Given its focus, Richardson West Junior High Arts and Technology Magnet School at Richardson West Junior High School in Richardson, Texas, is particularly invested in helping students use new tools to advance their academic and personal growth. Principal Kimberly Kindred notes, “At Richardson West Junior High Arts and Technology Magnet School, we want more engagement with technology. We want more student created projects, we want more student voices, we want everything that we do here to demonstrate what students are learning.”
At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, Richardson West joined the inaugural year of the Dynamic Learning Project (DLP). The Dynamic Learning Project places instructional coaches in schools across the US to help teachers access the skills, training, and resources they need to effectively use technology in the classroom. Principal Kindred needed an excellent DLP coach—someone who had experience leading their fellow educators, a deep interest in technology, and a strong desire to continue their own professional development.
Miko Wagstaff was just that person. As a former engineer and math department chair at Richardson West Junior High Arts and Technology Magnet School, Miko spent 13 years helping her students use different tools and strategies to grasp new concepts. Digital tools have been a core part of her teaching practices for nearly half of her time in the classroom, and she was passionate about helping more teachers at Richardson West develop their own skills.
“It has been amazing watching the transformation in classrooms from the beginning of the year. The teachers at Richardson West are truly technology leaders and innovators.”Miko Wagstaff, DLP Coach
When Miko first started her instructional coaching, her fellow educators were initially apprehensive. “When I would come down the hallway,” Miko remembers, “the teachers would say things like ‘Oh here she comes again,’ ‘Can you come back?’, or ‘Not today, please.’ ” As a veteran teacher, Miko understood their resistance to learning new tools in the midst of their already busy school days.
Following the Dynamic Learning Project model, Miko established regular meetings with teachers, during which they talked through the challenges they faced, identified different digital tools that could help ameliorate these challenges, and then implement the solutions through practice and iteration. By introducing new ideas with consistent support, Miko was able to make a connection with her teachers, show them that technology could be a help, not a hindrance, and build a culture of innovation with her fellow educators.
As Faith Oketch, a science teacher at Richardson West, recalls, “This was my first year as a teacher. I hadn’t taught before, and I’m not really a person who uses technology a lot. But the Dynamic Learning Project has been great with the help of Miko. She has been there with me.”
Miko realized that teachers really wanted to engage with technology, but just needed the support. Miko wanted to help more educators experience the benefits of technology, and so she traveled to various education technology conferences both to learn more techniques she could bring back, and to share what she had learned as part of the Dynamic Learning Project. She presented at conferences as close as Austin, Texas, and as far away as Stockholm, Sweden. But despite these adventures, Miko has remained committed to helping her teachers back at home.
In just one year, Miko and her teachers have seen incredible progress. "With the help of my Dynamic Learning Project coach, I have been able to effectively integrate technology into my classroom on a daily basis. It has made my teaching more efficient, which helps the students learn more in an environment that is fun and interactive,” Faith Oketch says.
As Miko observes the continuing shift in innovation at her school, she’s proud of the progress her teachers have already made. “It has been amazing watching the transformation in classrooms from the beginning of the year. The teachers at Richardson West are truly technology leaders and innovators. I am so blessed to be able to work with them.”