By KAITLYN NAPLES
Seven Bristol teachers have been chosen to be a part of this year’s Connecticut Dream Team, a program designed to train and coach state-wide teachers on ways to better implement Common Core State Standards into the curriculum.
Connecticut Dream Team was created after a partnership was formed between the state Department of Education and LearnZillion, a Common Core digital curriculum and professional development provider founded by two teachers.
Debra Vitale is an elementary school math teacher in Bristol and was a member of LearnZillion’s national Dream Team in 2013 and said being a part of the state’s Dream Team is a prestigious honor for teachers, after having gone through a competitive application process.
“It is professionally rewarding to be surrounded by people who are like-minded and have a passion for teaching students,” said Vitale, who will be one of the math coaches for the Connecticut Dream Team this year.
The program, which runs for approximately eight weeks, allows the 100 participating teachers to be broken up into teams. The teams then receive a specific Common Core State Standard upon which to focus. Each team does extensive research, perform assessments, and develops lesson plans for students of different learning abilities that apply content based on that standard. The teams will work digitally over the course of May and June following a two-day professional development event in April called “TeachFest Connecticut,” which will prepare them for this experience.
In July, another event, Common Core Fest, will bring the Dream Team teachers and LearnZillion coaches and staff together with about 1,700 state-wide teachers to create standards-based tools and resources. These resources will be published to become available for educators in Connecticut.
Ultimately, the 100 teachers chosen to participate in the Connecticut Dream Team will be able to take what they learned back teachers in their respective districts so the staff members can success fully implement these standards into their teaching methods to prepare students for the future.
Sharon Campolo, a special education teacher at Greene Hills School, was chosen to be a member of the team. She said she thought it would be “a great opportunity to receive specialized and additional training in Common Core,” while she is taught by other teachers across the state. In turns, she can share her knowledge.
Campolo said Common Core State Standards have required teachers to shift how they have been thinking and teaching. They now focus on asking students to analyze concepts, and ask the students understand the concepts more deeply. The students now use that knowledge in multiple applications.
“I’m expecting us to take Common Core and really dive into it, really dissect it,” Campolo said. She said she hopes to bring what was learned through this experience back to her peers at Greene Hills so they can enhance their curricula.
Vitale said her experience on the national Dream Team helped her to “truly understand the content I was assigned,” and said even when there were challenge, which there were, “I really had to push through it and find the best way to teach.”
Vitale said being a part of the national Dream Team was a motivating experience with a lot of work that came along with it.
“It’s a lot of work but it is so rewarding,” Vitale said, adding the 100 teachers who have been chosen for the Connecticut Dream Team will be able to better themselves as educators. “The sense of accomplishment is really strong and I was really proud of what we did.”
Applicants went through a rigorous process, Vitale said. Candidates had to answer essay questions, some of which covered how they have implemented Common Core State Standards into their lesson plans.
Along with Vitale, Joanna Vastola also was chosen to be a math coach for the Connecticut Dream Team.
The following teachers were chosen to be participants: Amy DiNoia, of Chippens Hill Middle School, Barbara McLean of Hubbell Elementary School, Corey Nagle of Chippens Hill Middle School, Elizabeth Porter of Chippens Hill Middle School, Kelly Bouchard of Hubbell Middle School, Marliz Fitzpatrick of Chippens Hill Middle School, Sharon Campolo of Greene-Hills School.
For information on the resources developed by the national Dream Team in 2013, visit www. LearnZillion.com.
By KAITLYN NAPLES