Along with administrators, staff, and students, parents will find another hard-working member of the educational team; the Instructional Support Specialist. In 2011, Dr. Scarlett M. Copeland, Dr. Sandy Dominy, Federal Program Directors, and School Principals began a discussion regarding Instructional Coaches supporting students and staff. In July, 2012 the Appling County School District implemented the expertise of Instructional Support Specialists (ISS) to provide additional support across all learning within schools. These individuals were chosen for their expertise in instruction, classroom management, best teaching practices, and cooperative practices with parents and peers. Within three years, every school in this system housed an ISS to bolster teachers’ and students’ learning. It became apparent this position was a critical piece in the Appling County journey to ensure all district schools had instruction that is research –based and structured in best teaching practices.
Although the Instructional Support Specialists are seldom seen, their roles have become essential to the administrators, teachers and staff, and students. Included in these instructional responsibilities are non-evaluative classroom observations, assisting teachers with classroom management, student engagement, training of effective student grouping for instruction, teaching through modeling best practices strategies, researching best educational practices, and lesson planning. These experts are often seen gathering and analyzing data to improve student performance in classrooms and on standardized tests. They use weekly grade-level collaboration to discuss teaching practices, data, and for delivering professional training to staff members. Overseeing the New Teacher Mentor program is a favorite task of the Instructional Support Specialists. Guiding the novice educators is a chance for impacting the future of Appling County education.
The Appling County ISS team is responsible for completing the requirement of the Parent Engagement portion of the Title I program. Quite often, due to the pandemic, this experienced group uses online meetings to learn current educational methods and then share their learning with teachers and parents. Possibly one of the most challenging tasks assigned to them is they often act as a liaison between teachers and administrators. One of the most pleasant tasks is being an encouraging friend to teachers, both novice and experienced, who are experiencing some difficult situations.
Praise for the ISS expertise is abundant from school and district leadership and supports their necessity in schools. From complementing expertise in training teachers, educating the whole child, effective listening and relationship building, valuable presentation of curriculum, to efficient data analyzing, classroom materials and lessons preparation have made this educational force invaluable to school leaders. Hours spent beyond the school day to ensure an impact on student learning and the school environment is evident to Appling County administrators.
Compliments aren’t just from administrators but are in volumes from the teachers the ISS work with daily. Teachers say the ISS are their friends and confidants, someone to go to with challenges, problem solvers in times of crises, instructional experts, very knowledgeable in educational methods and practices, and a friend to turn to at any time.
It’s easy to see the Instructional Support Specialists wear many hats on any given day. Their jobs are never routine since most days are dotted with the unexpected. But, according to these experts, that is the challenge and reward of their profession. They believe that if they can, in small ways, ensure a quality education for the students in the Appling County School System, their legacy will remain even if they are usually invisible to the public.
The Superintendent and Program Directors work with the Instructional Support Specialist in all our schools to make sure we are staying abreast on the current trends in education and needs of our district’s staff and students. Our school district’s current Instructional Support Specialist include: Mrs. Pam Williams (ACHS), Dr. Pam Johnson (ACMS), Dr. Sarah Alonzo, Mrs. Karen Mills (ACPS), Mrs. Gretchen Miles (AES), and Mrs. Teressa Kimbrell (FDES).
Photo attached (Pictured L to R: Teressa Kimbrell, Gretchen Miles, Sarah Alonzo, Karen Mills, Dr. Sandy T. Dominy, Dr. Scarlett Miles Copeland – not pictured – Pam Williams and Dr. Pam Johnson).