Administrators in the Jefferson Parish Public School System (JPPSS) have long been committed to evolving the district into a 21st century school system. After Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, they remained dedicated to this goal, despite damages inflicted on many schools. Less than two years later, with the help of the Cisco® 21st Century Schools Initiative (21S), JPPSS had integrated technology into a student-centered learning environment in 16 schools, with plans to transform the remaining 71 over the next 18 months.
21S helped put the district on a fast track toward realizing its vision, while technology integration specialist Mary Beth Almerico provided the inspiration Jefferson Parish teachers needed to grow and change.
Superintendent Diane Roussel believes Almerico’s contributions have been critical to the success of the program. “Mary Beth did a remarkable job of winning the confidence of our teachers and providing individualized coaching,” says Dr. Roussel. “Being able to motivate so many educators, with varying needs and levels of experience, is quite an accomplishment—she definitely knows the secret to professional development.”
As a first step, Almerico assessed each teacher’s individual needs. “I felt I needed to learn as much as I could about the teachers,” she explains, “What level of technology skills they had, how successful they’d been in using technology in the classroom, and what they perceived their needs to be in getting students more engaged.”
Almerico developed a schedule that enabled her to work in each school on the same day each week, so that the teachers knew when to expect her. Spending a lot of time in the field helped her assess each teacher’s skill level and openness to technology while earning trust and respect. “When you take the time to develop a rapport with the teachers, it makes a big difference,” Almerico says. “They feel like they know you and they become comfortable with you. They see you working with the students, and they realize you understand their situation.”
Read more about Almerico and how she helped assess, train and motivate teachers in this success story.