Turning Teachers into Classroom Superheroes

In Nicole Traore’s kindergarten classroom, a student is pointing to a word on a board. After thinking for a moment, her face brightens and she says it aloud: “Thrilled.”

“Whoa, Maya, big kid word,” Traore says, placing two fingers to her own forehead. “Kiss your brain!” The student repeats the gesture, smiling broadly. For the next 15 minutes, the same process of discovery unfolds, as the J.W. Catharine Elementary School kindergarteners proudly demonstrate their ability to read and understand complex words.
Traore’s rapport with her students seems effortless. But in reality, it’s the product of years of professional development, reflection, and deliberate instruction with the help of CLI’s training and coaching at this Philadelphia school, where more than 98 percent of students are minorities and nearly nine in 10 are considered economically disadvantaged. 
We often hear people say that great teachers come to the classroom with an innate ability to teach children. The truth is that even the best teachers must continually learn, reflect, and change their instruction to have the greatest impact on how well their students learn. 
Take Traore, whose classroom is one we often bring visitors to in order to show them what students are capable of doing. She’s the first to admit that she was “a mess” when she first started teaching a decade ago, and she isn’t alone — study after study shows that new teachers leave ed schools and other training programs without having learned specific strategies to help young children read, much less master the basics of classroom management and engaging students.
Traore credits her CLI training as the key to her professional growth, and she continues to refine her practice to this day. Along with her CLI coaching and training, she has obtained her Reading Specialist certificate and a second master’s degree. In addition, she is currently working on achieving National Board Certification.
Her experience is exactly why CLI’s model focuses on working with existing teachers in the school setting to improve their practice. In a world where parents and teachers often find themselves “waiting for Superman,” as a recent movie put it, the reality is that those classroom superheroes are often already there, waiting for the support they need to become stronger teachers.