Editors Note: This is the second of two features on Rural Schools Partnership educators who applied for and received funding from the Fund for Teachers Fellows Program in conjunction with The Rural School and Community Trust. Only eleven awards were made to rural teachers nationally, and we are proud that two were in the Missouri Ozarks. This year’s Fellows are Bolivar Primary teachers Kayla King, Joelle Smith, and Janet Tweedy; and Ste. Genevieve Valle Catholic Grade School’s Donna Herzog, who is featured below.
Bolivar Primary School teachers Kayla King, Janet Tweedy and Joelle Smith spent part of their summer vacations attending a week-long cooperative learning conference in Orlando, Fla., through one of 11 national Fund for Teachers Fellowships awarded for 2011.
The three first- and second-grade teachers applied for Fund for Teachers fellowships in hopes of enhancing their ability to apply cooperative learning in their classrooms and to build content into cooperative learning structures they had developed.
Janet Tweedy said the three teachers were very excited to receive one of the 11 fellowships awarded to teachers from rural communities by the Rural School and Community Trust, working in conjunction with the Rural Schools Partnership program of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. The program is designed to encourage rural teachers to explore summertime opportunities that will bring learning to life for their students.
The Bolivar trio used the $10,000 award to attend a week-long cooperative learning conference in Orlando in July. A special experience for the teachers was the opportunity to work with internationally renowned cooperative learning experts Spencer and Laura Kagan.
“We really hope to promote the concept of student engagement and higher-order thinking skills,” Smith said.
King said cooperative learning involves teaching students to work together in groups or with partners in a structured way that holds all members of the group accountable.
“We’ve brought back so much and are already implementing it in our classrooms,” she said. “It’s definitely different than traditional classrooms where you might have one student raising their hand to answer questions. It’s not changing what the teachers are doing as much as changing how the students are thinking so all of them can be involved instead of one student at a time.”
She said she believes cooperative learning is especially important in small-town schools.
“The small town has a closeness and a sense of family, and cooperative learning should build on that sense of place—it should help make kids feel safe and nurtured,” King said.
As a first-grade teacher, King feels cooperative learning supports this ethos through its reliance on “teaching kids to communicate with and work with one another.”
The Bolivar school district is a member of the CFO’s Rural School Partnership, and has received ongoing support from the CFO’s affiliate, the Bolivar Area Community Foundation. For more information on the Rural School Partnership, The Rural School and Community Trust, or the Fund for Teachers, please contact Julie Leeth at 417-864-6199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.