Opportunity Culture® Educator Columns

Fidelity and Collaboration: Opportunity Culture® Directors Share Advice on Common Challenges

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, October 17, 2022

Whether in districts large or small, rural or urban, Opportunity Culture directors often travel similar arcs from initial design issues to implementation challenges and successes. At the September virtual gathering of Opportunity Culture directors, four panelists shared how Opportunity Culture implementation has improved their district recruitment, teacher support, and student success, and discussed the collaboration needed among district offices, accountability concerns, and how their roles have changed.

Teacher-Assistant Partnership Helps Students Grow

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, March 28, 2022

In August 2021, Angela Caldwell, an Opportunity Culture expanded-impact kindergarten teacher at Montlieu Academy of Technology in Guilford County, North Carolina, found herself unexpectedly on her own with a classroom of 22 students, after her teaching assistant left just as the school year began.

So she felt relief that fall when interviewing Lora Terry, who had worked for many years in day care settings. The two clicked, Caldwell said, with Terry making it very clear what she would need to do the job of an assistant well—clear expectations, communication, and clarification. Read More…

2 Opportunity Culture® Educators Among 9 Regional N.C. Principals of the Year

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, February 28, 2022

Congratulations to KaTrinka Brown, Piedmont-Triad Region Principal of the Year, and Larenda Denien, Southwest Region Principal of the Year! The awards place Brown and Denien in the running for North Carolina Principal of the Year, announced in May.

I spoke to both principals recently, and as you’ll read in spotlights of each, a common theme in their leadership success quickly emerged: the power of relationships.

“Everybody is Traumatized”: Opportunity Culture® Fellows on Keeping On

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, January 25, 2022

With ongoing Covid-related stresses this year, many Opportunity Culture educators have wondered how much their challenges match those of other Opportunity Culture schools. Before the winter break, educators from multiple cohorts of Opportunity Culture Fellows gathered online to share their experiences and support one another—and found their stresses mirrored much of what has been in the news for months.

A great teacher reflects on remote instruction shortfalls

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, first published by EducationNC, September 22, 2021

Jimmel Williams knows great teachers. After all, he is one, with the student results to show for it. But last fall, he says now, his teaching fell short.

With his Charlotte students all learning remotely, his efforts felt off, though he couldn’t fully put his finger on what wasn’t working. He kept making changes each week to get students more engaged in their learning, but the tweaks weren’t enough. Finally, he realized what he needed — to both take tighter control and give some up. Read More…

One teacher’s message for Secretary Cardona

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, first published by EducationNC, August 16, 2021

When multi-classroom leader Kenyatta Davenport got the chance to talk to U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, her message was simple: Teachers haven’t given up, but we need your support to get students back on track after the coronavirus — and fast.

Simple — and short, since she had limited time to speak to Cardona when he visited Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools on July 12. But Davenport would definitely tell him more if she had the time. Read More…

Personalize learning for educators, not just students

By Casey Jackson, first published by EdNC, May 18, 2021

“Can you please be my coach?”

With tears rolling down her cheeks, this was what a young, second-year teacher asked me in the middle of a professional development session in 2018.

I was sitting at a table with new faces, in a new state, in a new role as a multi-classroom leader (MCL) in Vance County, North Carolina. The session presenter had asked us to role-play a guided-reading lesson, and this young woman had bravely volunteered to play the role of teacher. As the others played the students, I played the teacher’s coach. Although I had some administrative experience helping teachers, I had not yet gone through MCL training to learn how to appropriately coach the teaching team I would lead. Read more…

The Support Baltimore Teachers Deserve—Now and Post-Pandemic

By Sidney Thomas, first published by The Baltimore Times, April 30, 2021

A tweet I saw asking teachers to share one book they would recommend for new teachers jolted me back to my first year of teaching in 2008. My school gave me a copy of The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry and Rosemary Wong, told me to read it, and then released me into the classroom to figure out how to be an effective teacher.

The book was my only “support” that year. Whenever I asked for additional help to become a better teacher, I was told to go back to that book. Yet, even after rereading it, I still struggled. Read more…

Quick Take: Why One Texas Teacher Loved Her Opportunity Culture® Residency

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, March 29, 2021

Coming into her final semester of college as a student at the University of Texas Permian Basin in fall 2020, Chelsea McMahan decided to forgo a traditional student teaching post, applying instead for a full-time, paid, Opportunity Culture teacher residency in a fourth-grade class in the Midland, Texas, independent school district (ISD).

Six months later, McMahan found herself—as a newly minted, full-time sixth-grade teacher at another Midland school—standing before the district’s school board extolling the benefits of her residency. Read more…

Quick Take: Two MCLs’ Pandemic Tools to Monitor Student Understanding

By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, February 23, 2021

Although Nikki Glenn, a first-year MCL, and her team of four fifth-grade teachers at Falkener Elementary got to rejoin their students in the classroom for in-person learning in January (with one teaching children who chose to remain virtual), the tools they relied on last semester continue to prove their value.

Glenn’s team worked hard throughout the fall to determine how to effectively monitor students’ understanding and progress from a distance—useful still in socially distanced classrooms. Read more…