By Nichole Smith
Mrs. Emilie Fracker, Associate Dean of the Middle School, and Ms. Melissa Benner, Middle School Mathematics Teacher and Professional Development Coordinator, attended the Curriculum Leadership Institute held at the FariaPD headquarters at the World Trade Center in Portland, Oregon.
At the Curriculum Leadership Institute, a small group comprised of teachers and administrators from all over North America gathered to learn more about Atlas, a curriculum development and lesson planning platform. The conference helped attendees to reconnect with their purpose in terms of curriculum planning to ensure that they are living that purpose in their respective schools. “We came away with a concrete action plan and goals that were specific to our schools,” said Mrs. Fracker. Montverde Academy has been using Atlas for roughly 10 years, and Mrs. Fracker and Ms. Benner wanted to learn what they could do to further support this curriculum mapping process for our teachers who are the developers of the curriculum.
One of the latest Atlas tools is driven by artificial intelligence (AI). “When we develop units in our curriculum, we always come up with essential questions that drive all the learning activities,” said Mrs. Fracker. “Atlas is now embedding AI so that the system will take the grade level, the subject matter, the name of the unit, the standards being targeted, and develop some essential questions for the teacher, which we are hoping teachers will use and then fine tune. It’s a good starting point, so anything that helps teachers, I’m all for it.”
“Everything I do in my lesson planning, I was doing in my own way, but Atlas was the tool that I should have been using the whole time. Regrounding and getting a chance to look at all those components, pulling from all my resources and the text, and putting it all in one spot is going to allow me to be more reflective in my teaching practice and amp up the curriculum from year to year,” said Ms. Benner, who recently received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the American College of Education. “Curriculum is my passion, and I’m realizing I could have been building my curriculum in Atlas this whole time.”
“Another thing I found valuable at the conference was reflecting on our school’s mission, on how we can make sure our curriculum is connected to our mission, and that everything we’re doing in the classroom is for the purpose of realizing our mission as a school,” said Ms. Fracker.
After returning from the conference, Mrs. Fracker and Ms. Benner drafted a curriculum purpose statement for the entire school. This statement has been reviewed by the Academy’s executive team, who has been greatly supportive, and will soon be reviewed by the school’s curriculum committee. Their action plan focuses primarily on professional development, and the goal will be to provide personalized training in the use of Atlas and tailor that training to each individual teacher’s needs.
“We’re hoping to foster community through the purpose statement and really beef up what we’re already doing. There are great things happening in our classrooms—I don’t doubt that—we just don’t always get to see it.”