Walking into a classroom at Edgewood Elementary, you might see something odd on the teacher’s desk: a toy duck. The duck is more than a decoration. It is an award that goes from teacher to teacher, rewarding excellence on the job. “That’s something that we’ve kind of started this year to encourage them to cheer each other on,” said Edgewood Principal David Hensinger. “To celebrate their successes and leadership.” The duck is only one example of a slew of programs at Edgewood Elementary that not only fosters the relationship between the staff and students, but the relationship between the members of the staff as well. Hensinger said these programs are focused on improving culture, learning and community engagement. Since declaring that mission statement, the staff has been encouraged to collaborate and discuss teaching strategies and ideas, and to reward each other for their successes. According to Hensinger, it’s about “finding ways to make people feel a part of something.” One example is “goosing,” or shouting out a fellow teacher who did something thoughtful for another. “If a teacher holds a door open for them while their hands are full, or helps them with a student … they can write a quick little note to that teacher and post it up in the staff lounge,” Hensinger said. Hensinger said much of the staff’s successes stem from consistency. Much of the staff has been at Edgewood for several years. That means less time needs to be spent training new employees, and everyone is familiar with one another. All this isn’t to say the Edgewood staff is neglecting students. Children are encouraged to embody PRIDE, which stands for, “Please walk and be quiet in the halls, Respect everyone and everything, I will keep my hands, feet and objects to myself, Do my best and Educational supplies only.” Students that display these qualities receive cards, and are entered into a drawing to attend a monthly party. Some of the school’s most significant recent student-focused programs emphasize technology. There’s a cart full of Chromebooks for each grade, iPads available for use by kindergarten and first grade classes and teachers are using Google Docs for certain assignments for ease of access. Technology is intertwined with everyday life at Edgewood. “You just start to forget because it’s so intertwined with everything,” said first grade teacher Marie Haas. Using technology in an educational context is nothing new, but for teachers at Edgewood like Haas, it’s become a necessity. Haas said she uses technology every day in her class. The most significant addition, she said, has been the Chromebooks. Haas said when most people think of laptops or tablets, they think of apps or the Internet. While she uses those in the classroom, the school and district has provided specific programs to use. “They really like those things as well,” she said. The programs the teachers use are meant to focus on visual stimulation and interactivity. There’s a smartboard in every classroom in the building, and the school has made an effort to transfer learning to each student’s home. “We’ve really made an effort to share log-ins with parents, make sure that we put that in our monthly newsletters and those kinds of things,” Hensinger said. “We’re providing a service for our community, but it’s how can we create a better relationship with (parents), how can we extent the learning time of our students.” Another heavily used program at the school is Schoology, a site that allows teachers to manage materials and lessons and share them with students and parents. “Parents can get on (Schoology) and see pictures of things that we’re doing in the classroom,” Haas said. The program also fosters staff collaboration, Haas said. Hensinger said this collaboration is important. While the teachers sometimes get the chance to convene and discuss plans, they don’t often get to actually see what happens in each other’s classrooms. Schoology helps to mitigate that. With all of Edgewood’s new programs, everyone involved in a child’s education is just as large a factor in each other’s lives. The teachers at Edgewood are a staff, but also a group of friends according to Haas and Hensinger. One of the programs the staff at Edgewood partakes in is called “Chipotle time,” the idea being the school is “hungry for new ideas.” During that time, teachers eat together and are encouraged to share strategies and thoughts. Chipotle time perhaps falls perfectly in line with the school’s new ideology: anyone can have a good idea. After all, much of the culture at the school, Hensinger said, begins with the staff. “We’re a family,” Haas said.


The Edgewood Elementary staff is shown dressed up for Halloween as a “flying V.” The school has recently implemented a series of programs meant to foster collaboration and friendship between teachers.
(Photo submitted)
Walking into a classroom at Edgewood Elementary, you might see something odd on the teacher’s desk: a toy duck.

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