Becky Kueterman and Cliff Johnson are veteran teachers within Indianapolis Public Schools with a combined teaching experience of more than 75 years. However, they are relatively new teachers when it comes to New Technology High School. Based on the success of their first year of teaching within the model, Kueterman and Johnson will present “Evaluating Students at the End of Projects” at the New Tech All Schools Conference in July. CELL sat down with these two teachers to learn about their presentation and experiences from their first year at New Tech.
What brought you to New Tech?
Kueterman: I came to New Tech as a result of the tremendous respect for the academic dean, Bill White, and his commitment to kids. Through his vision, I was convinced we could make a difference for kids. Bill explained the New Tech model, and I got a chance to visit Sacramento and see firsthand the enthusiasm of kids and trust, respect and responsibility in action. I want to ingrain those same values into the New Tech @ Arsenal culture.
Johnson: When we were involved in the small school movement as a part of the Career and Technology Academy, I visited the New Technology School in Napa. Its use of project-based learning and the integration of 21st-century skills caught my attention. TechPoint’s interest and the support in expanding the New Tech model in Indiana were exciting. When CTA was given the opportunity to apply to be a New Tech school, I knew I had to be a part of it!
What would you describe as the best experience at New Tech?
Kueterman: The best experience is getting to know the kids as well as we do.
Johnson: We have the opportunity to watch the students grow more than in a normal situation and because of this, we have high expectations for them.
What is your perception of the students’ reactions to New Tech?
Kueterman: Students take lots of pride in their presentations. They can express their learning both verbally and through visual presentations using technology.
Johnson: Students are often surprised that things get done. Sometimes they want to revert to the old way of doing things. We ask them why and reassure them that this is about them becoming a professional.
Our presentation in July is about getting students to evaluate their own work and that of peers. Students are used to having teachers evaluate their work. We try to get students to look at the end product, decide what is good and use criteria to discuss what they did well and what they did not. Using the rubric, we get students to see what is supposed to be there.
What have you seen as your own personal/professional growth?
Kueterman: Team teaching and facilitating student work rather than directing everything. As a facilitator, we teach those things that students need to know and raise questions to guide student learning. This way of teaching is very different from traditional lectures.
Johnson: There comes a realization that you have to trust students and their abilities more than ever before. If a student was not on track, I used to think, “I have to get them on track.” Now, I ask them questions and students guide themselves. By using 21st-century skills and developing critical thinkers, we are producing people who will be of value to their communities.
What is your most notable “Aha!” moment with New Tech?
Kueterman: To see the presentation of student work and to see students embrace a project, work together as a team and present the final project using the Critical Friends protocol to evaluate each other’s work is awesome! If we test using multiple-choice items, we are only assessing content. However, our use of rubrics allows for an assessment of content and 21st-century skills that measure critical thinking, teamwork, presentation skills, problem solving, and media skills.
Project-based learning and group dynamics are a great fit for students. Every project begins with the team deciding how members will work together and learn. There are many opportunities for student learning through presentation. In the real world, our students will be able to present to others and explain themselves.
Johnson: The kids usually deliver the “Aha!” moments. When the kids were making their very first presentation, a young man said to me, “I just cannot do it! I cannot get in front of the class and talk.”
He and I went for a walk in the hall and we shared something. I told him about a time when I had to speak in front of the class and it embarrassed me, but I thought he could do it. He returned to class and struggled a little, but eventually got through it. Later that afternoon, he stopped by my room and said, “Mr. Johnson, thank you for helping me get through my presentation.” Getting a “thank you” may sound like a small thing, but for a teacher, it is like golden trophies!
On another occasion, a mother said to me, “Last year we had trouble getting my daughter to school. This year she is making A’s and B’s!”
Published: May 2008