Educators from Cherokee Elementary go back to school

by Apr 24, 2012COMMUNITY sgadugi, Front Page0 comments

Educators from Cherokee Elementary School in Cherokee attended two professional development seminars at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching in Cullowhee that prepared them for the new Common Core State Standards, adopted by the North Carolina State Board of Education in June 2010. Pictured here (left to right): Front row-Pamela Wike, Jonnie Walkingstick, Jessica Metz-Bugg, Arlene Huskey, Linda Thoresen and Trina Appleton; Middle row-NCCAT Fellow Dr. Deb Teitelbaum, Esther Taylor, Maura Colvin, Mary Oliver, Evelyn Graning, Andrea Hafner, Brandy Phillips, Christy Maney, Donna Roberston and Cathy Dunlap; Back row-Mollie Robinson, Keri McGaha, Marilyn Mason, Jennifer Martens, Lynn Swearengin, Rebecca Ensley and Carolina Hyatt. (NCCAT Photo)


    CULLOWHEE– Twenty-four educators from Cherokee Elementary School recently went back to school themselves for instruction on the Common Core State Standards at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) in Cullowhee. Their training included two professional development seminars in which teachers learned how to implement the Common Core State Standards, which replace the North Carolina Standard Course of Study in mathematics and English language arts.

     The Common Core State Standards reflect the knowledge and skills that are essential for the 21st century, and help prepare students to be career and college ready.

     Maura Colvin, fifth-grade music education teacher from Cherokee Elementary School, described how the NCCAT training provided teachers with engaging activities to bring back to their classroom.

     “We learned many hands-on activities during the seminar. For example, we took a storybook, and fleshed out all the different ideas in the book. After doing that, we created a scavenger hunt through the Common Core documents to find where each element of the story was related,” Colvin said.

     Because the Common Core standards aim to promote higher-level thinking skills, instead of memorization and regurgitation, teachers at Cherokee Elementary School are anticipating that the Common Core will increase student learning.

     “The activities we learned throughout the seminar were exploratory and demanded critical thinking skills. We developed activities that require students to think in higher level ways,” Colvin said. “Each grade level within the Common Core builds on top of the other, and necessitates a grasp of knowledge.”

     Keri McGaha, a fourth-grade teacher at Cherokee Elementary School, said, “The Common Core Standards go deeper on fewer subjects. The kids are going to get a lot more out of it.”

     Esther Taylor, a fourth-grade teacher at Cherokee Elementary School, explained that the Common Core standards are much clearer for both the student and teacher. “The Common Core Standards are more user friendly, more concise and easier to understand,” she said.

     The Common Core State Standards were adopted by North Carolina State Board of Education on June 2, 2010, with full implementation scheduled for fall 2012.

     Caroline Hyatt, a second-grade teacher at Cherokee Elementary School, said that although the transition may be challenging, she believes the results will be worth the effort. “The broader standards allow the teacher to focus on teaching and allow for more flexibility.”

     Marilyn Mason, a second-grade teacher, is also enthusiastic about the transition. “Currently, the math assessments do not line up with our current plan of teaching. The math assessments will be better aligned with the Common Core, which is something we’re really excited about,” she said.

     The Common Core State Standards have been adopted by 48 states and U.S. territories, and use the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy as the development framework. Bloom’s Taxonomy, developed in 1956, classified the levels of intellectual behavior and their importance in learning. The Common Core integrates the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, which helps to promote the complex thinking that is expected in 21st century classrooms.

     Many professionals have expressed their support of the changes that the Common Core State Standards will have on a student’s education. These experts all have the same message-that the Common Core will help prepare American students to compete and succeed in a global economy, by encouraging students to think innovatively when approaching problems.

     In the meantime, teachers from Cherokee Elementary School and across the state are learning how to integrate the Common Core State Standards to meet their teaching goals for next year. For more information about the Common Core, visit

     These two professional development seminars were designed by Dr. Deb Teitelbaum, an NCCAT fellow, specifically for teachers at Cherokee Elementary School and were funded by a $25,000 grant from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel.

     “This funding will provide much-needed support to the faculty and staff of Cherokee Elementary School,” said Dr. Jo Blaylock, vice president of human relations and external communications for Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel. “Our goal is to partner with NCCAT to increase student achievement, raise teacher efficacy and strengthen the school’s commitment to Cherokee community values.”

     The participants from Cherokee Elementary School are: Trina Appleton, Cance Carnes, Maura Colvin, Cathy Dunlap, Rebecca Ensley, Evelyn Graning, Andrea Hafner, Arlene Huskey, Carolina Hyatt, Christy Maney, Jennifer Martens, Marilyn Mason, Keri McGaha, Jessica Metz-Bugg, Mary Oliver, Brandy Phillips, Donna Roberston, Mollie Robinson, Chantelle Smith, Lynn Swearengin, Esther Taylor, Linda Thoresen, Jonnie Walkingstick and Pamela Wike.

     Increasing teacher effectiveness is fundamental to improving public education. NCCAT educates teachers and provides them with new knowledge, skills, teaching methods, best practices and information to take back to their classrooms. NCCAT conducts interdisciplinary, topic-specific seminars for pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers in the environmental and biological sciences, technology, mathematics, communication, leadership, and the arts and humanities. NCCAT’s instructional programming is designed to give teachers the support and resources they need to be highly effective and enhance student achievement. For more information about NCCAT’s instructional programs, visit or call 828-293-5202.

– Jean-Marie Jonell, NCCAT