Over her 30+ year career, Donna Baxter DeCourcy has been a classroom teacher, Special Education resource teacher, technology curriculum innovator, and literacy coach. She has had a variety of experiences during her digital journey ranging from IBI programs, website development, and curriculum writing to integrate technology in the classroom. Donna’s innovative work earned her the Prime Minister’s Certificate of Excellence, and the John Fruedeman Award for Curriculum Development. Her experience as a Special Education Resource Teacher and Literacy Coach helped her to integrate her knowledge of special education with teacher development through Professional Learning Communities. Catch up with Donna by visiting her inspiring and practical blog called Learning with Donna.
Donna’s digital journey started when a principal bought her staff pizza and paid the secretary to teach everyone Wordperfect. “In 2001, a parent volunteer offered to set up a school web site, so I worked with him and with another teacher to coordinate, training students to develop web pages and write articles about our school. In 2002-2003, I led a major project with School Net’s Grassroots technology program based on integrating computer technology with the school curriculum. This led to a major award being granted to our school, and I was nominated and received a Prime Minister’s Certificate of Excellence, and the John Fruedeman Award for Curriculum Development.” Donna remarked that in the beginning of her digital journey, learning about technology was very challenging. “These days the teachers who know how to use edublogs are finding it easier.”
Donna recommends building relationships with students before trying to access the curriculum. She admits that this can be hard for the classroom teacher who is busy orchestrating learning. “We try to be all things to all people. I suggest teachers try to take time to make more relationships on a personal level without talking about curriculum upfront.” Donna worked with students first through conversation and then she could get students to progress with their work. “I gave up my “teaching” to focus on the students’ learning.”
“My first year as literacy coach involved bringing back common language. Once we were talking the same language we could be more critical. When someone didn’t understand something, the admin would welcome questions. He would relate to the teachers asking the questions and bring it back in the form of a question. How would you do that? Then others would pipe in and pretty soon it was a collaborative approach not a top down approach.”
“In our PLC work, we invited teachers to bring in one piece of work they were puzzled with and we would discuss next steps. Our Principal would turn it around to me so that I could grow as a literacy coach. He was a leader who could discuss how things went in a PLC and was respectful of the learning process with our staff. He always understood that people started from different points along the path, just like our students. We partnered teachers up with friends. And this year teachers are starting to pair up with different people. The latest PLC was cross grade level. The development of our PLC work was intensely interesting.”
Throughout her varied career, Donna has approached each of her roles not as an expert but as a learner. She is an inspiration!
How have you successfully built professional relationships with other teachers in your building? How has technology changed for you in your classroom?