In an effort to better provide for special education students, the Newton Community School District has implemented a process called “co-teaching.”
Co-teaching is the process of having a general education teacher and special education teacher operate in the same classroom. It is offered at every grade level at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and the teams there range in co-teaching experience.
Marla Cory is a kindergarten teacher and has 30 years of experience in teaching. She has been co-teaching with kindergarten special education teacher Lisa Pagler since the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
“I love being able to co-teach with Lisa,” Cory said. “We started out just teaching math together and now we’re starting to evolve into everything. There’s somebody else doing the observations with you and to do the planning with you. There’s so many benefits for the kids and for us as teachers.”
Cory pointed out it may sound like it makes their workload heavier but noted the extra work and planning is done to make co-teaching successful in all grades throughout Thomas Jefferson.
“We meet daily and we have one day a week to plan and organize lesson plans,” Cory said.
While the lesson plans and the meetings are very important, all the teachers agreed it’s the relationship between the two teachers that makes co-teaching successful.
“It’s all about the relationship between the two teachers,” said Cory and Pagler agreed.
“It’s like a marriage,” TJ third-grade teacher Megan Frehse said.
After four year’s of working together, Thomas Jefferson’s third grade co-teaching team, made up of Freshe and special education teacher Lucinda Sinclair, is the most experienced co-teaching team in the district
“Our personalities is the key to our success, you can’t force this type of partnership to work,” Sinclair said.
Sinclair and Frehse started co-teaching together with math and expanded from there.
“It took a lot of collaboration to find out what was the best fit for all our students,” Sinclair said.
“There’s time where Megan will say, ‘That’s a great idea’, but we also need to fulfill our higher skill student needs.”
All of the co-teachers have seen improvement in their students on not just a learning level, but also a social level.
“In the past, special education students were pulled out of classrooms to get their individual instruction but now were able to incorporate those into the regular classroom,” Sinclair said. “The students hardly know the difference between regular and special education students. They’re all playing outside together like there wasn’t a difference.”
The third -grade class uses groups and partnerships for learning, but also implements social skills lessons to all the students in their classroom.
“We have implemented partnerships and groups mixing special education and regular education students together, which challenges kids to be able to work with others,” Sinclair said.
A few members of the board of education have observed the third-grade co-teaching team and given them praise.
“School board member Sherri Benson wanted to see where we marked our book on where to pause because we were so in tune with what the other was thinking,” Sinclair said jokingly.
“We can practically finish each other sentences,” Frehse said.
Staff writer Zach Johnson may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at email@example.com.