Three teachers from Alma School District attended a summer residency at Mount Vernon in Virginia.
Rebecca Tate, Vicki Key and Donella Smither, all early education teachers, gave a presentation to Alma School Board members during their meeting Thursday night on their experience at Mount Vernon and how they will apply it in their teaching methods.
Tate, Key and Smither were three of 18 teachers nationwide who received scholarships to attend the George Washington Teacher Institute in Mount Vernon. The residence is a 4-day immersive professional development experience.
“I think one of the most amazing parts of the trip is we got to walk on the grounds of Mount Vernon, the same places George Washington walked,” Tate said. “That just put us in the mood for history and to come back and share that with our students.”
As part of the presentation, the teachers showed photos from their experience, including those of original historical documents, which Tate said they will use as part of lessons in their classrooms.
“It’s really important to start with younger students,” said Tate, a fourth grade teacher at Alma Intermediate School. “They need to see the history, not just hear about it.”
Smither, who attended a different session from Tate and Key, discussed her experience learning from a descendent of someone enslaved by George Washington, and how that impacted her sensitivity in the classroom.
“You might ask what we could get from information about slavery, because we are not known for teaching history,” Smither said of the threes. “It’s the foundational knowledge that we have to bring to our students at a young age to change what is happening in society today.”
During their time at Mount Vernon, the teachers were able to explore the grounds, have historically accurate meals, learn about the lives of women in that time period, view historical items and network with colleagues.
Also during the meeting Thursday, Assistant Superintendent Pam Treece went over results from the ACT Aspire standardized tests from April.
While the results show Alma beating out national averages in most areas, there was some discrepancy in results between reading and writing.
While reading results in grades three through 10 were far above the national averages, writing results fell short in every grade except nine and 10. The results are unusual for Alma, which usually hits above the national average in most every category.
Neither Treece nor the director of the assessment understand why there was such a large gap in results between the related categories of reading and writing, she said.
Treece attributed the discrepancy to a learning curve for the district, as this was the first year the Aspire test was administered. The state now has a five-year contract with ACT Aspire, but benchmark tests were used in the past, she said.
“Our focus has been on transitioning from the other tests to Aspire,” Treece said. “We’ve put a lot of effort into it knowing we’re going to stay with this test for five years and getting our kids where we want them to be, but this is a learning process for us.”
Alma School District will host an Aspire training session on Wednesday at the Alma Performing Arts Center to help teachers and administrators better understand and interpret the test results, Treece said.
“Our focus is going to be on learning how to fill that gap so our kids can be better prepared,” Treece said.
Board members approved several standard resolutions required by state law during the meeting, and the reissuance of a bond at a lower interest rate.