“ If you are like me, you probably can think of one or two teachers in your lifetime that have changed how you view yourself and the world and thus, helped change your future. Those ‘magicians’ are the ones that challenge us; encourage us to dream and to achieve.”
Founder of the Cotsen Foundation for the ART of TEACHING
Lloyd Cotsen founded the ART of TEACHING in 2001 to support the development of the kind of teachers who change and transform “how you view yourself and the world and thus, help change your future.” To do so, he established a unique professional growth opportunity that emphasizes a strong collaborative relationship between a teacher and a skilled mentor, and ongoing professional development training in effective instructional practices that are research-proven and cutting edge.
Participation in The ART of TEACHING is voluntary, with teachers choosing both to apply to the program, as well as the area of practice in which they wish to focus during their fellowship. Schools and teachers are selected through a process performed over several months that includes on-site interviews and lesson observations conducted by mentor teachers and foundation staff. Participation is open to experienced teachers who have a minimum of two years of successful teaching.
Early in the foundation’s history, only coaching training was provided for mentors. Today, mentors and fellows, in addition to weekly coaching, have the opportunity to extend and enhance their pedagogical and content knowledge through professional development opportunities that are widely admired and emulated. During 2017-2018, the foundation offers 53 days of training. Each teacher is expected to attend at least five days of training in his or her area of focus. Training workshops are provided in reading, writing, math, social studies, and the use of primary sources.
Through grants provided to each school district, the foundation funds the salary and benefits costs for the mentor teacher’s participation, as the mentor teacher is taken out of the classroom and focuses entirely on coaching and mentoring the cohort of fellows for the two-year period. The ART of TEACHING also defrays all costs associated with the various training sessions, conferences, monthly team meetings, weekly meetings between mentors and fellows and the annual graduation celebrations. In addition, the foundation provides a stipend for supplies to each fellow for each year of their cycle. Participants engage in ongoing reflection and collaborative assessment with their mentor to determine growth. They are also videotaped teaching in the fall and spring of each year of their fellowship as part of the ongoing assessment process.
The initial pilot project group that was formed in 2001 consisted of 21 teachers from four schools across three districts. Today, 174 teachers (150 fellows and 24 mentors) in 24 schools from across 11 southern California districts comprise the 2018 ART of TEACHING cohort. The foundation now has more than 1,000 alumni, and continues to expand its funding in order to intensify the role that Cotsen mentors and fellows—present and past—play in supporting southern California elementary classroom professional development.
As the alumni cohort has grown, attention has been focused on maintaining their participation and building on the expertise they can offer to current participants by giving back. They are a valuable asset with whom we plan to build a viable and powerful network. An annual fall conference, started in 2005, is attended by hundreds of alumni and a special alumni day is offered during the year featuring a recognized authority in a defined content area. Additionally, the foundation awards alumni grants for conferences, networks and parent outreach, which exceeded $200,000 for the 2017-2018 school year.
Recognizing the reality that principals establish and maintain conditions at the school site that either enhance or impede teachers’ professional growth, the foundation provides professional development support for administrators to increase their content knowledge in math, literacy development, the Art of Leading, instructional technology integration and 21st Century Learning.
Given the time, opportunity, and resources that Lloyd Cotsen has given the ART of TEACHING, the foundation has been able to observe, collaborate, reflect, and revise its work. In seeking to create and refine the ART of TEACHING experience, we continue to learn how best to help develop more of those “magicians” he envisioned.