Principal Angie Krause‘s background as a reading specialist has come in handy this year in her role as Community Elementary School’s instructional leader this year. She has visited classrooms several times so far this school year to model the teaching of guided reading for two teachers who have been struggling with small group instruction, explains Krause, who was named a National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals.
“I’m a hands-on principal,” says Krause, whose school is part of whose building is part of rural Coffeyville Public Schools in Kansas. “I got to put my love for teaching reading into action.”
Her duties as instructional leader don’t end with the school day. After hours, she attends Student Improvement Team meetings and dives deep into the data to determine what each of her students needs most. “In order for me to suggest the best strategy to use with a child, I have to know each child,” she continues. “I spend many hours in classrooms building relationships with my students. I have to know about the whole child, not just what they need academically.”
Instructional leader in action
In the second part of her conversation with District Administration, Krause covered her school’s vibrant professional learning communities, rising test scores at her K6 school and classroom “chill-out zones.”
DA: How do you serve as the school’s instructional leader?
Krause: “Utilizing our professional learning communities is a huge part of our culture. Teachers are provided an extra 40 minutes of collaborative planning each Wednesday to review data, plan instruction, create formative assessments based on the grade level standards, and set goals. During this time I make sure to celebrate all successes. Also during this time, we discuss professional development that is needed by the staff. It is imperative that I ensure my teachers have the resources they need to be successful.
I’ve requested to send teachers to workshops that cover classroom management, SEL, brain development, math, phonics, and phonemic awareness. I have also sent teachers to observe programs at other schools as well as observe teachers in our building. When we discovered there was a lack of phonics and phonological awareness instruction, I requested that the assistant superintendent and I take a group of teachers to observe a program being utilized by another district. We quickly determined that we needed to purchase the program 95% to fill the gap in our phonics and phonological awareness instruction.
The key to the success of implementing the new program was providing my teachers with the training they needed to confidently teach the skills as well as stating my expectations for the implementation. Some teachers needed more support than the professional development they received, so I arranged for them to observe another teacher and assigned them to meet weekly with our instructional coach.
As stated earlier, implementing the PLC process has had a huge impact on the success of our students. During PLCs, I also collaborate with my teachers on the best practices they should be using to meet the needs of all of their students. Analyzing the data leads to the discussion and importance of differentiation and rigor. Progress monitoring and record keeping can often be overwhelming, so I used my love for Excel to create a document for my teachers to use.
We are a K6th school, so we have eight PLCs each week. We have a PLC for each grade level and a PLC for my special teachers.
What are the most exciting things happening at Community Elementary School?
A huge success for Community Elementary this year is that our state test scores went up. We had 20 more third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students scoring a 3 or 4 on the state math test. Of those 20 students, 10 students scored a level 4, which is very difficult to do. We had nine more students score a level 4 on the ELA test than we had in 2022. Our goal is to have 10 more students scoring a 3-4 on the math and ELA tests.
What are the keys to your leadership philosophy, and how do these contribute to the school’s success?
My philosophy is that all students can learn when provided a student-centered education where teachers, students and administrators are held to high expectations. However, I firmly believe that the purpose of education goes far beyond knowledge—it is about empowering students to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers and responsible citizens.
Creating an environment that is nurturing and inclusive—and that recognizes and caters to each student’s unique needs—interests and abilities is imperative in accomplishing these goals. Doing what is best for students will always be the deciding factor in every decision I make.
How have your job/responsibilities changed over the last few years?
A huge focus is placed on social-emotional learning, not just academics. I have to ensure that my teachers have chill-out zones in their classrooms to help regulate their students. For me, it’s finding tools for my toolbox to deal with students suffering from trauma. What works one day might not work the next day or even the hour.
Unfortunately, school safety has a different meaning than it did in the past. We used to focus on practicing our fire and tornado drills. Now, due to the growing number of school shootings, we have to focus on keeping our students safe from intruders.
COVID was a huge curve ball. Students and teachers had to practice social distancing, so students were no longer allowed to play outside as a grade level. They could only play with the students in their class, so play areas had to be created on the playground. Coverage for this was no easy task. Not to mention when the students had to be remote and the teachers had to teach via Zoom or Google Meets.
What are the biggest challenges Community Elementary School is facing right now?
Mental health is the biggest challenge we are faced with at CES. Many students come to us with trauma and a high ACEs score. They are experiencing stress, anxiety, neglect, abuse, and other mental health issues that can impact their learning and overall well-being. We unfortunately aren’t experts in this field and lack the resources we need.
Read part 1 of DA’s interview with Angie Krause.