Team members: Cathy Stout, Kim Cammenga, Jessica Cripe, Tim Luken, not pictured Nikki Belschner.
Northridge Middle School
This team of 8th grade teachers at Northridge Middle School have a total of 104 years of teaching experience between them, and all of that experience is being shared every school day with the students.
There are three teaching teams in the 8th grade at the school – Red, White, and Blue – who each take one-third of the students, around 150 per team, who remain with that team throughout the school year. This system gives teachers better opportunities to get to know each student. “We meet with each other and are very familiar with each student. We get to know about them,” Luken said.
“They don’t fall through the cracks this way,” Belschner added.
Luken and Cammenga share a classroom as well, teaching language arts and social studies. “Sharing the classroom, the students are in here for two periods and we can incorporate our lessons. The students truly get double the amount of time,” Luken stated.
Among the benefits for students is that each teacher has his and her own personality, and some students will gravitate toward the different personalities, Stout noted. “We also meet with each other,” Cripe added. “It’s our time to share.” That sharing of information on the students allows other teachers to be aware of any issues that may affect a student’s learning. In other schools without a team approach, Luken noted, “we never even see each other.” Important information would be lost between classrooms.
Students also get to see the teachers work together, which is a lesson in itself. Students watch how professionals work side by side, and how mutual respect plays into that. “They (students) feel comfortable in here,” Luken noted. “They feel comfortable with us and come talk to us.”
Stout and Cripe, teaching science and math, respectively, don’t share a classroom but look for opportunities to combine their lessons, especially with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) projects.
At the end of the year, all of the teachers work to combine all of the classrooms together, culminating in the 8th Grade Civil War Day in the spring. It can include first-person presentations where students portray historical figures, science, and more.
Stout is in her first full year of teaching at NMS, and came from a larger school. “There had been about 2,000 students in the high school. Talk about getting lost in the crowd,” she said. “With this (team setup), it’s easier to know each student better.”
Knowing their students so well, and taking time to focus on each one, allows this team of teachers to, as Cammenga put it, “build better students and a better community.”