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Teachers get 'schooled' at Moonshot Summer Teacher Institute

School may have been out for the summer but it was in session for a group of dedicated Indian River County teachers who chose to give up a week of their summer vacation to attend a week-long, literacy-intensive teacher institute hosted by The Learning Alliance (TLA).

The Moonshot Summer Teacher Institute offered a free professional development opportunity for elementary school teachers by immersing the educators in a model classroom experience. Featuring the inspirational story “Malala's Magic Pencil” by Malala Yousafzai, the teachers were exposed to research-based strategies. By providing authentic opportunities for applied learning, the teachers witnessed firsthand how to develop foundational literacy skills.

“We need to be intentional when we teach to make sure that kids are making connections. Connections to each other, connections to the content, connections to the classroom,” said Liz Remington, TLA co-founder.

TLA facilitators modeled best practices through Enriched Literacy instruction in a learn, do, reflect model. This model allowed attendees to experience key aspects of Social Emotional, Foundational and Applied Literacy as a student and then to “unpack” the experience through peer interaction and discussions.

“This professional development experience is different from others that I've attended because it is hands-on learning for teachers. It's immersive for teachers. It encourages us to get up and participate rather than just sitting and listening,” noted Cindy Gibbs, Beachland Elementary School third-grade teacher.

Part of The Learning Alliance mission is to foster a literacy culture that focuses on the community Moonshot Moment Goal to have 90 percent of children reading on grade level by third grade.

Debbi Arseneaux, Moonshot program manager, hailed the Moonshot Institute professional development workshops as “powerful, authentic, learning experiences designed with educators’ needs in mind. Participants leave with highly engaging, dynamic tools and strategies they can implement and use in the classroom.”

“I look forward to this week every year,” said Lisa Ross, Rosewood Elementary School literacy coach. “It is an exciting week of learning, making connections and sharing. We [as teachers] learn new strategies that can be immediately implemented in classrooms and after-school programs. These strategies make learning come to life for us and our students.”

Remington hopes the teachers walk away with a better appreciation for the power of the Enriched Literacy model. “The model helps them understand that it's necessary to create the conditions in the classroom so that kids feel psychologically safe to take the risks that they need to take in order to get the learning gains that teachers are asking from them.”

“To meet this goal,” Remington continued, “we need to give kids authentic, meaningful experiences.” That's why TLA simulates the classroom experience, so the teachers know what it would feel like and what a model classroom could be.

“We celebrate and honor the teachers and give them a week to just go deep with literacy and give them some knowledge, skills and opportunities to reflect on their practice and how to bring it back to the classroom,” explained Remington.

The Summer Institute was made available to Indian River County teachers through the generosity of The Learning Alliance and Moonshot Community partners. The Learning Alliance was joined by Quail Valley and the TLA founders in sponsoring the institute.

“This is really a gift of the investors in this community and their commitment to literacy and to our educators. We really want to help them improve practice so they can meet the challenges of the kids that are coming into their classrooms,” shared Remington.

“When I attend The Learning Alliance workshops, I am always learning new, research-based strategies that apply meaning behind learning. The strategies are playful yet intentional. Our students need to know how to make connections to the text and the world through literacy, and The Learning Alliance does this,” shared Amy D'Albora, literacy coach.

About The Learning Alliance:

At The Learning Alliance, our work is predicated on the question – What does it take to achieve 90% literacy by third grade such that we create literate, compassionate, creative citizens who will improve our world? The Learning Alliance is a catalyst for innovation and collaboration supporting the Moonshot Moment 90% literacy transformative goal by arming front-line educators, parents, and community leaders with the tools, knowledge, and support necessary for success. Through innovative, evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning, we empower teachers to transform children’s lives. Through partnerships with the School District of Indian River County, Indian River State College, community leaders and civic youth organizations in our community, we hope to create local solutions that can serve as a model for the nation.

For more information about The Learning Alliance, please visit www.thelearningalliance.org or call 877-548-READ (7323).