St. John teacher program aimed at improving skills

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 11, 2008


Staff Reporter

RESERVE – Everyone needs a teacher, even teachers themselves. That’s what the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board decided recently after debating Superintendent Courtney Millet’s proposal to implement the new job description of master teacher in parish schools this year.  

Millet’s proposal, which eliminated curriculum coordinators from parish schools, sparked a bit of controversy and was initially tabled before being approved last month. The board has since appointed eight master teachers for the coming school year.

But now that the dust has settled, what actually is a master teacher, and why are they needed in St. John the Baptist Parish schools?  

A master teacher is many things, but mostly, a teacher of teachers.

He or she has several responsibilities, some of which are similar to those of curriculum coordinators.  But one of the biggest differences is that master teachers spend 20 percent of the day in different classrooms demonstrating – or modeling – teaching methods.

Additionally, they are in charge of coordinating faculty meetings that focus on assessment, supplemental and intervention programs. Master teachers coordinate testing, implement the district’s reading and language arts program and lead on-site professional development as well.

Analyzing test scores and monitoring the effectiveness of curricula are also responsibilities of theirs. In a telling sign of how similar the positions are, four of the eight recently appointed master teachers were once curriculum coordinators.

In discussing Millet’s proposal, some board members challenged the purpose of the position and were leery about eliminating experienced curriculum coordinators who had performed well and received positive evaluations.

But at the school board meeting when the proposal was approved, Ann LaBorde, the board’s executive director of personnel and legal services, said Millet’s proposal was justifiable considering the circumstances in the parish.  

“As of last year, we had hired more teachers that had gone through or were going through an alternative certification than we had graduating out of a college of education,” she said. “So we are, in fact, teaching our teachers to teach, and everybody is in that situation.”

Board Member Lowell Bacas, who was a principal for 21 years, also supported Millet’s idea.

“I would have loved to have a master teacher on my staff to help me with new teachers coming in or even some of the other teachers that needed a little more help to become even better.”

Master teachers will work closely with principals in making sure everyone is on the same page.

Still, Board Member Russ Wise said at the board’s last meeting that he was concerned that “some of our best teachers” had been taken out of the classroom, where they have more consistent contact with the students, to fill the positions.

He asked Millet to monitor the effectiveness of the position over the next year to be sure it was worthwhile. In the end, Wise did not oppose Millet’s proposal.

Quite the contrary.

“This could really be the best thing to happen to classrooms since erasers,” Wise said.