The Grosse Pointe Public School System & Grosse Pointe North High School
This is my fourth year as a teacher in the Grosse Pointe Public School System. I have been teaching physics and chemistry for the past three years at Grosse Pointe North High School. Having lived in the Detroit area my entire life, and having been raised in Grosse Pointe, I have a strong connection to the Grosse Pointe Public School System. Not only am I a teacher from Grosse Pointe North High School, but I am also a 2002 graduate of North High School.
The Grosse Pointe Public School System offers a tradition of excellence as a school system, preparing students of all ages to learn and lead in an educational setting that encourages them to reach their full potential. Our staff, students and community all contribute to a healthy learning environment.
From the time I was a student at Grosse Pointe North, I can remember being challenged to be my best. Teachers, other students, coaches, and administrators made me realize the potential I had for success on a daily basis. They would help me realize my skills and how they could be honed through coursework and projects. I learned to be a great writer, a great speaker, and an innovative problem-solver. I was even selected to represent my graduating class and school by giving the commencement address as a senior at our graduation ceremony. I remember taking challenging courses and having outstanding teachers. I took away something from each class I took and all of my experience as a student contributed to my future success. Being back at my alma mater as a teacher a decade later has me now working with some of the teachers in whose class I was a student. My freshman English teacher is now my principal, and my senior physics teacher is now my science department chair.
My pride for the Grosse Pointe Public Schools, and especially North High School, as a student motivated me to seek a teaching position there as I began building my career. I knew that the high caliber of educational programming and the quality of instruction that was happening in all the schools is what I wanted to be surrounded by in my career. I got that chance in 2010 to join the North High School science team, and it was a dream come true! Immediately, I felt challenged to be the best teacher that I could be by my (then) colleagues. I saw great instruction, project-based learning, and engaging classrooms all around me. The stellar extra-curricular programs and athletics encouraged me to get involved as a club sponsor. Quickly, I was inspired to try new ideas in my classroom and advance my practice to keep up with the great staff that surrounded me.
Not only did the high level of educational programming and teaching inspire me to improve my own classroom practice, but Grosse Pointe had strong professional development programs for new teachers that helped support me in my early career. Working closely with a master physics teacher as my mentor, I was guided to hone my instruction and implement project-based learning. When the idea was proposed to do a cardboard boat regatta in our school pool with the physics students, the administration was fully supportive. With the support of the administration, I had the opportunity to attend several great staff development workshops in chemistry and instructional technology. This helped me push my instruction to the next level. As I started to introduce more project-based learning and mobile devices into my learning, the administration was very supportive. As perhaps one of the most important factors to a teacher’s classroom success, administrative support is essential. Colleagues and administrators encouraged me and helped me think through ideas for projects and the use of technology in the classroom.
As the district saw a need for supporting technology in the classroom, they obtained an account for everyone in the district on Google Apps For Education, and they opened up the policies on mobile devices to give teachers discretion to use them in their classroom. This allowed me to run a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Classroom and eventually take a team of students to Lansing to present to legislators on what we were doing with technology. As my classroom practice continued to grow from the supportive environment in Grosse Pointe Public Schools, I saw a need to adjust my assessment and grading practice to account for the unique teaching and learning that took place in my classroom.
With the full support of my administration, I piloted a Standards-Based Grading program in my classroom in 2011. It was a tremendous success for supporting student learning, and the district recognized this. They supported me in piloting a new gradebook system, ActiveGrade, in 2012 to give students more detailed feedback on their academic growth and learning outcomes. At the same time, other teachers at my building began to pilot Standards-Based Grading in their classrooms. The biggest show of support of my grading practice from district administration came when they decided to move all of our elementary schools (K-5) to a standards-based report card grading system. They provided me an opportunity to work with elementary schools and principals and help share my expertise. It was a true honor to have my work influence the work of our district. It was truly promoting talent and success from within.
All of this promotion, encouragement, and support led to the tremendous success I have had in my classroom and beyond. The district has created flexibility for me, and other teachers, to do innovative things in our classrooms. We also are supported to attend conferences, develop as professionals in PLCs, and present to other educators on what works in our classrooms. The support of a school administration is essential to any classroom success, and I know that I could not be as successful as a teacher if I taught in any other district. In my four years teaching in Grosse Pointe, I have been supported to grow as a professional, present at and attend conferences, and win prestigious awards. I was named the Michigan Science Teacher of Promise in 2012 by the Michigan Science Teachers Association, and this past year selected by the Michigan Department of Education as the 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year for the state of Michigan. The district has honored my work with a recognition assembly, banner, and countless positive press.
This year, the district administration and School Board have created a new position for me as an Instructional Coach, which allows me to work with teachers and classrooms K-12 in the district sharing my classroom expertise. It is a tremendous opportunity to teach students in Grosse Pointe Public Schools, and now it is an even bigger honor to have the chance to work with all the students and teachers in the district. In this new capacity this year, I am not teaching high school science; instead, I am working with every classroom in the district to support instruction, assessment, grading, and technology integration. I get to work individually, in groups, and with entire building staff on modern teaching and learning. While our district has much success already, the administration saw this as an opportunity to hone that success even further. They had me work with our new teachers at their orientation this year, and currently I am traveling to each school in the district to work with K-12 teachers.
In so many ways, the teachers in Grosse Pointe are supported to be their best as professionals. I cannot even begin to enumerate the myriad ways in which I have been supported here as a teacher; however, I do know that it has been that support that has made the difference for my success as a teacher. If there is anything that other schools could take away from the Grosse Pointe Public School System, it would be that the outcomes of supporting your teachers can be far greater reaching than ever imaginable. I know that I owe my success to the support of my district and school. Being able to implement new ideas, technologies, and strategies in the classroom cannot happen without school support. And for that, Grosse Pointe, I thank you!