Do You Believe in Magic?

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend the Believe and Prepare Community meeting in Baton Rouge. This meeting was focused on improving teacher preparation programs and on strengthening relationships between school systems and teacher preparation programs.

The meeting began with John White, the Louisiana Superintendent of Education, greeting the attendees. He spoke about Louisiana’s recent accolades for being named the 2nd in the nation for increasing graduates with AP credit. He also talked about our need to look closer at the teacher preparation programs. He stated that we need to, “Get it right before someone gets in the classroom.” Along with speaking about the teacher preparation programs, he stated that the quality of the mentor teacher is one of the most important factors in determining a teacher candidate’s success. Due to this, he said that thousands of mentor teachers will be needed throughout the state. Along with the Board of Regents, he said that the state will be considering policy for teacher preparation programs. There will be meetings across the state to discuss this policy, and BESE will begin looking at it this summer.

Next, Chris Minnich, the Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), spoke about CCSSO’s role to create opportunities for each state to be innovative. He talked about Louisiana participating in CCSSO’s “Network for Transforming Educator Preparation” which focuses on better preparing teacher candidates for the classroom and measuring the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs. Chris then pointed out that, “Louisiana is at the cutting edge of teacher preparation programs.” In fact, seven other states had sent representatives to the Believe and Prepare Community meeting to learn about our initiatives.

The whole group meeting concluded with two teachers from Louisiana speaking about their personal experiences as mentor teachers. Lisa Allen, from Lincoln Parish, shared reasons why she feels that serving as a mentor teacher has had a positive impact on her students. Then, Mallory Wall-Padgett, from Calcasieu Parish, spoke about how being a mentor teacher gave her a pathway for fulfilling her desire to be a leader.

After these inspiring speeches, we then attended breakout sessions covering a variety of topics concerning teacher preparation programs. First, I attended a session on mentor teachers presented by Relay Graduate School of Education and KIPP New Orleans Schools. As I wanted to learn more about measuring the quality of teacher preparation programs, I then attended a session by Dr. Ed Crowe with Teacher Prep Inspection-US. My day ended with learning how the Deans for Impact are implementing cognitive science research to further strengthen teacher preparation practice.

While driving home, I heard the song, “Do You Believe in Magic?” Great teachers are seen to have this magical and innate ability to teach. However, the truth is there is a lot of work that goes into preparing teachers for the classroom. As the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year, I am grateful that I have the opportunity to be a part of the conversation to enhance our teacher preparation programs. A well-prepared teacher doesn’t just positively impact their classroom. Instead, they strengthen and enhance all classrooms.