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Guest teachers aid Carbon County students in learning process

Guest teacher Marvel Nelson helps students at Creekview Elementary. As part of the school district's new guest teacher program, adults who step in for regular teachers are identified as being guests of the school by the lanyard they wear around their neck which ensure students that they are safe adults in the school.

Carbon School District introduces new guest teacher program

Guest teachers substitute for district teachers when they must be absent from school. Yes, they used to be called substitute teachers. Not any more however, and students are the main recipients of this improvement. The whole program has received praise from administrators, teachers, and the guest teachers in the Carbon School District.

Superintendent David Armstrong, other administrators, and teachers worked with Utah State University to improve the substitute teacher program. Armstrong was particularly interested in this innovation because it was the subject of his dissertation.

Step one was to rename the adults invited to the classroom. They are now called guest teachers and they usually wear a lanyard that identifies them as such. The lanyard also indicates to others in the building that this adult has the right to be in the school and has an important responsibility while there.

How the program works

When teachers are scheduled to work outside of the classroom or experience illness, they call Jolene Greenwood. She then begins answering the telephone at her home as early as 6 a.m. and messages may be left at anytime of the day or night. Greenwood also works at her telephone at the school board office during regular school hours. The teachers indicate the day or days of absence, and they may request a particular person to take their place.

Rather than the secretary or teacher calling dozens of people on the substitute list, Greenwood contacts individuals and arranges times and dates, and she returns the information to the teachers who will be absent.

The teachers then have the responsibility to leave their guest teacher folder on their desk. The folder contains a report form which tells the regular teacher what happened in class, the teacher's schedule, fire drill exit route, lanyard and daily lesson plans. In the event of an emergency, the guest teacher may need to rely on this toolkit from the earlier training session.

Predictably, Greenwood receives many phone calls. The highest number of guest teachers required in one day has been 50. She also prepares and distributes a bulletin every other month to keep guest teachers abreast of upcoming workshops, district calendars, and other important events.

Jolene Greenwood responds to requests for guest teachers at her phone in the Carbon School District office.

Guest teacher training

Kristen Taylor and Julie Jorgensen attended several USU workshops. They subsequently designed and presented eight-hour training sessions for guest teachers. The workshops are on going.

Taylor and Jorgensen are well-known, experienced teachers in the district and are pleased to be the program's instructors. They identified the critical knowledge a temporary person needs to have to ensure that students continue learning and standard safety procedures are followed.

Workshops focus on basic teaching strategies, legal issues within the school, behavior management tips and reinforcements.

"Each guest teacher receives a bag embellished with the program's logo. They can develop a toolkit to help them in their assignments. They have been receptive and positive about the new process and training," explained Jorgensen.

Taylor is pleased with the book they selected to give to each guest teacher who participates in the training.

The book is called the Substitute Teacher Handbook, K-12 and is published by USU. Taylor says the book gives guest teachers good tips in many areas as well as productive, filler activities to use when there is suddenly extra time in the class period.

So far, 54 guest teachers have been trained and 35 are scheduled for the next session. The district hopes that in the future all guest teachers will complete the training workshops.

Jolene Greenwood shows Carol Wells and Robert Cox the guest teacher list for the Carbon County School District.

Administrators feel guest teacher program is a success

The administrators in the Carbon district are positive about the program, even those who felt the program would not be efficient or workable.

"Big worries are taken care of. It saves a lot of time for my secretary. We have seen good, quality people come into our building," stated Petersen Elementary principal Karen Houser.

"I give Jolene a list of the times, dates, places of my workshops, and the people who are to attend. She then takes care of all the substitutes. It takes stress off the workshop's participants if they do not need to find their own sub," commented Brady Donaldson, REA director.

"I see less frustration among my teachers when they are preparing to be out of the building for training. I did not understand how the program would work, but I am very happy with its success," explained East Carbon principal Carol Wells.

"The guest teachers are well-prepared. They come into the building and know exactly what to do. I am happy to have a variety of people in my school getting to know us and all we do," concluded Helper Junior High principal Tom Montoya.

"We have a lot of training with the REA program. The guest teacher program makes it possible for us to feel less stress and more confidence that learning is going on while our teachers attend training," stated Sally Mauro Elementary principal Mike O'Shea.

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