Crockett ISD Master Teachers At National Conference

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – Crockett Independent School District (CISD) has been part of the NIET (National Institute For Excellence in Teaching) program for several years now, with the “Master Teachers” at the various schools playing an important role in the growth of the teachers, as they work with the students. 

As reported in The Messenger, the master teachers serve as a kind of consultant to teachers, helping them create new ways of communicating and educating students, advising them on new techniques and practices which keep students engaged, many not even noticing they are learning along the way. 

Many will remember teachers from childhood who taught the same subject, the same way, until they retired. Older siblings could help younger students pass the tests, since they hadn’t changed since their parents’ days in the class. 

Crockett Early Learning Center Master Teacher (third from left) speaks during a panel discussion at a national educators conference in Dallas.

No more, as the master teachers work with teachers to break them out of routines, share ideas from around the country and gauge them based on real-world classroom observations, student interactions and responses, along with test scores to measure progress. 

At NIET’s 2024 National Conference last week in Dallas, the theme of “Unleashing Teacher Leadership” was a series of training sessions, workshops and panels designed to help the master teachers learn topics such as individual coaching, evidence-based practices and creating positive learning environments. 

At CISD’s Early Childhood Center, Master Teacher Ana Rodriguez was not only able to attend the conference to further her training, but was invited to participate in one of the panels. Born in Mexico City, Rodriguez grew up in Crockett and went to Crockett High School before eventually finding her way back to teach at the district. 

Rodriguez began working with the pre-schoolers five years ago, originally helping them learn computers, but with an eye on continuing her career in education and administration, and was thrilled to have the opportunity to work as a master teacher. 

Ana Rodriguez spoke at a panel at a conference in Dallas, telling top educators from around the country about her experience as a Master Teacher at Crockett Early Learning Center.

Working with the younger kids can be a challenge, Rodriguez acknowledged, but said that’s normal, since the young students have to first learn to be students. 

“It can be difficult, because they have more needs than other students,” Rodriguez said. “When they come to us, they’re not students – they learn to become students here. They learn to walk in a line, to take turns, to raise their hand to go to the restroom – all that etiquette, all those things. It’s amazing to see how they grow during the year and become students.”

Moving from “one of the gang” amongst the teachers to becoming a master teacher and sometimes stepping in to help them improve was never going to be easy, but Rodriguez said by working together, the program has shown real results in the classrooms. 

“It’s challenging but also very rewarding, because the teachers have been right on board with me,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve decided to really look into what we’re doing, to improve our teaching practices, to identify the specific skills students need at this age. It’s been great to see how we changed from teachers to learners. We now focus on what we’re learning and how we can help our students learn, rather than, ‘I’ve already taught that and I’ve taught it a million times, so I know how to teach it.’”

One challenge with all new students is getting them to master the alphabet, turning those sounds into letters in the correct way. Rodriguez said she was proud how this was progressing, noting on some tests, the kids have only three seconds to guess the letter from the sound given during the testing. 

Rodriguez was nervous after being chosen for the panel at the conference, taking the stage with leaders of school districts, addressing a room of leading educators from all parts of the country. She represented Crockett well, speaking about her role as a master teacher and answering questions from other school districts thinking about implementing the program in their own districts. 

“I love being the little fish and I was with all these sharks and they know what they’re doing. I was also very surprised they would ask me to be on the panel,” Rodriguez admitted. “I was nervous before it started. It was easy to answer the questions, because I just told them what my experience is.”

Rodriguez’ humility and candor must have played well with the tough crowd, admitting she is not the smartest or most experienced, but willing to learn and take risks, supporting the teachers and finding new ways to benefit the kids. 

While the work is sometimes slow and progress is not reflected overnight, the emphasis on finding ways to break through to these young minds and not repeat the same lessons, will no doubt show its reward in time. 

Rodriguez said while she always does her best, it’s the change in attitude and outlook of the whole team which is making the difference.  

“We’re coachable, we’re relatable, we help each other. We share ideas. We work to to be effective collectively, so that we can support our kids,” Rodriguez said. 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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