Local school sees team teaching results

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    By PETER CARR

    Few students at Orem Junior High School fall through the cracks– thanks to the teamwork of the administration, teachers, parents and local political leaders.

    “It’s really lofty and a lot of work, but it’s really great because it helps you focus what you’re doing for the kids,” said Pam Hallam, principal at Orem Junior High School.

    Five years ago Hallam and her faculty felt the jump from the controlled and comfortable environment in elementary school to the multiple classes in junior high school was confusing the students.

    “It’s overwhelming for a 12-year-old,” Hallam said. “They were coming from an elementary school with one teacher and the same classmates, and we were losing them.”

    To remedy the problem, Hallam created a “teaming” concept for her middle school. She divided the school into smaller schools of about 150 students. These students have six common teachers who work together to combine the curriculum and provide care for the students. The teachers meet each week to discuss the progress of their students and are guided by a team leader.

    “The needs of the students outweigh the needs of the teacher,” said Sharon K. Smith, a team-teacher at Orem Junior High School. “We’ve really gelled on working for the kids’ benefit and we become their advocates. It’s also a support system for the teachers.”

    Although Hallam provides the vision for the program, Smith said the teachers must be devoted for it to be productive. The teachers voted whether they wanted to be part of the program.

    “It gives us ownership over what’s happening in school,” Smith said. “It’s just not her. It’s been a real eye-opener for us as we take responsibility for the school’s decisions.”

    Hallam said the teachers’ devotion to the students’ needs has made the program a success.

    “The teachers love them,” Hallam said. “They are working to make sure no one gets out of here without feeling they were cared for.”

    Both resource and honors students are integrated in the same classes as the regular students. The progress of the resource students are monitored by a specific teacher.

    The honors students have extra projects that they must work with their parents and teachers to complete. A committee evaluates each project and decides if it qualifies for honors credit, Hallam said.

    Once a week a Building Leadership Team meets with Hallam to make the decisions for the school. It is a group of 28 people with 14 community members and 14 faculty members. Rep. Tammy Rowan, R-Orem, acts as a political liason for the school in the Utah Legislature and sits in on the meetings.

    The BLT discusses school policies, the budget and how to meet the specific needs of the students. Hallam said the group makes the decisions for the school, not her.

    Within the conference room that the BLT meets is a sign that exemplifies its main objective. It reads: “The vision must be followed by venture. It is not enought to stare up the stairs, we must step up the stairs.”

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