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July Affiliate Trainer Spotlight: Jill Christensen

28 Jul 2016 by Sarah Hadden

This month we are going to shine our spotlight on Jill Christensen, the Preschool Specialist for the Office of Public Instruction in the state of Montana. Jill is not one of many preschool specialists in her state; she is THE specialist. If that sounds like a big job, that’s because it is! Montana is one of the 18 states selected to receive one of the federal Preschool Development Grants designed to improve preschool programs in the state. Jill’s main responsibility is to work on a team to oversee the implementation of this 4-year, $40,000,000 grant.

Jill works closely with the state’s assessment team. This team conducts CLASS, DIAL. The ECERS assessment is administered by the state’s STARS to Quality system. The assessments give a broad picture of what’s going on in both school distract and Head Start programs across the state. In addition, she supports a cadre of early childhood regional specialists who provide CLASS based professional development.

Montana is working on a vertical alignment of preschool and school aged programs and CLASS will be instrumental in this work. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Helena to train some members of the state team on the K-3 tool and learn more about how they are picturing this critical and exciting alignment work.

When I asked for advice for a new CLASS trainer, Jill stated that it’s important to remember that the focus should be on teachers’ practices and not on the score. She said, “The power (of the CLASS) comes from understanding dimensions and indicators.” She noted that the CLASS measures a lot of things that teachers already do and providing them with the lens and the language can go a long way towards increasing teachers’ intentionality in how they interact with children.

What were Jill’s parting words for me? “I’ve never been disappointed with the CLASS tool.”

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