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Educators prepare for back to school

Teachers take classes, attend conferences

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The new school year is around the corner. Retailers are advertising what they hope are competitive prices, even while some students are finishing up summer camp or vacation with their family.

But for education professionals at the Cedar Rapids Community School District, the end of July means a shortening timeline for them to prepare for the Aug. 23 start date at most schools in the district.

School professionals typically start going into their offices or classrooms in force after July 4. However, they are preparing long before then because “no school” does not mean three months of freedom.

“It’s a 12 month job, it just doesn’t look the same in the summer,” said Ann Buckley, instructional design strategist (IDS) — a co-teacher who also can provide data analysis and coaching — at Kenwood Leadership Academy.

Shannon Zwack, special education teacher at Viola Gibson Elementary, returned to prepare her classroom on the second week of July. Her own children often tag along.

“If you don’t come in and get ready before you start all our training or in-service days, there’s not going to be a lot of time left,” Zwack said.

And between conferences and in-service days, teachers can spend a large portion of their summer preparing.

“Once August hits, it’s pretty busy,” Buckley agreed.

For teachers, that means finding time to prepare their classroom and lesson plans in between these commitments. But most believe giving up time in the summer is better than missing time with students.

“Lots of professional development is spread through the summer to allow teachers to stay in the classroom as much as possible,” said Leicha Scranton, IDS for Taylor Elementary School.

For instructional design strategists, summer means helping teachers prepare for new curriculum or other improvements to the school’s plans.

Preparation begins as early as late May for some. Buckley said each school goes over a yearly school improvement plan to implement in the upcoming year.

This is something for which Jeni Goebel, IDS at Nixon Elementary in Hiawatha, said she spends a large portion of her time preparing, as well as studying material she will be teaching teachers in the coming months.

Summer also is a time for teachers to take classes to receive endorsements or renew their licenses. Buckley stressed that learning is a constant, ongoing process for teachers. Much of this happens when class is not in session.

“As teachers, we understand the importance of continuous learning,” Buckley said. “It doesn’t stop in June.”

Although employees in the school district give up their vacations to work, most aren’t resentful.

“We’re taking time away from our own family, and you have to be passionate about it to do that,” Goebel said.

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