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Column: District 518 part of connectedness program

District 518

WORTHINGTON -- Over the past two years, Worthington Middle School has partnered with the University of Minnesota to be one of five school districts throughout the state to participate in the Minnesota Partnership for School Connectedness. MPSC is an initiative to increase connectedness and engagement between sixth-grade teachers and their students. For all students, connectedness is a sense of belonging that comes through the belief that the adults and peers in their lives care, believe and encourage them to be successful.

Two years ago, Mrs. Pass was the first sixth-grade teacher to participate in the partnership. Mrs. Craun and Mr. Burns were teacher fellows for the last school year. This year, they will participate as teacher facilitators after being selected through a competitive process. They will assist in training the new cohort of teacher fellows. The teacher fellow for this school year is Mr. Barfknecht.

Teacher fellows begin their yearlong course of study with an intensive three-day workshop that they completed before the start of the school year. The fellows will also meet three more times during the school year for additional training from experts at the university, the Minnesota Department of Education and practitioners in the field of adolescent development. Another invaluable part of their fellowship experience is coaching. The fellows are observed three times during the year. They receive feedback on their teaching techniques, implementation of the effective practices they are studying and levels of student engagement. Coaching helps a teacher enhance both their science and art of instruction.

As these teachers continue learning about connectedness and implementing its principles in their classrooms, they are also asked to share what they are learning with their fellow teachers.

Worthington Middle School is committed in offering programs featuring a variety of academic and extra-curricular opportunities. When students take advantage of these opportunities they increase their chances of feeling connected to their school, which results in greater academic achievement. If you have any questions about the initiative, please feel free to contact one of the teacher fellows at Worthington Middle School.

Scott Burns is an intervention teacher at Worthington Middle School. Tony Hastings is Worthington Middle School's assistant principal.