CONCORD’S “TOP” PROGRAM ACCELERATES NEW HIRES
DUNLAP, Ind. Faith Aukerman stands in front of a class of kindergarten students at Concord West Side Elementary School. The theme of today's lesson, fitting for an autumn morning, is November. The lesson plan calls for Aukerman to be part teacher, part cheerleader.
"Give me an 'N'!" she urges her pupils.
"N!" they cheerfully respond.
"Give me a 'O'!" she shouts.
"O!" they reply.
Soon enough arrives the finale. "What's that spell?" Aukerman asks.
Aukerman is helping to teach and guide young people new to the education system, and she might be considered "new" herself. Aukerman has been teaching for three years, but the 2014-‐15 academic year marks her first in the Concord school system. She has had some help, too.
Concord schools are home to the Teacher Orientation Program (TOP). The program provides information, guidance and support to teachers both new to the profession and new to the Concord district. Teachers take part in TOP the first full week before classes begin, and sessions continue throughout the school year.
According to Stubbs, the corporation developed the TOP program as a way to familiarize teachers with Concord's values and culture. "Teachers come to us, whether they're fresh out of college or coming to us from another district, and they may know about what they need to do in their classroom because of their education," the superintendent said. "But do they know that much about what they're doing coming to Concord schools? [TOP was established] to make sure we have an opportunity to bring them into our way of thinking as far as our approach to students and families and the schools."
Renee Cocanower and Bryan Waltz, directors of secondary and elementary curriculum at Concord, lead TOP. Cocanower said TOP is not a teacher retraining effort. Rather, it involves making sure instructors know about Concord students, and providing an "inside scoop" of sorts regarding what they will face entering Concord classrooms. Through TOP, Aukerman learned valuable information about technology, retirement and financial planning. She also gained insight into how to best connect with students in the Concord district.
"I just felt so prepared to teach," Aukerman said of her TOP experience.
TOP is invaluable to new teachers in the Concord school corporation. In Aukerman's view, that corporation is like a family.
"Everybody wants to help you," she said. "They just really want to make sure you know what's going on. And I think that's awesome for first-‐year teachers and even teachers new to a district. That really helps form a bond and makes it feel more like a team versus, 'It's just me and my kids and we're just trying to make it.'"
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