The conference center was crowded, yet it was easy to spot Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman and Mr. Incredible since they were in full costume. But in reality, every one packed into the space, even those in street clothes, was a superhero. That’s because the room was filled with more than 400 Cherry Creek Schools teachers intent on sharpening the super powers that allow them to help ALL students grow and succeed academically.
“This is our big ‘Tips, Tricks and Tools’ night, where teachers come and learn strategies for differentiation and student engagement,” explained Summer Snyder, differentiation coordinator for Cherry Creek Schools, about the event held Nov. 16 at the district’s Instructional Support Facility.
Snyder planned the event with the district’s 70 elementary and secondary differentiation coaches – school-based teacher leaders who receive special training in differentiating instruction for children at different levels or with different learning styles.
They chose a superhero theme because they believe that’s what great classroom teachers are and must continue to be in order to meet the varied needs of the district’s diverse student population: more than 54,700 students who come from different backgrounds, who speak more than 120 languages, who have a variety of learning styles and who bring a wide range of strengths and needs into every classroom every day.
“We have so many levels of kids in our classrooms and they have so many different ways of thinking,” explained Debbie Martin, a third-grade teacher at Black Forest Hills Elementary. She attended the event with her third-grade teammate Sarah Love and Black Forest music teacher Jeff Gleason. Even after a long day of teaching, they were excited to see the proven tools and techniques being shared by the district’s differentiation experts.
“I want to see what ideas classroom teachers are using that I could implement in the music room,” Gleason said.
“It’s nice to hear different people’s ideas and have an opportunity to see what they’re doing and what works for them,” added Love. “That way, we’re not reinventing the wheel… We’re getting ideas from them and then using those ideas in our classrooms.”
The two-hour event featured a festive atmosphere, refreshments and even a photo booth. The differentiation coaches emphasized the five pillars of effective differentiation: classroom environment, curriculum, formative assessment, respectful tasks and instructional arrangement. But the main attraction was the proven, research-based strategies that CCSD’s “super teachers” will be using with their students to support their ongoing success.