Editor’s note: Our work with school districts across North America affords us the opportunity to meet thousands of passionate and innovative teachers, coaches, and administrators driven to transform learning experiences. In this series, ALP team members share their perspective from partnering with one of those trailblazing educators.
Lisa Tirado, ESL Teacher
Pflugerville High School, Pflugerville ISD (TX)
When I first met Lisa Tirado, I saw a great teacher- one who loved her students and was absolutely committed to their success. Returning for our second coaching session a month later, I walked into a completely student-centered classroom, with students working collaboratively in leveled groups to adapt A Raisin In the Sun into a telenovela. The first words out of her mouth: “This approach has changed my life! I could never go back to teaching ‘the old way’ again.”
Lisa, a former talented and gifted teacher, fell in love with her ESL students but wanted to see more growth, so she decided to give student-centered project based learning a try. Allowing students more choice in the way they learned was initially challenging, but when she saw the immense sense of pride and excitement it created in her students’ work, there was no turning back.
Lisa noted that a key factor in empowering students with choice in their learning was ensuring that their choices would enable them to be successful. Lisa admitted it was definitely a learning process for her and for her students, but she kept trying new approaches until she began to determine what worked best. If it didn’t work, she just something different until she found one that did!
Celebrating new milestones was an important part of the students’ success, as was designing differentiated instruction- a huge benefit in a multi-leveled class. Whether in similar or mixed levels, or by interest, readiness, or learning profile, working in collaborative groups accelerated growth patterns and enabled students learn from each other. Learning became deeper, and Lisa became the facilitator of their learning.
When we reconnected during the spring semester, I saw groups of students working collaboratively on a story of their choosing, using tools they selected to summarize the story for their peers. When I asked the students what they loved most about their experiences in class this year, their first answer was that Mrs. Tirado was an amazing teacher! Their second was that they appreciated having choice in their learning and working in groups. Their favorite project was writing their own original stories and songs.
Anytime you walk into Lisa’s classroom, you immediately see two things: students enjoying learning at a deeper level, and the deep mutual respect and caring between Lisa and her students. Building relationships and having a willingness to try have made this year a true success story for the ESL students at Pflugerville High School and their talented, risk-taking teacher, Lisa Tirado.