February 17, 2013
Teachers Talk - The Sport of Teaching Needs a Coach...and That’s Me!
Tracey Jamieson, Learning Coach, Alberta Conference/Teacher, South Side Christian School, Red Deer, AB

As a Seventh-day Adventist educational system, we have been given the advantage of advance knowledge as to best teaching and educational practises as outlined by Ellen White in the book Education.  Our first desire is to draw our students into relationship with their Creator, and the key to this is to have them develop relationships with their teachers.  Meeting the diverse needs of our students is a challenge in today’s educational environment, and one for which many provinces are implementing much more structured requirements.  For Alberta, especially, these requirements also involve the creation of a special position to help facilitate teacher implementation of these new structures, and this is the position of a “Learning Coach”.
After years of researching best teaching practises, the province of Alberta stated that by September 2011, all schools needed to implement school-based expertise support teachers in meeting the needs of students with disabilities and diverse needs within learning environments.  The main purpose of this program is to allow all teachers to develop the skills to teach all students.  This initiative has been called inclusive education, which means that we will no longer be able to say, “We cannot meet the needs of your child.”  This is the type of education which we, as Seventh-day Adventists, originally had, where we evaluated the needs of each child and set up programs that would meet his needs. 
As the Alberta Conference debated how we would be able to meet this directive, the province published many studies on the impact of teacher coaching.  Research indicates that “direct coach-teacher interactions were more likely to lead to changes in instructional practice. . . . Coaching that was ongoing and directly related to classroom instruction provided greater evidence of potential and actual improvement than did irregular interactions or activities directed at larger group meetings.”  So, although our superintendents are providing us with professional development and collaboration opportunities, and classroom visits as their time permits, their other  duties, including the reporting  required by both provincial and SDACC departments, keeps them from having the regular input and interactions that will effect necessary change within our classrooms.
So we took the necessary steps to implement this program, and it is now available to all our Alberta SDA schools.  Since this was my passion, I have been able to take on the learning coach position, which allows me to build on the relationships I have with the teachers, guiding them, giving them needed assistance, and supporting them as they work to implement best teaching practices.  With someone who can actually spend time in their classrooms, observing and working alongside them, teachers have opportunity to build confidence and to learn strategies that allow them to become teachers of excellence.  Additionally, as a person who is not in an administrative position, I am able to give support to teachers in dealing with non-academic issues that arise in the school workplace.  In this role, I assist in the classroom, research  the special needs teachers  face, provide Level B educational assessments, model/co-teach  strategies that teachers may find helpful, find or provide professional development, work with individual students, help develop IPPs, facilitate connections among teachers who teach similar classes/curriculum, and anything else that would help the teacher to better experience success and satisfaction.
Because of the knowledge that we already have, and because as Adventist educators we have chosen as our aim a “Journey to Excellence”, we have a duty to our history, our SDA community, our students and their families, and ourselves to build our educational system into the best it can possibly be, so that others will look to us and wonder, “What is it about them that makes them so great?”  The philosophy behind the Learning Coach position is that it helps to give teachers someone whose responsibility it is to support and provide them with strategies which will help them to work with their students to reach the level of excellence that we desire them to have.  When Adventist education can reach this level, we will have a greater influence within our communities, and our students will be empowered to reach the full potential which God has given them.  When this happens, we will fulfill the intentions of the Journey to Excellence, and be the light that our system was intended to be.
  • Exploring School-Based Coaches in Alberta,  BORMAN & FEGER (2006): P. 5