Stories from the Field

[To submit a “Story from the Field,” contact: Tom Habowski]

Beyond the Methods Classes: Family Interaction in Learning

Susan Payne, Ohio University, The Patton College of Education, PDS Faculty,
Elizabeth Hoisington, The Plains Elementary, First Grade Teacher/ Faculty Liaison

As teacher candidates in The Patton College of Education at Ohio University, junior level Early Childhood majors work in a partnership school by investing two full days each week becoming part of a K- 3 classroom.  The Plains Elementary is considered a “high needs” school located in the Southern Ohio Appalachian area. Many of the students in the school are from a lower socioeconomic background with approximately 80% deemed as living in poverty.  Experiences and resources to support and challenge their education are often unavailable or unattainable.  The school population includes many students with an individual educational plan 20%); living in a single parent home (25%); having a primary caregiver that is not their parent (being raised by grandparents, aunts, family friends, foster parents – 14%); or having have no contact with one or both of their biological parents due to death, incarceration, abandonment, or drug addiction (35%).  These situations are often very different from most candidates’ backgrounds.

To understand the diversity of the community and build connections family engagement evenings were developed by the cohort of candidates.  Building upon their methods coursework candidates developed an opportunity for families to engage in integrated and differentiated activities in math and science. During the evening activity candidates created and supervised stations, centered upon learning standards, in which students and adults interacted with materials in a hands-on, low risk, enjoyable and family friendly environment.  With grant support from the Patton College and donations from the community, materials in recreating the activity at home were able to be given to each family to continue the learning experience.  With the success of the first “Math Mania Night” in 2014, families have looked forward to each semester’s offering for the past 3 years.

Families built relationships with the candidates realizing their contributions to their child’s learning.  “OU students are so patient.” They provided “great activities” where “I learned too.”  Candidates continued to grow in meeting the NAEYC standard of creating “respectful, reciprocal relationships that support and empower families, as they involve families in their child’s development and learning.”

 “I got to learn more about my students’ families and what their background is like. I was also able to see how they interact with their families and what kind of relationships they have. It gave me some insight as to how my students are outside of school.”

“I learned about the importance of bringing the community together to be involved in children’s learning. Children feel more confident in taking initiative in their learning when they are being supported by their community.”

 Realizing the need for increasing opportunities for community interactions, additional partnership schools are infusing family activities into the seminar curriculum. These efforts are assisting students in developing as an educator embracing the Patton College’s Core Values – Change.

Ferguson, C. (2008). The school-family connection: Looking into the larger picture. Austin, TX: National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools.

The Professional Standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (Standard 3: Building Family and Community Relationships

The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education; Ohio University

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Ingram Pye Day at Mercer University

Morgan Mitchell, MEIA President,
Dr. Sybil Keesbury, Mercer Faculty Liaison,
Tracey Muff, Ingram Pye Academic Coach,

 In April 2016 Tift College of Education’s student organization, Mercer Educators in Action held it’s second annual “Ingram Pye Day” for the fifth grade students, teachers and administration of Ingram Pye Elementary School. Mercer University just completed its third year of a Professional Development Partnership with Ingram Pye Elementary School. After our first year partnering with Ingram Pye, 2013-2014, the Student Teachers came to realize that many of their students at Ingram Pye had never been to Mercer’s campus. Ingram Pye’s students showed great desire and question of what being at Mercer University is like and continuously asked for their teachers to take them across the street to see the campus. With many Ingram Pye students living at or below the poverty line, Mercer’s students decided that the only way for these children to experience a college campus was for us to bring them to Mercer for a day. Bibb County School District’s mission statement is that “each student demonstrates strength of character and is college or career ready.” However, the majority of the parents at Ingram Pye did not attend college and their children have never seen a college campus before. This combination makes it difficult for a child to feel hopeful that they will be able to defy the odds and attend college. Mercer’s desire for this annual field trip is to instill hope in every student preparing for middle school that college is obtainable. We know that the best way for this goal to begin is for the children to step foot on a college campus in hopes that they will return back to one.

Ingram Pye Day is filled with excitement and activities for all participants. The day begins with the members of Mercer Educators in Action and student athletes in their uniforms outside of Ingram Pye to welcome and walk the fifth grade students to Mercer. Mercer Police blocks of the road and the group makes the half mile walk from Ingram Pye to Mercer University’s football stadium. The students get a tour, pep talks from the coaches and players, and are given time to play on the field with the athletes. The Mercer basketball team also provides the students with tours, entertainment and encouragement. The students break up into their classes and go on a rotation schedule for campus wide scavenger hunts to learn the history and current events of campus, to play field games on Cruz Plaza and engage in educational sessions such as engineering workshops and looking through the Astronomy department’s telescopes. Students, their teachers and administration are also provided lunch during the day. All of the scheduled activities are centered on instilling belief in these students that college is something they can achieve. At the end of the day Mercer’s police, students, and athletes walk everyone back to school for dismissal. After Ingram Pye Day students leave with excitement, smiles, and statements such as, “I can’t wait for college!” and then our mission is accomplished.


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Flipped Learning: A PDS Literacy Partnership

Dr. Vickie Johnston, Program Coordinator-Special Education Florida Gulf Coast University,
Jamie Mackereth, Reading Specialist Pinewoods Elementary Fort Myers, FL,

While many literacy methods courses are taught in a traditional university classroom and require students to complete a specific number of field experience hours, preservice teachers from the College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University participated in their literacy methods classes in a unique way— using a flipped classroom approach.

The flipped learning model is an inverted, student-centered learning approach. In flipped learning, what was formerly done in class is now done as homework and what was done as homework is now done in the classroom. Class activities and what is assigned as “homework” will vary widely between various flipped classroom models; consequently, there is no single model for implementing a flipped learning approach.

In our flipped learning model, preservice teachers met at a PDS partner school and were required to facilitate literacy centers with kindergarten, first, or second grade students after spending the first hour shadowing and learning from the classroom teacher. After two hours in their assigned elementary classroom, these pre-service teachers meet with their university professor for class in the same PDS partner school. The PDS partner schools provided a classroom for this literacy methods instruction. During this class time, the inclusion of a variety of stakeholders created an opportunity for discussion about best practices in literacy instruction and encouraged quality instruction in literacy teaching and application.

All the stakeholders involved teamed up to develop a vision for the implementation of this flipped learning model, incorporating research-based literacy instruction and field experience application while embracing the essentials principles associated with PDS. We developed a school-university culture that was committed to the preparation of future educators and embraced their active engagement in the school community and developed a shared commitment to innovative and reflective practice by all participants. Faculty at all partner schools contributed to delivering quality innovative learning communities and collaborated on instruction in the area of best practices and the role that assessment plays in driving instruction in an elementary classroom. Teachers, preservice teachers, and university faculty reflected on classroom effectiveness through reflective logs, surveys, and evaluation rubrics.

This unique flipped learning PDS partnership provided unique opportunities for our preservice teachers. They participated in a special read-aloud day in which they dressed as their favorite book character and delivered an interactive read-aloud to the elementary students, increasing student engagement and establishing an environment that encouraged and supported reading, after school book clubs, and participation in competitive local “Battle of the Books”. This PDS collaboration also allowed our preservice teachers to learn about programs unique to our partner schools, such as Thinking Maps which is a creative process using graphic organizers for independently learning more about their subject matter. In order to implement quality literacy instruction, there is too much content to cover and not enough time to prepare preservice teachers to acquire both content knowledge and pedagogy in a traditional university classroom. Our program was developed to respond to this need for both content and application for preservice teachers by using a flipped learning model.

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A PDS Partnership: Making Learning Relevant and Meaningful

Danielle Hilaski, Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia,
Megan Nason, Associate Professor, University of North Georgia,
Nicole Maxwell, Assistant Professor, University of North Georgia,
Tyler Cleveland, Kindergarten Teacher, Riverview Elementary,


The University of North Georgia (UNG) and Dawson County Public Schools are committed to their PDS partnership allowing teacher candidates, in-service teachers, college professors, and elementary students to benefit from this ongoing collaboration.  This year, as a part of their Literacy Assessment course, Juniors in the Dawson PDC (Professional Development Community) participated in a weekly Reading and Assessment Laboratory with kindergarten and first grade students.  The aim of the Reading and Assessment Laboratory was twofold: to provide UNG students with opportunities to administer and analyze literacy assessments in a supportive environment and to provide kindergarten and first grade students with individualized and responsive reading instruction.


In class each week, UNG Juniors learned about and practiced a variety of literacy assessments.  Following this instruction in the college classroom, these teacher candidates had the opportunity to administer these same assessments with a kindergarten or first grade student in the Reading and Assessment Laboratory.  While administering these assessments, teacher candidates received just-in-time support from their professor, Dr. Danielle Hilaski, clarifying confusions, modeling procedures, and analyzing results.  Also during this lab time, elementary students benefitted from individualized and responsive reading instruction.  Teacher candidates prepared weekly lesson plans based on the Georgia Standards of Excellence.  These lesson plans offered the elementary students’ opportunities with familiar reading, word work, and a new book providing students multiple, scaffolded learning opportunities.  Since these lessons were customized to each individual student’s strengths and weaknesses based on the results of previously administered literacy assessments, each student received literacy instruction that was at the cusp of their learning.


As a result of their participation in the Reading and Assessment Laboratory, teacher candidates shifted their beliefs about struggling readers, the purpose and importance of informal literacy assessments, and their role as a literacy teacher. One teacher candidate admitted that she felt overwhelmed by the responsibility to administer so many different assessments and to plan reading instruction in response these assessments for the laboratory.  However, by the end of the course, she said she understood that the assessments narrowed her focused “beautifully” allowing her to teach with purpose.  Another teacher candidate also recognized this importance relationship between assessment and instruction sharing, “We are actually using our assessment to inform instruction.  So we get to see the [student] growth.”  Teacher candidates additionally recognized the benefits of this model sharing, “Not only was my student’s confidence boosted [as a result of the laboratory], but it has also boosted me”… “and a lightbulb went off and I realized I can do this [create assessment-driven instruction].  Similarly, other teacher candidates admitted feeling more prepared and knowledgeable in their field placements as a result of this experience.


This Reading and Assessment Laboratory is just one positive example of the powerful learning opportunities that can occur for teacher candidates, college professors, and elementary school students as a result of the PDS model.

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Diversifying AP Literature with help from PDS interns

Kate Walker, English Teacher, State College Area High School
Nahid Soltanzadeh, Graduate Student, Pennsylvania State University,
Jamie Myers, PDS Director, Pennsylvania State University,


How can you possibly have students read five different novels simultaneously in small groups and offer personalized attention to each group? You invite more interns into the classroom. This year, after evaluating the diversity (or lack of it) in our AP Literature class, we decided we needed students to choose a diverse book and discuss it in small groups. Having the PDS program, and access to multiple teachers/interns, allowed us to act on this and provide a mentor to each small student group. While there’s normally one intern assigned to each class, in this case we sent out a blanket invitation to interns and mentors asking for participation.

Because we were able to have an intern or mentor with each group, the discussions went deeper than just surface analysis. Discussions in four separate classes about The Kite Runner, The Joy Luck Club, Frankenstein, The Awakening, Americanah, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Tracks, and The Color Purple led to group papers, where students collaborated on writing an argument for inclusion of their text into the curriculum. Interns and mentors were able to push students to consider reasons why the text might be a strong candidate or why people might question inclusion for a full class read. Also, when students struggled with understanding or with approaching a delicate topic, interns and mentors were there for guidance.

The wide range of background experience brought to the table by interns and mentors exposed students to a variety of perspectives as they read their choice novel. The group with an Iranian intern had an in depth discussion about the social and cultural context of The Kite Runner focusing on the concepts of Nang and Namoos (honor and dignity). Foreign to the western culture, these concepts play a significant role in the story. As said by one of our students: “Her insights and answers to my questions regarding the book The Kite Runner supplemented my understanding in a way my primary teacher could not. She was able to give context and explain certain concepts, which resulted in a much richer and more immersive learning experience.”

One of the assignments included a potential unit overview, some ideas for teaching activities, and texts to pair with the main text. Because interns had been planning their own units, they could assist students in generating ideas for this–for example, using “The Story of an Hour” to pair with The Awakening, or discussing poems to pair with The Kite Runner.

We had two mentor teachers and four interns working with students, allowing teachers to work with texts they were passionate about and exposing students to different perspectives on texts. Not only did students bring questions for discussions, they practiced creating AP level multiple choice questions, they researched authors, and they wrote proposals to incorporate different types of literature. Some activities pushed students to think visually and collaboratively, like the one where we asked them to produce an image with a quotation capturing an important theme.

16-6-24-walker1authors Kate Walker & Nahid Soltanzadeh


SCOPES & OUC Partnership: 2016 DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition

Mary Barbara Trube, Ed.D. Professor & CD/ECE Coordinator Ohio University – Chillicothe
Karen Corcoran, M. A. Lecturer & MCE Program Coordinator Ohio University – Chillicothe
Jennifer Domo, M. Ed. SCOPES Academy Director
Jennifer Domo, director of the SCOPES Academy at Unioto Unified School District’s (UUSD) STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Medical) project, Jaimee Jenkins, teacher candidate in the early childhood education program at Ohio University Chillicothe, and second grade students from the SCOPES Academy, won the 2016  DuPont Challenge Science Essay Competition. This  national competition encourages students to investigate and write about technological or scientific advancements related to food, energy, protection or innovation. Facilitated by Director Domo and OUC teacher candidate Jenkins, the second graders conducted research, and wrote and illustrated a book about nutrition and health. The students’ submission earned them the first place distinction from 9,000 contest entries.

As winners of the national competition, Unioto Elementary received a trophy, a collection of Britannica eBooks and Britannica Encyclopedias for students’ continuing scientific research, and a “Science is Fun” day hosted by DuPont and NASA. In addition Domo and Jenkins have been invited to attend the 2017 National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference in Los Angeles next March, with all expenses paid.
SCOPES is made possible through a cooperative agreement with the Adena Regional Medical Center in Chillicothe, Ohio, and the UUSD. The SCOPES program is designed to provide weekly enrichment for advanced students in first through fifth grades in the areas of math and science. Students gain experiences from practicing professionals in technology, medical science, forensic science, agricultural sciences, veterinary services, music technology, transportation technologies, and many others.  MCE and ECE teacher candidates at OUC complete highly-integrated field placements and engage in service learning projects at SCOPES.  SCOPES classrooms offer state-of-the-art technology including one of 5 elementary robotics labs in the state of Ohio. The lab also houses tablet technology, hydraulics equipment, and 3-dimensional printers. Jaimee Jenkins shared, “The SCOPES Academy provides such a unique experience to not only the students of Unioto Elementary, but also to the undergraduate students in the ECE and MCE programs at OUC. I am fortunate to be able to complete one of my junior-year placements in such an enriching environment – an environment filled with opportunities to learn and expand my professional knowledge.”

Ohio University-Chillicothe and UUSD have a professional development partnership with middle childhood education, under the direction of Karen Corcoran, and early childhood education, under the direction of Dr. Mary Barbara Trube. Jennifer Domo is also an adjunct faculty member in both the middle childhood and early childhood programs.


SCOPES Director Jennifer Domo and Ohio University-Chillicothe teacher candidate Jaimee Jenkins at a SCOPES event sharing copies of the award winning book.

Using PDS Collaborative and Investigative Practices with Quality Educational Animations to Increase Social Skills

Dr. Rebecca Hines, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida,
Anna O’Connor-Morin, Principal, UCP Bailes Charter School,
Christine K Duff, Ph D Candidate, University of Central Florida,


Finding the best software programs to meet the needs of students is a daunting task for many schools.  This story from the field, outlines the process of collaborative inquiry of a PDS team as it examined the effectiveness of a computer-animated program (designed by Rugrats CEO Terry Thoren and software producer Rudy Verbeek) to improve social skills, problem-solving, compassion, and more among elementary learners.  The inquiry was in direct response to the school’s expressed need for more positive behavioral approaches.


The program featured, WonderGrove Kids, is an education website for preK- second grade that features engaging animated characters in 100 instructional animations in English and Spanish.  The site also includes 2000 extension lesson plans that are aligned to 99% of the Common Core State Standards and cover eight critical areas of learning: Social Skills, Life Skills, Health & Science, Safety, Nutrition, Fitness, Creative Play, and Academics.


University faculty introduced its elementary school partners to the Wondergrove Kids program, and both agencies attended a webinar held by its developer. The PDS team planned for and implemented its use through a pilot study and formal investigation.  The implementation process, protocol used, data tracking and evaluation of student increases in pro-social behavior as well as the animated software program and corresponding student activities. WonderGrove Kids, indicated social skills increases as reported by teachers and paraprofessionals.  Students were highly engaged as animated characters modeled positive social skills such as playground safety, sharing, cleaning up after yourself, being a friend, paying attention to the teacher, waiting your turn, and making healthy food choices.


The program was unique in that teachers and paraprofessionals worked very closely toward guiding students through the modules and activities.  WonderGrove Kids gave paraprofessionals, often responsible for assisting teachers with classroom behavior support, another tool toward empowering and reinforcing students’ positive behavior choices through referencing the kids in WonderGrove.

The collaborative efforts of the partnership between University faculty and the local charter school have directly impacted the professional development process for all contributing participants – teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, and University faculty/doctoral student(s).

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Testing PDS Strategies in the Classroom

Carol Bruzzano, William Paterson University Professor-in-Residence
Nancy Norris Bauer, William Paterson University PDS Director
Nicholas Vancheri, John. F. Kennedy High School, STEM Academy Principal
Maryanne Perrotta, John F. Kennedy High School, SET Academy Principal


Throughout the 2015-2016 school year, two PDS high school academies from John F. Kennedy Educational Complex in Paterson NJ joined forces to improve instruction in all classrooms and content areas, including those taught by teacher teams for diverse student populations. The two academies, School of Education and Training and School of Technology Engineering and Mathematics, share the same PDS professor-in-residence, Carol Bruzzzano, who met with small groups of teachers from both academies weekly to collaborate, research and test strategies in the classrooms. Teachers then reflected on activities and student outcomes and revised as needed, in order to share with colleagues during common planning periods each week. The results – student engagement, effort, and learning all increased along with teacher collaboration between academies and between co-teaching partners.


This short video condenses this job-embedded professional development at JFK High School, where teachers and students share their experiences.  Teachers in this video presented at the PDS conference at William Paterson University last week.  Here is the You Tube link:


CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Stories from the Field

Call for Submissions: Stories From the Field

Teachers, administrators, specialists, researchers, professors, and advanced graduate students are invited to submit papers for publication in the Stories From the Field segment of the NAPDS website. Stories From the Field focuses on research and/or anecdotal evidence concerning professional development school (PDS) successes and challenges. Submit brief (500 words or less) blog post describing unique activities/experiences that transpire in PDS partnerships. Each submission should contain at least one K-12 contact person and email address and one college/university contact person and email address. If your story is accepted you will need to submit two photos to be included in the publication. Please submit to Thomas Habowski at

Interview Skills and the PDS Partnership at Baylor University

Dr. Madelon McCall, Baylor University, University Liaison,


Jeff Gasaway, Principal Midway High School (Midway ISD)

Lisa Osborne, Midway High School (Midway ISD), Site Coordinator,


Jeff Gasaway, principal at Midway High School since fall 2011, is committed to the preparation of pre-service teachers in securing their first teaching position, even if that means they pursue employment opportunities at other schools! Each year Mr. Gasaway offers the interns the opportunity to participate in a mock interview at some time during their yearlong field experience at MHS. The interview is exactly what the interns would experience if they were interviewing for an actual position at MHS, except that Mr. Gasaway is the sole interviewer instead of a committee of interviewers. The questions and intensity of the interview are exactly the same. He spends 20-25 minutes questioning the intern, using the same question format as he uses for actual teacher interviews, and he then allows the intern time to ask their own questions. Mr. Gasaway takes detailed notes and then debriefs the interns on how well they performed during the interview and how they might improve their interviewing skills. The process takes approximately one and a half hours for each intern interview.

The slate is wiped clean once the interview has ended, even if the intern performed very poorly during the mock interview.  Mr. Gasaway assures the intern that nothing they said or did during the interview is seen as negative and will not adversely affect the intern if they decide to pursue a job at MHS. The experience is invaluable for the intern because they experience an actual intense teacher interview without it affecting their future job possibilities.  Interns have responded well to the mock interview process, and many have been hired as teachers at MHS.

In any given semester there are as many as fifteen interns on the MHS campus and despite the obvious time investment, Mr. Gasaway is confident that it is time well spent in helping the interns overcome interview jitters and assisting them in become confident interviewees, “Having the mock interview not only gives me the opportunity to get to know our Baylor interns better, but it also helps them in being prepared for success when interviewing. This time, I hope, will give them an edge as they have their first true interview.”

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