The recipe for success at Donelson Elementary is very simple: We have the right teachers in the right classrooms. As the principal of the school, I set the tone for the school and am responsible for ensuring that quality teachers are in place. First, I have to hire the best teachers who meet the Donelson standards. “Donelson quality” teachers care about children, are strong with instruction, know how to disaggregate data, and use that data to ensure that each child is achieving to the best of his/her ability.
Secondly, a mentor is assigned to each new teacher to assist in the immersion into the Donelson culture. Our administrative team must make formal and informal evaluations to ensure that the teacher is being successful in all areas. The evaluation process lets us know if the teacher’s performance needs to be tweaked in some way. If so, we work with the teacher and his/her mentor to assist that teacher in improving in all needed areas whether it be through professional development, coaching opportunities, or visiting other classrooms.
Next, teachers must know that they are appreciated. Instructional time must be protected, and all decisions must support the instructional program. Teachers are encouraged to make suggestions for materials to purchase and to try out new instructional strategies. Teachers have the autonomy of teaching the state standards in whatever way they choose. However, most of the time, our teachers plan together to determine the best way to teach the standards.
Finally, our school is like a family. We all feel the enormous task of making sure that every child receives a fantastic education. We meet weekly to discuss children’s progress and interventions. Teachers work with all students in their grade level so they feel a responsibility for all the children and not just their class. Parents are invited to be a partner in their child’s education through volunteer opportunities and parent conferences. Teachers and administrators also interact personally and professionally so we care about each other and our families.