This month we’d like to take a minute to spotlight one of our awesome Making the Most of Classroom Interactions (MMCI) Instructors, Tonya Schadle. Tonya went through the three-day MMCI Instructor training in September 2016 and completed her certification requirements to become a certified MMCI Instructor. She is also a certified Infant CLASS Trainer. In her journey to become even more “CLASSy” than she already is, she agreed to speak to me about her work with CLASS in education.
Tell me a little about yourself and your background in the Early Childhood Education field.
I have been in the field of early childhood education for 23 years beginning as a teacher, then assistant director, and finally director. My director experience includes running both non-profit and for-profit child care centers. The non-profit center settings included a homeless shelter and a domestic violence shelter. For almost eleven years now, I have been working for Devereux Florida with its early childhood programs, completing quality assessments at child care centers and family child care homes across different Early Learning Coalitions. I am currently a Program Manager for one of our Early Childhood programs. The role of this program is to complete CLASS Infant, Toddler, Pre-K observations and facilitate child care provider trainings for the Early Learning Coalition of Seminole.
Tell me about your experience with MMCI and your journey in becoming certified.
I was already a certified CLASS Infant, Toddler, and Pre-K observer and wanted to continue to strengthen and deepen my CLASS knowledge and skills. I started my MMCI instructor certification journey this past September, began facilitating MMCI trainings with two unique teacher cohorts in December, and achieved my MMCI instructor certification in February. I am beginning a third MMCI teacher cohort in April and can’t wait to start my journey with this next group.
What are some of the challenges you faced facilitating CLASS trainings (MMCI) and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge was keeping everyone engaged and participating during the sessions after their work day and on Saturdays when it was their normal day off. We had one cohort that met weeknights and the second cohort met on Saturdays. The ELC of Seminole’s Board of Directors donated money so we could purchase snacks for the participants to have during the trainings. The participants appreciated the different snacks and were more alert and engaged when participating in the activities. Boosting their engagement led to great conversations around classroom videos and real-life scenarios.
Can you tell me a success you have seen as a result of MMCI? A specific “ah ha” moment from a teacher?
Before I started my MMCI journey, my “ah ha” CLASS observer moment included being able to distinguish which teachers had participated in MMCI trainings while completing their CLASS observations as evidenced by the positive and effective teacher/child interactions and language taking place in the classrooms. It was so exciting to see teachers facilitate what they learned in their MMCI sessions and integrate new behaviors in their own classrooms. During my MMCI journey, one of my “ah ha” moments included one director's feedback, that after we had discussed Behavior Management the previous week, she heard her staff pointing out children’s positive behaviors in all of the classrooms. The director went on to describe how the children responded to having their positive behaviors acknowledged. It was so awesome to hear that her staff took what they learned in a session and implemented it in the classroom--which resulted in positive reactions from the children. Quality enhancements happen one step at a time.
What is your biggest takeaway from facilitating MMCI?
I had a few takeaways from my MMCI journey. One of my biggest takeaways happened during session 10 (the final session): I facilitated an activity to review the three CLASS domains by having the participants work in three groups, with each group assigned to a domain. The participants had five minutes to draw pictures, symbols, or write phrases to describe dimensions within the domains as if they were teaching it to someone new to CLASS. After the five minutes, the group shared out the information they used to describe their domain. It was empowering to watch the participants work together as a team and create their domain descriptions. They felt comfortable enough to share out the information they had learned. Since it was our last session, the participants expressed how much they were going to miss meeting every week and sharing real life classroom experiences with the group. I am certain that we formed a warm and safe community of learning during those ten sessions.
"I’ve just begun my journey into the world of coaching. I am eager and excited about this opportunity to help pave the way for more effective teaching. I’ve recently been given my list of classrooms that I will be working with and I’m anxious to get started. I get ready to meet my first teacher, Ms. Linda, and I just know that she will be excited to meet me and we will form an instant bond and work together for the benefit of the children in that classroom.
It’s been a great year. You have just conducted some professional development trainings for the group of teachers you are coaching. You got the opportunity to visit their classrooms and see them in action, do formal and informal CLASS observations, and had countless coaching conversations. You see that it’s all beginning to click. You have the teachers’ buy-in, and the motivation is high.
Image: Edward Zigler, assisted by Marilyn M. Smith, presents the first CDA Credential to Margaret E. Wright on July 24, 1975, in Washington, DC (Source - Council for Professional Recognition).
For 54 years, Head Start has prepared children for Kindergarten by providing services that foster growth in their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. In the words of former President Obama, “For millions of families, Head Start has been a lifeline. And for millions of kids, it’s been the start of a better life.”