Andrea Lemon grew up in a small, close-knit community in rural West Virginia. For 10 years, she has been a reading/language arts teacher at Pleasant County Middle School in Belmont, WV about 2 ½ hours from where she grew up. “At the time, It was a big deal to move this far away from home,” she told our education team.
This past May Andrea stepped onto an airplane for the first time in her life. Her destination? Learnzillion’s TeachFest conference in San Francisco, CA.
Selected from 3,200 applicants, Andrea is one of 200 teachers who are members of LearnZillion’s Dream Team, a group of expert teachers committed to broadly sharing their practice. At TeachFest, Andrea joined colleagues in intensive training in the Common Core State Standards, designing text-dependent questions, helping students use evidence from the text and more. She met other expert practitioners from across the country and paired with a 2012 Dream Team teacher who will coach her in her new role. This summer, Andrea is creating 12 CCSS-aligned lessons with teacher commentary that will guide other educators in how to implement the lessons in their classroom.
“Although I was thrilled that I was chosen to be a Dream Team teacher, I was really hesitant at first about attending the conference. My husband said said to me, ‘If you don’t go, you will always regret it,’ Andrea explained. “I knew he was right. I really believe in their idea of ‘scale your impact.’ I wanted to be able to help teach students across the country, to have an impact on kids whom I’ve never met. And, I wanted to help other teachers—new teachers who might not know what to do, others who are struggling with the Common Core, or just teachers who want new ideas.”
Andrea’s journey to TeachFest began in January with the submission of three essays and then, in March, with another submission of her work, this time a Learnzillion-style lesson. Andrea noted that her lesson incorporated a metacognitive approach she uses with her students to help them become aware of the steps and strategies good readers use, including building their skills in identifying the author’s purpose, analyzing the author’s word choices, and looking at how the author connects different events throughout the text to create meaning. These are all skills addressed in the Common Core State Standards.
When talking about her instruction, Andrea emphasized, “Everything I do is about having students stop and think about choices and styles so they begin to question what they see and read. I want them to question the face value of things so that they can become participating citizens in a positive fashion.”
Andrea has been facilitating professional development in literacy for peers in her district for a few years now but, for the first time in her career, she recently led a week-long training session for teachers in Ohio and West Virginia through a regional education center and West Virginia University.
When asked about how the Dream Team teacher experience has impacted her work, she told us, “Learnzillion helped me to get out of my comfort zone. It is so helpful to have other people who don’t know you, look at your work and say ‘wow, this is great’ or ‘you may want to think about this strategy.’ It gave me the confidence to try new things – whether flying across the country, changing some of my own instruction based on what I’m learning or leading trainings for teachers I don’t know.”