The Los Alamitos Unified School District’s professional development plan was on display Tuesday as the board honored 20 “exemplary educators” that have completed the five-year program.
Deputy Supt. Ondrea Reed provided the public with a glimpse inside a well-honed program within the district as she explained the intense competition and rigorous development required to become a teacher before naming the most recent group.
Reed said the LAUSD five-year professional development curriculum is mandatory for all incoming elementary teachers, and which, as a matter of course, also provides specialized training to veteran teachers as well.
She said few people realize that when the Los Alamitos Unified School District posts for an open elementary school position, teachers begin lining up before daybreak trying to literally get a foot in the door.
“The Los Al Way” is a commitment to professional development, said Reed, that includes, over a five-year period, between 100-250 hours of professional development training and from 20-80 hours of in-classroom coaching.
“On top of that, they attend monthly new teacher modules that range on topics, from violent intruder training to how to prepare a parent-teacher conference. The topics are really relevant,” she said.
“What sets them (Exemplary Educators) apart,” said Reed, is a five-year commitment to undergo numerous demonstration lessons and hundreds of hours of classroom development. She said that includes learning a variety of methods and techniques that comprise the Los Alamitos Unified School District’s standard.
In addition, Reed said young teachers going through the program builds a network of friendships with other system educators and a foundation of teaching “the Los Al way.”
“They are team members in that they kind of came of age with here in our school district because they would spend about 10 days a year together,” she said, “so it really does become almost like a class.”
While the Los Al professional development program is focused on incoming teachers, “we also facilitate many, many hours of training for “veteran” teachers as well. Also, she said, the program develops special education cohorts also take advantage of in-classroom coaching as well, Reed told the board.
Reed said a teaching slot within LAUSD is coveted and the competition can be fierce.
“Few people know,” said Reed, “that when we post for an elementary position, teachers line up at 5 a.m. because they know we only take the first 50 or 80,” she said. The said the local trainers used in the program “are all homegrown,” she said, “and they are exceptional.”
The local trainers include Jill Krose, CGI/Math Trainer and Coach, Evan Grandon, Literacy Trainer and Coach, Morgan Martin, NGSS Trainer and Coach and Lisa Wright, Depth and Complexity Trainer and Coach, she said. They are teachers on special assignment, said Reed, and they go beyond really give their heart and soul to support these teachers in their first five years.
Then, she said, once the overall batch is selected, there is a rigorous process using trainers and educators to weed through the batch, trying to whittle the new crop down to a few finalists.
First, she said, there is a panel discussion that Reed called “speed dating,” where a panel of teachers and administrators apparently ask a series of questions to the teachers.
Once a finalist is selected among the candidates, Reed said the prospective elementary school teachers then have to plan, and deliver in front of the panel, no fewer than three live classroom lessons before the actual positions are filled.
Once hired, the new elementary school teachers must then make a commitment to undertake the five-year professional development plan, said Reed.
Once teaches do finish the Los Al professional development program, they are presented with a personalized blue blazer, with the district’s log sewn onto it to signify “the completion of a dream, their teaching and learning journey.”
Reed said Melissa Davis, Director of Assessment and Accountability and Dan Bennett.
Director of Educational Technology also play a huge role in making the program a success. Also, Reed credited former staff of the district for initially starting the professional development program that has now matured into the very powerful internal teaching tool at LAUSD.
“You lay such a strong foundation,” said Board President Marlys Davidson, a former teacher, who noted how much staff development had changed since she went through the program. “It’s so advanced, such a strong space for learning,” she said. “I applaud what you and the district have done.”
“So, we really are proud to honor 20 fine educators that have completed their five year journey through our Professional Development Plan,” Reed told the Board.
The teachers completing the five year plan in 2019-2020 were; Jessa Grimaud, Rossmoor Elementary, Laurinda Zess, Los Al Elementary, Rachel Metcalfe, Hopkinson Elementary & LosAl@home, Stefana Fox, McGaugh Elementarty, Jennifer Hofland, Lee Elementary, Lisa Discenna, Lee and Los Al Elementary, Nicole Manly, McAuliffe Middle, Jessica Vandenberg, McAuliffe Middle, Christy Berthon, Oak Middle School, Morgan Siegmann, Oak Middle, Nathan Berger, Oak Middle, Jennifer Wilson, Oak Middle, Lauren Lavache, Oak Middle, Pat Cadwallader, Los Al High School, Janice Tiratira, Los Al High School, Josh Lee, Los Al High School, Greg Snyder, Los Alamitos High School and Kristina Cowan, Los Alamitos High School.