STATE NAMES 97 TALENTED TEACHERS TO ‘CONNECTICUT DREAM TEAM’

We’re delighted to share that the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) has announced that 97 teachers from 86 schools across Connecticut will take part in TeachFest Connecticut, an intensive professional learning session on the Common Core State Standards, where they will develop high-quality resources to be shared with fellow teachers. The ‘Connecticut Dream Team’ will continue working with their peers in the weeks following TeachFest and later serve as teacher leaders at a larger event for Connecticut educators this summer. Participants teach a wide spectrum of different grade levels, with 60 specializing in English language arts and 37 in mathematics.

State names 97 teachers to the CT Dream Team

Commissioner Stefan Pryor announces members of the 2014 Connecticut Dream Team

“TeachFest will provide teachers with the opportunity to collaborate and innovate as they develop high-quality Common Core resources to be shared with their colleagues. Participants will also serve as teacher leaders in future Common Core-related events and activities. We thank and congratulate the teachers who have volunteered and been selected for the Connecticut Dream Team,” State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor said. “This is a new and exciting element of our growing array of Common Core supports for teachers and school leaders. We are grateful to Governor Malloy and the General Assembly for providing the resources that enable us to provide these critical supports for educators.”  

TeachFest Connecticut represents one of the professional development opportunities supported by the State Department of Education regarding the implementation of the Common Core State Standards.The Connecticut Dream Team will first convene in Hartford from April 25-27 for TeachFest Connecticut, a celebration of teaching and an intensive, structured working session facilitated by LearnZillion. A provider of digital curriculum and professional development for the Common Core, LearnZillion developed this innovative model for their national Dream Team.

“Connecticut teachers’ response to this opportunity has been wonderful,” said Eric Westendorf, CEO of LearnZillion. “We’re excited to support the SDE’s commitment to teachers by sharing our high-energy, rigorous and practical approach to developing exceptional instructional practice with the Connecticut Dream Team.”

Following TeachFest, the Connecticut Dream Team members will return to their 86 elementary, middle and high schools to continue working with peers and content coaches in facilitated online professional learning communities (PLCs). During this process, the Dream Team members will translate their proven teaching methods and classroom expertise into high-quality Common Core resources for use by teachers in Connecticut and will be available on CTCoreStandards.org. These resources will also be made available to teachers across the country, through a free Common Core resource library.

“We applaud all of the teachers who stepped up and volunteered to serve in this important role. Their firsthand classroom experience will be invaluable in helping their colleagues effectively implement Common Core — an effort that has been a significant challenge for so many of our state’s schools,” AFT Connecticut President Melodie Peters said. “Classroom educators were among the first to speak out and urge that their voices be heard in making new teaching standards work when they were adopted four years ago. This effort reflects a major step forward for implementing the core set of standards because it empowers teachers to train teachers.”

The Connecticut Dream Team will later serve as teacher leaders for a “Common Core Fest” to be held for hundreds of teachers across the state on July 29, 2014.   In addition to the LearnZillion experience, the State Department of Education is already sponsoring a series of professional development opportunities for educators across Connecticut. Since the beginning of the school year, school and district leaders have taken part in “communities of practice”— gatherings which focus on implementing the new standards and sharing best practices already in place.

Also, the SDE has convened over 1,500 teachers from 163 districts as Common Core Coaches to develop expertise in the new standards through a series of trainings and webinars. Common Core training opportunities are also being designed for 600 new teachers, student teachers and their mentors, as well as the faculty of teacher-preparation programs.   The K-12 educators selected for the Connecticut Dream Team were chosen through a competitive statewide application on the basis of their content knowledge, grit, and understanding of the Common Core State Standards. Each educator demonstrated the commitment and ability to “scale their impact” beyond their classroom.

 Teachers named to the 2014 Connecticut Dream Team

 Name School District
Aaron Ribchinsky Mary Morrison Elementary and Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School Groton Public Schools
Alicia Loesche East Haven High School East Haven School District
Alicia Wetherbee Edna C. Stevens Elementary School Cromwell School District
Amanda Ashley Peterson Danbury High School Danbury School District
Amanda Johnson Danbury High School Danbury School District
Amy DiNoia Chippens Hill Middle School Bristol School District
Amy Inzero Elizabeth Green Newington School District
Andrew D. Deacon Colebrook Consolidated School Colebrook School District
Andrew Hill Brookfield High School Brookfield School District
Andrew Hutchinson Meriden Elementary Schools Meriden School District
Anna Capobianco Hall High School West Hartford School District
Barbara McLean Hubbell Elementary School Bristol School District
Barbette Warren CREC Public Safety Academy Enfield School District
Briana Visone Bloomfield High School Bloomfield School District
Catherine Freeman Sage Park Middle School Windsor School District
Cheryl R. Kerison Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School New Haven School District
Christine Turcotte-White Henry Barnard Elementary School Enfield School District
Christopher Affie Ansonia High School Ansonia School District
Clinton McLeod Anna H. Rockwell School Bethel School District
Colm Duffin New Britain High School New Britain School District
Corey Nagle Chippens Hill Middle School Bristol School District
Courtney Warner Cook Hill Elementary School Wallingford School District
Craig Wisniewski Martin Kellogg Middle School Newington School District
Danielle Durso Crosby High School Waterbury School District
David P Daigneault Robert E Fitch High School Groton Public Schools
Debra Parker New Fairfield Middle School New Fairfield School District
Diana Kloskowski Slade Middle School New Britain School District
Dr. Brian Moore Bullard Havens Technical High School Connecticut Technical High School System
Elizabeth Porter Chippens Hill Middle School Bristol School District
Ellen Meyer Broadview Middle School Danbury School District
Erin Birden Washington Primary School Regional School District 12
Eugenie George Achievement First Bridgeport Elementary Achievement First Bridgeport
Fallon Wagner Meriden Elementary Schools Meriden School District
Heather DeLaurentis Polson Middle School Madison School District
Hillary Singer Roger’s Park Middle School Danbury School District
Jacqueline Kremer Integrated Day Charter School, Norwich; Juliet W. Long, Ledyard Integrated Day Charter School
Jane Giresi Miller-Driscoll School Wilton School District
Jane Martellino Warren School, James Morris School, and Goshen Center School Regional School District 06
Jane S Potts Mary Morrisson Elementary Groton Public Schools
Jennifer DeRagon Coventry High School Coventry Public School District
Jennifer Lizee-Hammer Pleasant Valley South Windsor School District
Jennifer McDougall Captain Nathan Hale Middle School Coventry Public School District
Jennifer Murrihy Frank T. Wheeler Elementary Plainville School District
Jessica Szafran A Ward Spaulding Elementary School Suffield School District
Josh Egan Washington Middle School Meriden School District
Kara levenduski Robert J. O’Brien STEM Elementary School East Hartford School District
Karen Ciarleglio Montowese Elementary North Haven School District
Kari Baransky Roger Sherman Elementary Meriden School District
Katherine Brodaski New London High School New London Public Schools
Katherine Jesmonth William J. Johnston Middle School Colchester Public Schools
Kelly Bouchard Ellen P. Hubbell School Bristol School District
Kelly Palaia International Magnet School for Global Citizenship Capital Region Education Council
Kevin Stevenson The Friendship School Waterford Public Schools
Kristen Grabowski Tolland Intermediate School Tolland School District
Kristin LaLima Griswold Middle School Griswold Public Schools
Laurie LaBossiere Griswold Middle School Griswold Public Schools
Laury LaMarche C.B. Jennings New London Public Schools
Lisa Handfield Andover Elementary School Andover School District
Marika Heughins Pawcatuck Middle School Stonington Public Schools
Mariliz Fitzpatrick Chippens Hill Middle School Bristol School District
Mary Kay Rendock Carmen Arace Intermediate School Bloomfield School District
Mary Lou Woods Meriden Elementary Schools Meriden School District
Mary Strout Griswold Elementary School Griswold Public Schools
MaryJean Giannetti Meriden Elementary Schools Meriden School District
Matthew Taber Coginchaug Regional HS Regional School District 13
Melissa Potamianos Orchard Hill South Windsor School District
Michelle Bartlett Sunnyside School Shelton School District
Michelle Combs Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School New London Public Schools
Monica Lloyd Toquam Magnet Elementary School Stamford School District
Nadine Keane Griswold High School Griswold Public Schools
Natasha Domina North Haven Middle School North Haven School District
Paul Jeffrey Laedke New Fairfield Middle School New Fairfield School District
Randy Ewart Windsor High School Windsor School District
Rita Gregory Booth Free School Regional School District 12
Robin Greenwald Leonard J. Tyl Middle School Montville Public Schools
Robin Moore James Morris School Regional School District 06
Rosanne Field Batcheller Early Learning Center Winchester School District
Ryan Howard Classical Studies Academy Bridgeport School District
Sarah Forler Hartland School Hartland School District
Sarah Worley Discovery Academy Capital Region Education Council
Shannon VanderMale Essex Elementary School Essex School District
Sharon Campolo Greene-Hills School Bristol School District
Sherri Hall Sarah J. Rawson Hartford School District
Stacey Albertson Dunbar Hill Elementary School Hamden School District
Stephanie McKenna Wethersfield High School Wethersfield School District
Steven Gionfriddo John C. Mead School Ansonia School District
Steven St. Onge Cromwell Middle School Cromwell School District
Susan Coyle Bullard Havens Technical High School Connecticut Technical High School System
Tawana Graham-Douglas Plainville Elementary Schools Plainville School District
Tiffany Deitelbaum City Hill Middle School Naugatuck School District
Tim Shortt Worthington Hooker School New Haven School District
Tina Eisenbeis Pawcatuck Middle School Stonington Public Schools
Tina Manus Platt Tech High School & Bridgeport Adult Education Connecticut Technical High School System
Tomasa Raver Center School Ellington School District
Vannessa Jane Riggio Chester Elementary School Regional School District 04
Victoria Fox Captain Nathan Hale Middle School Coventry Public School District
William McKinney Wilbur Cross High School New Haven School District

9 Ways to Use LearnZillion with Students

We’ve built LearnZillion’s free resources to support teachers, students, and parents. To that end, here are the nine most popular ways LearnZIllion is already being used to drive student learning and maximize positive student outcomes.

Learn about the most popular ways to use LearnZillion with Students

Learn about the most popular ways to use LearnZillion with Students

Before class you can…

1) Review prerequisite knowledge

Use a Quick Code to jump start your introduction to new concepts or standards by assigning videos that address your lesson’s foundational knowledge and skills before students arrive for class. This not only helps to reactivate prior knowledge, but also preemptively addresses lingering learning gaps from previous grades or units.

Quick Code on a LearnZillion lesson page

Quick Code on a LearnZillion lesson page

2) Pre-teach concepts on an individualized basis

Rather than assign the next day’s lesson to the entire class, you can assign “pre-work” to certain students to ensure they have a leg up on tricky concepts. For those students with concept or skill-gaps, pre-teaching can help to increase student engagement and understanding of your lesson the next day. Plus, this “pre-work” can build student confidence (suddenly, they’re already familiar with what you’re teaching), and seed “peer experts” or helpers within your room.

3) Flip the classroom

Maximize the amount of time your students have for exploration, discussion, and project-based learning by front-loading your direct instruction. Select the LearnZillion lesson or lessons that address the key instructional concepts, assign them to your students, and center the next day’s plan around a meaningful problem, discussion topic, task, or project. Spend the first few minutes of class clarifying any questions students still have after watching the video, then dive into your higher-order activity.

It may take a while for students (and you!) to transition to this new routine, so you’ll want to provide them with plenty of modeling and empower them to come prepared to ask questions.

You may want to use LearnZillion’s notes template (which can be found on each lesson page) to promote strong study habits, focus, and accountability.

During class you can…

4) Drive whole group instruction

Switch-up your direct instruction with a LearnZillion video. As you play the video for the class, strategically pause or re-watch the video at key moments in order to check for understanding, solicit student reactions, and allow students the chance to solve problems before seeing the answer modeled.

Lesson videos do more than provide a change of pace for you, as a third grade teacher at Hyde Addison School in Washington, DC recently told us, “My students found it more engaging hearing someone else’s voice.”

Additionally, the videos enable dynamic visuals — such as the volume of melting ice pictured in this lesson — that can strongly articulate the concept and further engage students.

5) Focus small group work or centers

Turbocharge centers or small group instruction by anchoring student work with a relevant lesson video. Whether the goal is direct instruction, group review, practice, or extension, you can use quick codes to set a targeted group agenda and focus student work. For each Common Core math standard, we also have a library of practice problems that students can tackle independently online, or collaborate to complete via a paper handout.

6) Coordinate with colleagues 

Use LearnZillion to create a consistent and rigorous instructional environment for your students throughout your building. Find the LearnZillion lessons that support your instructional goals for the week, and share the relevant quick codes with other colleagues who work with your students. This way, you can ensure that regardless of whether they’re going to a pull-out class, physical education, art, recess, or an RTI block, your students will be getting con sistent reinforcement, support, and messaging from all of the adults around them.

After class you can… 

7) Differentiate your instruction

Respond to data from your formative assessments by creating customized playlists for the students or small groups in your class. After you’ve analyzed your formative data and identified learning gaps or areas that need additional reinforcement, use LearnZillion’s Common Core Navigator to find the target standard, and then narrow the list by finding the lesson objective that fit your students’ needs. Once you’ve assigned a custom playlist, students can log into their LearnZillion account to watch videos at home, during computer lab, centers, or study hall.

8) Support homework

Assign videos to provide your students with clear and conceptual scaffolds to help them tackle homework assignments or independent projects. Use these videos to clarify the key concepts or provide background knowledge or review to support your assignment.

9) Engage and empower parents

Increase parent involvement and engagement by providing a window into the standards and concepts you and your students are tackling in the classroom. By sharing the lesson quick codes for your current classwork or unit of study, you’ll not only provide your parent community with transparency around the Common Core Standards and your expectations, but also empower them with a useful tool to support learning at home.

So there you have it: the nine most popular ways to use LearnZillion with students.

Let us know how you’re using LearnZillion – we’d love to feature your success stories and share your tips with the rest of the LearnZillion community!

Live, Laugh, LearnZillion

Rebecca Ritenour has been an educator for 15 years, she is a member of the 2013 LearnZillion Dream Team. Her thoughts were first published July 17, 2013.

After 15 years in the classroom, I realize that I am nearly to the halfway point of my career. At this point, it would be easy to put myself on autopilot. After all, I’ve taught every grade and ability level at my school and accomplished a lot in my career. But that’s not me. I can’t do the autopilot thing. I am constantly looking for ways to improve my own teaching and to gain more knowledge that I can apply in the classroom. It’s that drive that led me to pursue and earn my National Board Certification. It’s that drive that sees me working alongside other English/Language Arts teachers in my state capital every year as we review items that will appear on our state’s standardized literature exams.

So, when I noticed a blurb in a National Board newsletter about LearnZillion and applying to be part of their 2013 “Dream Team”, I thought “Why not?” I had no idea what I was about to experience.

LearnZillion’s purpose is to provide instruction to students all over the world as well as support parents and teachers in the process. Who knew that LearnZillion would actually be teaching ME a thing or two? Here’s what LearnZillion and the Dream Team experience has taught me that I will carry with me into my own classroom this fall.

1. Thinking is hard. Thinking hard is harder. All of it is worthwhile when you have a goal you believe in. When we see a real purpose for what we’re doing, we are much more likely to be engaged, to internalize corrections, to be resilient in the pursuit of the goal, and to be proud of the achievement when we’ve reached the goal.

2. I am not alone. Others are on this journey. That is comforting. Whenever I start to think that I am the only person out there who is experiencing struggle, doubt, or insecurity, it helps to know that there is an entire community out there who understands and can offer support. They, too, know these struggles. It is also awesome to know that when it’s time to celebrate even the smallest victory, that same community is there to cheer me on.

3. Missing the mark is the only way to truly learn and improve. Mistakes are not just an annoying part of life, they are an ESSENTIAL part of the process. They lead us to the next step and the next and the next. They move us towards our goal.

4. Getting the best out of someone takes time. Don’t be satisfied with “good” when “better” or “best” is possible. Don’t expect to arrive at “best” immediately. Be receptive to the guidance of those who have gone before you. Feedback that is offered in a supportive and encouraging way always gets me back on my feet and ready to start again.

5. There will always be bumps in the road. Laugh, learn, and leave them behind. (Note to self: remove the dog’s collar before using Screencastomatic to record lessons. Even when you do, the chipmunk outside will inevitably catch the dog’s attention just as you get to the last slide in your video anyway.)

I don’t quite have time to reflect on all of this fully, but when I do I will have an even better understanding of what my role as a teacher entails because of the Dream Team experience. The classroom that I create this year may very well be the best one I’ve crafted yet and what LearnZillion has LearnZillion has taught me will be an essential part of each and every school day. (Well, except for that dog thing…he has to stay home and protect us from those chipmunks!)

The Importance of Collaboration

Jessica Pitts is a middle school English language arts teacher from Little Rock, AR and a member of the 2013 LearnZillion Dream Team. This post was first published May 24, 2013.

I have recently had the opportunity to be in the presence of some really great educators working on amazing things. I was able to attend the LearnZillon TeachFest in San Francisco and an Achieving By Changing Curriculum Huddle with the APSRC (Arkansas Public School Resource Center) in my home state. Attending both of these conferences was so inspiring and motivating because it gave me the opportunity to be a part of a larger community of educators with the sole purpose of improving student learning.
It has been so great to meet people in my home state of Arkansas that had the same need and want for a community of passionate teachers that I found at TeachFest. All of the teachers that I met were excited to hear about my experience with LearnZillion. I found myself repeatedly saying, “It was one of the best weekends of my life.” I explained to everyone that the best part was meeting so many intelligent, creative, and most of all, passionate teachers! Before attending TeachFest, I was nervous that I would feel inferior because I am only a third year teacher, but everyone I met was so welcoming and willing to share their knowledge. Through hard work and collaboration, we all became a community by the Saturday night dance party. I will never forget dancing to “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Living on a Prayer” on a tiny dance floor with 200 other teachers. That moment was definitely a perfect moment for me. I couldn’t stop thinking about how we were all working towards the same goal, and as long as we helped each other and refused to give up, we would all succeed.

One comment from my time at the Achieving By Change Huddle that stood out to me was from a teacher who has been teaching for a while. She said, “I didn’t know that teachers did this!” She was referring to working together to build the best units and lesson plans we can for our students. In that moment, I realized how fortunate I was to have attended these two conferences in the same week. Collaboration is what teachers need so desperately. We need to feel like we are a part of the solution. Just as we have found through research that our students need to be given the space to create, so do teachers, and we create better as a team.
All of these experiences have helped me to realize that we are experiencing a really great shift in education. We are building a community of educators with the overall purpose of being the best we can for our students! I am so happy and grateful to be a part of education right now, and I can’t wait to see the results that we produce as a community of educators.