Socorro school board visits Zimmerly

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The Socorro Consolidated Schools board met Monday at Zimmerly Elementary School for a programmatic meeting. They heard from several of the Zimmerly educators about their efforts on behalf of the students as the school strives to overcome the "F" grade it received from the New Mexico Public Education Department in 2013.

Fourth grade teacher Teresa Saavedra's class opened the presentation by reciting the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States. She said the memorization exercise for the students helps them understand the concept of citizenship.

"I see so much bullying," she said. "If you look back at history, you see how important citizenship is."

Sarah Claussen, also a fourth grade teacher, talked about the usage of iPads for teachers in the classroom. She said it is working very well and she is able to do things with the students in a timely manner she was not able to do before.

"That has been a huge bonus for everyone," she said. "It has opened a whole new venue for our students. Children are better learners today through short quick video clips."

She shared with the school board a book her students had done illustrating idioms as an example in which the iPad had been a very useful tool.

Claussen also talked about another tool purchased for the teachers, a container with the common core standards on individual cards. On the back of the cards are "I can" statements, she said. With the "I can" statements, the students know exactly what is expected of them.

As an example, Claussen said, "I can illustrate and explain my work."

Ingrid Halverson, fourth grade teacher, said her students fill out a card at the end of the day answering the question, "What did you learn in school today?"

Halverson said the question is an important part of the common core standards. She also said at the beginning of the day all her students work on cursive writing although that is not a part of common core standards.

"I think it is still important today," she said.

Halverson's students also get binders in which she collects examples of their progress and test scores, she said. They are very useful and at the end of the semester she goes through them with the students.

Saavedra also presented with special education specialist Mark Hannagan about their collaborative classroom efforts.

"I was really distraught about being an "F" school," she said. "'What can we do?' I thought."

She said she noticed the students coming back from Hannagan's classroom talking about a method he was using and was intrigued. She got him to come to her classroom to show her what he was doing and a partnership was the result.

"He agreed to come model (his methods) and I haven't let him leave since," she said.

Hannagan showed some test results to the board bearing out the effectiveness of the methods used in the collaborative classroom with some remarkable improvement.

Fifth grade teacher Diedra Vincent and special education facilitator Gloria Green talked about the Measures of Academic Progress test and how it can be used to help pinpoint problems in the classroom.

"MAPs is a big tool," Vincent said.

Alex Cantor and Aileen Adamson talked about training they received on MC2 — a system designed to help teachers align mathematics learned in the classroom with common core standard expectations.

The focus on teaching mathematics has shifted, Cantor said. The shift is away from teaching actual content to teaching thinking skills. The students have to figure out how to solve problems rather than just give an answer at the end of the problem.

"There is less teacher talk and more kid talk," Adamson said. "Its been quite a steep learning curve for me."

Adamson also said she has learned children learn much better in groups.

"I found it helped just to put people with math partners," she said. "I could hear them actually talking about math."

Winding up the Zimmerly presentation, former New Mexico Tech professor Allan Stavely will be working with students in the after school program at Zimmerly with a computer system called Scratch. Scratch is an elementary system where students can create stories, games and animation for the computer and share them.

"What the kids are learning to do is computer programming," he said.

In other business the board:

• Approved a Carl Perkins grant, K3 Plus, DOT, a bond sale, a library general obligation bond and Breakfast in the Classroom initiative.

• Amended the year's board schedule to add a programmmatic meeting at the Family School on March 3.

• Had a discussion about Board Policy 2.9, Duties of the President and decided the policy is similar to other policies around the state and does not need to be changed.

• Presented certificates to classified employee Paula DeWeese and certified employee Adamson for their outstanding work at the school.