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 2018-2019, the foundation offered over 100 days of training. Workshops are provided in reading, writing, math, social studies, and the use of primary sources. Each ART of TEACHING teacher expected to attend at least five days of training in his or her area of focus annually for the duration of his/ her fellowship. Participants engage in ongoing reflection and collaborative assessment with their mentor to determine growth. They are also videotaped teaching three times during the fellowship as a part of the ongoing assessment process.
Through grants provided to each school district, the foundation funds the salary and benefits costs for the mentor teachers’ participation, as they are taken out of the classroom and focus entirely on coaching and mentoring the cohort of fellows that have been assigned to them 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.
The initial pilot project group that was formed in 2001 consisted of 21 teachers from four schools across three districts. Today, 221 teachers (189 fellows and 32 mentors) in 32 schools from across 13 southern California districts comprise the 2019 ART of TEACHING cohort. The foundation now has more than 1,500 alumni, and continues to expand its funding in order to intensify the role that Cotsen mentors and fellows—present and past—play in promoting and sustaining instructional excellence in elementary classrooms.
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 are building 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 2018-2019 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 on an ongoing basis. As a result, in seeking to create and refine the ART of TEACHING experience, we continue to learn how best to help develop more of those “magicians” Mr. Cotsen envisioned.
Education can be a head game…. an affair of the mind. But teaching is an affair of the heart. 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.