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Partnership Teacher Support In Practice

by Partnership Staff
4 minute read

“I learn every day.” 

At Partnership Schools, we certainly hope to hear our students rejoice in learning every day. It is uniquely gratifying, though—and not surprising—to hear it from Maritza Minnucci, who has taught Kindergarten at Sacred Heart School in the South Bronx for over 25 years. This year, she explained recently, she is sharpening her use of clear aims to guide each lesson. That focus on leveraging aims to level up instruction is a network-wide effort, but Maritza is making it all her own.

The satisfaction she takes in continually improving how she teaches her young students is just one of the qualities that make Maritza a truly special teacher. The skills she is refining might sound a tad wonky to someone who has never taught—she is particularly excited this year by her work with anchor questions, for example—but the joy she exudes when she talks about continuing to improve her craft is unmistakable. 

Maritza Minnucci, Elvis Eduarte, and Dominique Brown

It is a joy she shared recently along with two of her colleagues—Elvis Eduarte, who has been teaching math in Partnership Schools for a handful of years and who is refining his lesson planning with a keen eye to what his middle school students already know; and Dominique Brown, who is in her second year of teaching second grade at Sacred Heart. 

As a newer teacher, Dominique explains that she is gaining confidence. “Being really focused on the lesson aim gives me a goal to meet when I am planning lessons,” she explains; she particularly embraces the practice of writing out a perfect exemplar of work students will be asked to do and anticipating what roadblocks the diverse learners in her class might encounter along the way. She is working with Sacred Heart’s principal in residence, Kelly Quinn, in routine coaching cycles like those most Partnership teachers engage in, which provide an opportunity to integrate planning practices that emerge in network-wide workshops and school-site weekly trainings. 

Like Dominique, Elvis is planning with the wide range of prior knowledge his students have in mind. Along with other Partnership schools in New York, Sacred Heart has had an influx of new students in the last few years, many with varying degrees of lingering learning loss from the pandemic, and meeting all of their needs has made even trickier the already significant challenge of helping middle schoolers grasp the fundamentals of Algebra. Yet Elvis gets animated as he explains one simple shift he’s making: no longer calling on students to add their ideas as he does the demonstration portion of lessons. The single-voice approach is helping his most struggling students have a clear model to refer to as they practice a new algorithm, and he is seeing them make new progress as a result.

Listening to Maritza, Elvis, and Dominique’s enthusiasm for improving their professional practice is even more heartening in light of recent polling of over two thousand teachers by the Pew Research Center. Words like “stressful” and “overwhelming” punctuate the report, in which over half (52%) of the public school teachers polled indicated that they would not encourage a young person starting out today to become a teacher. 

At the Partnership, we know that if we want thriving students, we need teachers who feel–and are–effective. We are blessed to work with teachers who are motivated because they care deeply about the communities we serve. They came to make a difference—and comprehensive support of their development is crucial for our teachers to make the impact our students deserve, impact that also helps inspire teachers to stick with challenging work, year after year.

Principal in Residence Kelly Quinn notes that Maritza, Elvis, and Dominique are all committed professionals whose growth is, in part, self-driven. But all three explain that it is the combination of network-wide workshops integrated with school-site sessions and individual coaching that makes a real difference in their technique. Maritza is quick to point out that she relishes network-wide workshops because they give her an opportunity to learn from colleagues at other schools; indeed, the fact that all our schools share the same curricula and lesson pacing amplifies the peer learning at network events, because teachers are all applying new skills in real time to upcoming lessons and giving each other feedback. 

Teacher development is about our students’ learning—but it gives us so much more. We often say that our schools are more than classrooms; they are communities. Professional support for teachers is vital to sustaining those communities and advancing their pursuit of academic excellence.