is to learn from successes and failures, to continually improve the craft of teaching, and to feel it a privilege to be part of the beautiful lives and amazing futures that are in their charge.