California Educator

February / March 2019

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Mother -Daughter Team Katie Wilson, her mother Rachel Wilson, and C.J. Williams are science teaching partners at Divisadero Middle School in Visalia. They all hold props they use in the classroom. These educators bring learnings from CTA conferences back to the classroom By Cynthia Menzel new teachers. Some 40 percent of Visalia's teachers have been in the district five years or less. School administrators have attended CTA con- ferences, as well. This has resulted in bringing to Visalia specialists like Conscious Teaching con- sultant and author Grace Dearborn, and creating mini-conferences taught by VUTA members. "Katie and I demonstrated the chicken foot dissection, the pros- thetic hand model building, and blueprinting and 3-D printing," Rachel says. T h e co l l a b o ra t i o n h a s e n h a n ce d t h e d i st r i c t 's m e n to r i n g p ro g ra m , so m e t h i n g t h e u n i o n f u l l y s u p p o r ts. Lured away with a dishwasher Rachel started teaching "because I really liked working in my children's classrooms when they were in elementary school." Katie came into teaching through an internship program, assigned to a class that had had multiple substitutes. Her mother was her mentor. "I came in midyear and couldn't have done it without her. Her mentorship was invalu- able, even though at that point she was at a differ- ent school." Rachel eventually moved to Katie's school. "The principal said she'd pro- vide a dishwasher," says Rachel, "and as a science teacher, not having to wash dishes…" She pauses. "The dishwasher and Katie were incentives for me to change schools." Rachel appreciates hav- ing a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with my daughter." Both women are involved union activists. At 29, Katie co-chairs the VUTA bargaining team and is its youngest member. Rachel serves as a VUTA mentor. "There are things I want changed, and the best way to make change is through the union," Rachel says. T H E B E S T T E A C H I N G ideas come from CTA conferences, according to mother-daughter science teachers Rachel and Katie Wilson. The Visalia Unified Teachers Association (VUTA) mem- bers teach at Divisadero Middle School and say you can see the results of CTA's professional devel- opment sessions all over their classrooms. "At the beginning of the year, we get strategies from presenters like Teach Like a Pirate author Dave Burgess that we can use all year," says Rachel. "It helps me put the wow into my lessons." And it helps them team- teach more efficiently. A weekly planner, for example, allows them to collaborate continually, not only with each other, but with their students and with another teaching part- ner, C.J. Williams. "We team-teach in two separate rooms and now use Google Sheets to lesson-plan, something we learned about at CTA's New Educator Weekend," says Katie. "Students can see what we're doing and where we're going." "This has been the best thing we've learned at a conference, because it allows that continuous PLC (professional learning community) collaboration," says Rachel. Katie uses toys to serve as memory aids and illus- trate scientific concepts. "When I'm talking about molecules, for example, I talk about Lolli the Lobster. When we're cold, mole- cules are attracted to each other," she says, hugging a stuffed red lobster to show how molecules cling together to form a liquid or a solid, like ice. Then she throws Lolli over her shoulder, like a molecule flying away from the oth- ers, and explains, "When Lolli gets hot, he is now a gas. Students look at Lolli and think, 'Oh! Attraction! Molecules are attracted to each other.'" Teaching partner Wil- liams utilizes Mr. Whiskers, a stuffed cat, for his mole- cule lesson. Rachel, on the other hand, eschews toys. "I have a skeleton in my class- room, and we're attracted to each other," says Rachel, demonstrating the lesson. District involvement VUTA makes sure mem- bers have opportunities to attend CTA's New Educator Weekend and Good Teach- ing Conference, especially " At the beginning of the year, we get strategies from [conference] presenters that we can use all year. It helps me put the wow into my lessons." —Rachel Wilson, Visalia Unified Teachers Association 56 CTA & You

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