MESA, Ariz. — There are plenty of negative trends showing up in education across the country. Student test scores are down and teachers are leaving the profession in droves. But, there is positive change happening too. There is a new kind of classroom that’s hoping to make school more engaging for teachers and students.
“I can only describe it as magical,” said Jenny Denton, who teaches world history at Mountain View High School in Mesa, Arizona. “We work together really well.”
Denton is one of three educators overseeing a class of 100 students. It’s an initiative introduced this year by the school's principal, Dr. Mike Oliver. In just a short time, this team-teaching experiment has shown great results.
“The idea is, is that the three teachers take their subjects that we teach, and we try to seamlessly in as many ways as possible, have them overlap as our standards overlap to each other in a lot of different ways,” said Denton.
The class works on world history, biology and Spanish all at once. Right now, students are studying Latin America. So, students are practicing Spanish, learning the history of Latin American countries, and learning about the biodiversity in that region in their biology work.
One of Denton’s partners is biology teacher Sarah Keel. She has been a teacher for 16 years and said team teaching is bringing joy back to her profession.
“I have definitely felt the burnout several times in my teaching career,” said Keel. “However, the way we collaborate, our team works so well together. We support each other. We're there for each other. That burnout hasn't happened.”
The students have noticed that too.
“They just seem like super happy, and like they seem like they're they like actually want to be here,” said freshman student Ellie Jensen.
The change isn’t easy for teachers. They’re creating new lesson plans to integrate their subjects together. But, it's all worth it after seeing the students excel.
“Kids' grades are going up there, and we've noticed, especially in our team, that their engagement has gone up,” said Denton. “To me, it's more important that their engagement and their excitement about learning is increasing, not the grade that they're receiving.”
“I feel like everything that I learn and do in those classes are like stuff that are actually helpful and like stuff that I'm actually going to use,” said Jensen.
Oliver implemented team teaching in a nearby elementary school with great success, and he said he hopes one day, team teaching will be used in K-12 education across the country.
“In education, the world is driven by scripts and programs. What we're doing is we're co-creating these scripts with students. They're not an actor or an actress in somebody else's play, and when they do that, education becomes so joyful, exciting, electric, purposeful,” said Oliver.