A distinction with a difference: teacher says S.T.A.T. is not ‘about the technology’

What started out as months quickly dwindled into fewer than three weeks until the start of the 2014-2015 school year. Now, routine preparations – from supplies shopping for students to lesson planning for teachers and goal setting for administrators – for the first day are underway across the county. Yet, in spite of the growing anticipation for the new school year, what continues to generate the most buzz is the launch of S.T.A.T., Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow.

For many, S.T.A.T. means technology – specifically, one-to-one computing devices in the hands of every student and teacher. However, for Shannon Johnson, S.T.A.T. teacher at Arbutus Middle School, this Baltimore County Public Schools initiative centers on something else. Johnson reveals that “something else” – and the difference that distinction will make – in an interview with Blake Lubinski, intern in the Department of Communications and Community Outreach.

S.T.A.T. teacher Shannon Johnson

S.T.A.T. teacher Shannon Johnson

Blake Lubinski: “What was your role before becoming a S.T.A.T. teacher?”

Shannon Johnson: “Before becoming a S.T.A.T. teacher, I was a cluster mentor for new teachers in secondary schools in the Northwest area of BCPS.”

BL: “How did you become a S.T.A.T. teacher?”

SJ: “I think my background with providing professional development for new teachers helped lead me down the path of doing the same for all teachers.”

BL: “How is a S.T.A.T. different than a classroom teacher?”

SJ: “It is not much different. I assess the needs of the faculty, plan with them in mind, take county initiatives and best practices and make it palatable for my audience. I assess the faculty through visits, surveys and daily communication to tweak professional developments. These are all the steps classroom teachers take to instruct students.”

BL: “How many S.T.A.T. teachers are there across the district?”

SJ: “There is one in every building in BCPS schools.”

BL: “What have you done thus far as a S.T.A.T. teacher in preparation for the new school year?”

SJ: “I have received training on mentoring new teachers, Windows 8 and Microsoft Office 2013 as well as BCPS initiatives, like BCPS One. I have also met with my principal to plan the first week of school for teachers.”

BL: “What challenges do you expect to encounter during the S.T.A.T. rollout this fall?”

SJ: “There is still some confusion about S.T.A.T. Some people think S.T.A.T. is about the technology when, in actuality, it is about something else. The challenge will be to get instructors to focus on learner-centered instruction and not technology-driven activities that do not include inquiry. Once the instructors have made that change, our students will get the most out of their education.”

BL: “How do you plan to overcome those challenges?”

SJ: “I will provide opportunities for the staff to unpack what learner-centered environments look like and sound like. I will provide opportunities for learning walk-throughs so that teachers can visualize it in their own schoolhouses. I will also model it when given the opportunity to plan with teachers.”

BL: “What part of the transition to S.T.A.T. most excites you?”

SJ: “I am excited about getting students to think and show what they know.”

For more information on S.T.A.T., the Lighthouse Schools, BCPS One and other components of the move to digital learning in BCPS, visit http://www.bcps.org/academics/stat/.

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