Hear from Erin Berthold about community engagement at Wallingford Public Schools.
Wallingford Public Schools understands and values the importance of community involvement in the school system. Initiatives such as “Eat, Play, Unplug” and the “Wallingford 100” engage community stakeholders in the success of our schools. This does not just mean student success; it means success for all involved, including teachers, administrators, parents and families. As a Wallingford educator and resident, I appreciate how involved, invested and intertwined the schools and community are with each other. I am proud to live and teach in Wallingford.
Wearing frilly socks, patent leather shoes, and a brand new backpack bigger than me, I held my mother’s hand as we walked into my preschool classroom. Although I was only four years old, I knew this was the first step of an adventure which would one day culminate in another special outfit: a cap and gown.
Education was respected and expected in my family. Even at four, I knew I would one day go to college as truthfully as I knew my house was red. While I was brought up to value education, and come from a family of teachers, I did not aspire to be one myself. After trying on other potential careers, nothing fit quite right. My mother suggested I spend a day at her school while I was home on a college break. She always told me I would be a great teacher, but she never pushed me into her profession. One day was all I needed to realize what she knew all along: I was meant to be an educator.
After over a decade of teaching, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. It has been a privilege to work with children of all ages, instilling in them the same respect for education that was instilled in me. I want all of my students, whether kindergarteners or high school seniors, to visualize themselves in graduation regalia holding their well-deserved diploma. I may only have my students for one short leg of their educational journey, but in that time I hope to inspire them to love and value learning while holding themselves to high expectations. No matter what career path my students pursue, I know a quality education is crucial to their success.
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Wallingford Public Schools has a long and treasured history of providing excellent educational opportunities for a diverse population of learners. The district is currently drawing on that history as it embarks on a number of initiatives in its attempt to achieve the Wallingford 100: 100% community involvement to ensure 100% student engagement leading to 100% graduation and success rates for all students. To that end, we are leading the state in our work in personalized instruction, mastery based learning and global awareness. In addition, the district has expanded its preschool program, adopted full day kindergarten and enhanced intervention services to ensure that all students have equitable access to their learning. At the middle and high school levels, our students are benefitting from advisory programs, an extensive, comprehensive curriculum and rigorous programming that includes an array of Advanced Placement and Early College Experience courses available to all who are interested in earning college credit prior to graduation
Each of these initiatives is supported by the district’s commitment to leveraging technology to support both learners and teachers in their work. In addition, the district has increased its support for teachers through the efforts of an expanded curriculum department whose mission is to ensure that teaching and learning in Wallingford are aligned with current standards and practices. Furthermore, our teachers take part in regularly scheduled, job embedded professional development collaboratively designed by the professional staff.
Wallingford Public Schools works very hard to recruit and maintain a high quality, professional staff. We partner with area universities to provide teaching candidates with meaningful student teaching and internship programs under the watchful eyes of dedicated faculty members. Teachers who are new to Wallingford are guided throughout their first years in the district through a mentorship program that links novice teachers with accomplished veteran staff. In addition, every teacher is supported through an evaluation system that focuses primarily on professional growth and development.
Our teachers also enjoy numerous opportunities for professional development through a program designed to accommodate the needs of the district and the individual teacher by providing an array of learning opportunities. Teachers are also encouraged to attend conferences, take part in collegial observations, and engage with colleagues throughout the region as they work to improve their professional practice.
Wallingford Public Schools also provides extensive opportunities for teachers to take on leadership responsibilities. School and district initiatives often arise from the insights of the teaching staff. Our professional development offerings are often teacher developed and teacher led. And, the work of the district is enhanced through the efforts of teacher based committees that support advancements in curriculum, school climate and safety and evaluation.
Furthermore, our teachers often take on more formal leadership roles. Many serve as subject area coordinators or department chairs while others work as literacy or numeracy coaches to support the efforts of teachers throughout the district. Our teachers also expand on their traditional roles by electing to serve as athletic coaches or as advisors to students in our extensive co-curricular programs. Finally, we encourage our teaching staff to pursue careers in administration by providing internship opportunities whenever possible.
Wallingford Public Schools provides its staff with a highly competitive salary structure enhanced by a flexible benefits package designed to meet the needs of individuals and their families.
The district adheres to a clearly defined strategic planning process that allows us to forecast our budgetary needs several years into the future. Our strategic planning focuses on several identified areas including curriculum, district climate, facilities, technology, communication and community outreach/partnerships. This process provides the community with a clear understanding of the work of the district and has allowed us to make significant strides over the past several years as evidenced by numerous indicators of student success.
Our strategic planning process has allowed us to maintain appropriate class sizes, provide intervention services for students at all levels, assure that our facilities provide our students and staff with a safe and secure environment, and increase access to current technology for everyone in our school community.
Recently the district has enhanced this process by engaging in LEAN practices that unites students, staff and families in charting the course for our district while working to increase our effectiveness in the use of resources available to us. Through this process we are better prepared to implement and sustain meaningful innovation.
The most effective tool that we have, however, in sustaining our financial health is the strong, collaborative relationship we have with the community. We work closely with Town Government and all of its departments as well as with community partners who have been instrumental in supporting our work with our students.
Students in Wallingford Public Schools have numerous opportunities to explore the teaching profession. Career counselors at each of our high schools work with students in determining their career interests through a variety of inventory tools that focus on student interests and aptitudes. Those students who display an interest in teaching are encouraged to develop an internship placement that allows them to work directly with students in our pre-school, elementary school and middle school programs. Our Peers Supporting Peers program provides high school students with opportunities to work as instructional assistants in our special education and ELL classes to supplement the work of the classroom teacher.
Furthermore, our students often fulfill their community service requirements by acting as tutors in our schools, at the public library, the YMCA, the Spanish Community of Wallingford and the Boys and Girls Club, which gives them a sense of the fulfillment that a career in education can bring.
However, the most effective tool we have in leading our students toward a career in teaching is the day to day interaction they have with our very talented professional staff. This is evidenced by the number of our faculty members who were once students in our own classrooms. We are very fortunate to have scores of former students serving as teachings in Wallingford Public Schools.
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