Story by Isaac Cox
Synergistic and symbiotic are terms that are frequently used to describe the special relationship between two entities that produces extraordinary results. So it comes as no surprise that amazing things can happen when two foundations with similar missions and goals, collaborate to impact teaching and learning. Recently, the Riordan Foundation and the ART of TEACHING have begun to experience the effect that a powerful collaboration can have. Together the two foundations are working to support sustained instructional excellence in participating schools and districts.
With a mission to develop excellent teachers, one of the ways in which the ART of TEACHING distinguishes itself from other professional development experiences for teachers is the foundation’s ongoing commitment to fellows. So that even after participants’ fellowships conclude, Cotsen continues to provide opportunities for alumni teachers and administrators to build and sustain instructional excellence. Continuity is a key component of professional development, and without fiscal resources, development can be difficult to sustain. It is for this reason that Cotsen offers alumni grants, and encourages schools and districts to seek additional funding to fuel school-wide professional growth. Each year the foundation offers several categories of grants to support participants’ continuous professional growth, including Parent Involvement, Alumni Group, Alumni Conference, and Strategic Opportunity Grants. The The ART of Teaching has awarded over $193,000 in grants to participating schools and teachers to facilitate teacher collaboration, professional learning and parent involvement for the 2016-17 school year.
The mission of the Riordan Foundation focuses on providing students, especially those in low-income communities in Los Angeles County, access to a high quality education that prepares them to compete in the 21st century. A key element of the foundation’s work to accomplish their mission is the funding of grants. One of their grants, the Instructional Innovation Grant, has become a nexus point for the ART of TEACHING and the Riordan Foundation.
“The amount of long-range support needed by schools to build teacher capacity and instructional sustainability is significant, and collaborating with the Riordan Foundation to address that need in qualifying ART of TEACHING schools is an exciting venture, ” said ART of TEACHING executive director, Jerry Harris.
Of the collaboration, Riordan Foundation President, Jessica Flores, commented, “I think that it’s a nice complement that the Cotsen Foundation sets the schools up with skills, strategies and access to strong professional development…and then the Riordan Foundation essentially supplies the funds to continue that vision.”
One beneficiary of the Cotsen – Riordan collaboration is the Mill School and Technology Academy. A member of the 2009 cohort of the ART of TEACHING schools, Mill School adopted Workshop and Balanced Literacy as a result of their Cotsen experiences. Seeing the impact that the ART of TEACHING had on Mill’s teachers, Reanna Mendoza, the school’s principal, wanted to continue the professional growth at her site, and a grant from the Riordan Foundation came as an incredible opportunity to do so.
After identifying $22,500 of local funds to sustain the transformative professional development that is permeating the school, Mill received an additional $22,500 in matching funds from Riordan through the Foundation’s Instructional Innovation Grant Initiative.
“We’ve been working really hard,” Mendoza said, “specifically on building our classroom libraries and our classroom environments to ensure that they are supportive of Reading and Writing Workshops. The timing of the Riordan grant was crucial to extending the learning from Writer’s Workshop to Reader’s Workshop,” Mendoza said. “Without those additional funds, the ability to leverage the learning may have stagnated,” she shared.
“The ART of TEACHING looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the Riordan Foundation in support of instructional excellence,” observed Jerry Harris. It is tremendously rewarding to partner with a like-minded foundation to deepen and extend the work of the dedicated teachers and administrators we serve,” he concluded.