October 30, 2014
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Teachers ‘create & collaborate’ during summer vacation
Kelcy Dolan
CRAFTS: Lisa Leito, Melissa Colangelo and Patti Shanley take instructions from Amy Dolan, one of the original teachers to begin Create and Collaborate. Together they are making homemade white boards that double as clipboards.

Nearly 30 elementary teachers from the Warwick Public School system attended “Create and Collaborate,” an underground learning community. The program was held at the Warwick Public Library on Monday, July 28.

Create and Collaborate began in March with only four teachers who had enrolled in Teachers Design for Education (TD4Ed), an initiative by the Highlander Institute and the Business Innovation Factory. The TD4Ed pilot program wanted to re-energize teachers to address the issues they see in their school systems and implement curriculums and programs to try and solve those issues.

The Warwick pilot program found that the collaborative efforts throughout their school system were stunted by time constraints and administration support. The four teachers: Deirdre Pesola from Norwood, Dawn Manchester from Lippitt and the Warwick Neck teachers Tracy Mollock and Amy Dolan started Create and Collaborate to re-energize teachers by working together.

The teachers gather on their own time and own dime to learn new ways of teaching in their classrooms.

Pesola said, “TD4Ed opened my mind. I always thought I was a good teacher, but the program showed me how I can be even better. It was truly transformative. Who would have thought at this point in my career I could be renewed like this? We all wanted to share this passion with the rest of the teachers in the school system. Just look around the room. Everyone is excited to be a teacher again. They couldn’t be happier that next year they will be just that much better for their students.”

Dolan said, “There was a lot of energy and I think the teachers went away with some great new ideas for their classrooms.”

The meetings, which are BYOB—bring your own buddy, first had a small meet and greet for the teachers to get to know one another. After a quick video explaining how Create and Collaborate was conceptualized, teacher after teacher then took center stage sharing different online programs, fundraisers, and projects that worked in their classrooms.

The winning idea for the night appeared to be DonorsChoose.org, presented by Marissa Miller. This website allows teachers or entire schools to post about their projects online and have anyone donate to their cause. Teachers on the website look for funds to buy anything from science magazines, projectors, tablets, and even playgrounds. The website helps classrooms evolve to reach the standards of 21st century teaching.

Anyone can donate to each project. Projects can be looked up by zip codes, school name, or even teacher name.

Even during the summer the website is full of different Warwick teachers looking for donations to prepare for the upcoming school year. New projects are added every day.

After everyone presented their ideas, teachers visited different tables to ask questions about a program, get help or even make one of the projects discussed that night.

“It is summer time,” Pesola said. “These teachers are coming out in July on their own time and money to be better teachers for Warwick’s students. It’s a testament to our dedication, our passion.”

Mayor Scott Avedisian said, “The fact that 30 of our educators are choosing to come together to innovate and create collaborative relationships is very exciting. Along with others who have spent time getting up to date on blended learning techniques and other cutting edge ideas and programs, many of our educators have spent the summer not vacationing but investing in our students. That has been a hallmark of the Warwick public schools and I am grateful for their efforts.”

Jess Kenney, a fifth grade teacher at Cedar Hill, has gone to all three meetings of Create and Collaborate.

“I love this,” she said. “You get a whole bunch of different perspectives of teaching in one room. Every new idea spawns six more. I’m energized here; I’m excited for the next school year.”

Bonnie Doyle, who teaches sixth grade at Lippitt, has also been to all the meetings and has brought a new “buddy” to each one.

Doyle said, “This gets you up and motivated again. It is growing each time. There is so much this could do if we continued this.”

Patti Shanley was a first-time visitor to Create and Collaborate. She teaches at the Drum Rock Early Childhood Center.

“This is fabulous,” she said. “I had three new ideas for my classroom within a half-hour of being here. There is so much we have to do in the classroom now that we rarely get chances like these. To come together during the summer to reflect on the past school year and look forward to the next is an opportunity to grow as teachers.”

She loved hearing about Donors Choose because, “There are so many things we want to do with our students, but we don’t have the funds to do it.”

She thought that the Create and Collaborate program is one that should be run throughout the entire school system as a professional development day run by the teachers for the teachers.

“This is how it should be done,” Shanley said.

As of now Create and Collaborate has grown by word of mouth and has been contained to the elementary teachers of Warwick.

The teachers who began the program want to see Create and Collaborate expand throughout the entire school system.

When the teachers first began TD4Ed, they were given an $850 grant to pursue their initiative. After three meetings, the funds are starting to run low.

Pesola said, “Our dream is to see this go district-wide. Now we are trying to find a way to sustain ourselves to keep going and continue to grow. We want the school administration to see all the good this program has done and the benefit to public schools. What more could they ask for?”

For more information on Create and Collaborate, email createcollaborate4@gmail.com. To donate to any of the projects on Donors Choose, visit www.donorschoose.org and look up a school, teacher or zip code. Anyone is welcome to donate.


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