Teachers work smarter at Arbor Springs
by Celia Shortt
Cristy Fogle and Dr. Page Tarleton both have a different kindergarten class at Arbor Springs Elementary School in Newnan, but rather than work alone, they plan collaboratively to make the best possible learning experience for each student in their respective classes.
“You just build on each other,” said Fogle. “When you close your door and you go in your classroom and you teach on your own, you make your job 1,000 times harder because you get your best ideas from other people.”
Fogle and Tarleton have found co-planning provides a healthy and friendly competition for them both.
“The friendly competition is so good because we don’t do it because we’re really competitive — like mean about it,” said Tarleton. “We do it because we don’t want one kid getting a benefit that everyone would be able to benefit from.”
“And just by doing it together, we’re bouncing ideas off each other,” finished Fogle.
“And it’s really working smarter, not harder,” added Tarleton. “Because really the first person gets the kinks out and the second person just rolls with it.”
Fogle and Tarleton use this system to create an environment in which each student can succeed and thrive.
“We expect every kid to achieve their potential,” said Fogle. “For us to really do what we’re doing, we have to set up a room that allows every kid to move at their pace and be as challenged as much as they can.”
“We don’t have unreasonable expectations,” said Tarleton. “But we expect the most from our kids, and they just soar.”
Fogle and Tarleton make the kid’s activities quick and different, but supportive of the same topic — math, phonics, language arts, etc. They also make their students an active part of their learning.
“They (our students) get to pick things that are important to them,” said Fogle. “The kids are getting to work at their [individual] level.”
Fogle and Tarleton also seek and encourage the parents of their students to communicate and be involved in their child’s learning. Both teachers contacted all parents within the first two days to report something good about their child.
“The first two days of school we call every family and we have something awesome to say about their kid because that draws them in to say, ‘Hey, she’s gonna work with us. She’s not only going to call for bad stuff,’” said Tarleton.
“We do love our families,” added Fogle. “We value our families.”
“Your parent is your best ally,” added Tarleton. “If they’re on your side, and you have a great relationship, then that kid could move mountains.”
The two teachers have had 100 percent participation in parent-teacher conferences. In the spring, the teachers will hold a special conference in which students will lead parents in the meeting, highlighting what they’ve learned and improvements they’ve made throughout the year.
The parents also enjoy and appreciate the way both Fogle and Tarleton run their classrooms.
Symony Griffiths has worked with Fogle often, as her three youngest children have been in her class. Her youngest found difficulty adjusting to kindergarten, experiencing behavioral problems. Griffiths said Fogle was not afraid to try something new to help her daughter succeed.
“I did not know teachers like her existed,” she said. “I felt like we were a team.”
Melissa Casablanca is the special education program specialist for the Coweta County School System. Her husband, Jose Casablanca, is the principal at Smokey Road Middle School, and their son, Alex, is a student in Dr. Tarleton’s Class.
“She is truly a godsend,” she said. “She is the most dynamic educator I have ever met. She goes above and beyond and knows how to reach the kids and keep them motivated. We are thrilled Alex has had her for his kindergarten experience.”
To foster parental involvement, Fogle and Tarleton send weekly newsletters and comments on each student’s learning, as well as hold learning celebrations.
“Sometimes we invite others in to be a part of us and feel like a community, and other times to see their learning and what they’re doing,” said Fogle. “So you hope they’re getting that full picture of the classroom — who the kids are, but also what the standards are.”
Everything that Fogle and Tarleton do in the classroom goes toward educating their students and what their expectations are for their students and their future after the classroom.
“We want them to leave us with a toolbox of knowledge,” said Tarleton
“So, they’re not looking to an adult to always say, ‘help me,’ added Fogle. “(That) they are independent thinkers. When you leave here, I don’t want you (the student) to be able to do something because my teacher told you to do it.”