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Owasso’s Melinda Gallagher & Caroline Conner – Owasso Teachers Q&A – Presented by Michael Watson Allstate

Owasso Public Schools are leading the way in distance learning thanks in part to the development of the ITSL (Instructional Technology Site Leader) team. Melinda Gallagher, Kelley Raby, Caroline Conner and Tiffanie Palmer make up the team and in part 2 of this Q&A we sit down with Caroline Conner and Melinda Gallagher to discuss the role of the team and what that means to the students of Owasso Public Schools. 

VYPE: What is your role with this team?

Gallagher: We help to train teachers to use tools and resources, troubleshoot technology issues, and communicate opportunities and concerns to administration and the technology department.

Conner: I am an ITSL so I provide hands-on instruction and assistance for teachers at OHS East. I help teachers explore and integrate technology into their curriculum in an effective way.

VYPE: What has Owasso Public Schools done to ensure the success of the program?

Gallagher: Our district voted several days ago to start all online. This gave us a full two weeks to prepare, train, and practice. We have great leaders and they want us to be the best. The administration is very supportive of teachers and listen to our needs. We have been working daily in Professional Learning Communities and working together so that no teacher is on their own.

VYPE: Do you have an idea as to how many students will be participating?

Gallagher: All of our students will be virtual to begin the year: they have 3 options right now. They can choose a blended model where they “attend” from home with their assigned teacher teaching remotely each hour. These students will return to school when we open again. The second model is completely virtual. These students will be enrolled in our virtual program and be supervised by OPS teachers. The third option is to enroll in another virtual program that is not a part of OPS.

Conner: All of them. We are fully virtual right now, some students are using an online learning platform that is monitored by a teacher while others are engaging in online learning directed by their classroom teacher.

VYPE: Did you look at other school districts to determine what has worked for them or did you just jump in and figure out what worked best for Owasso students?

Gallagher: We are constantly looking for things that work in other districts then analyze it to see if it works for us. Education is a true collaborative effort. We are always sharing and looking for ways to better do what we do.

Conner: I was not involved in the admin level decision-making process. However, the four high school ITSLs developed and trained teachers over a two week period to prepare for going to this online teaching model. We did spend time researching best practices while also keeping in close conversation with our Owasso teachers and students to ensure we were offering relevant and immediately impactful training. I am currently working on my masters in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in technology and online learning. These courses have been very helpful in my work as an ITSL here at OHS.

VYPE: Are we seeing a shift in how students attend school, or do you think we will eventually get back to a regular schedule with students in classrooms?

Gallagher: Maybe. You will hear more about a “blended classroom” where there are components that are face-to-face and online. Or hybrid schedules, where students take some classes online and some face-to-face. I am a huge proponent of students attending school face-to-face. I don’t want to say traditional because that sounds like “old” or “conventional” and that is not what I mean. But I think it is important for students to develop a relationship with their teachers and peers. I think it is important for their future employment and their social-emotional growth. I also think that extracurricular activities are extremely important. Whether it is sports, fine arts, clubs, etc., they help build a well-rounded student that will be more prepared for the future.

Conner: I hope that we all embrace this time as a way to reassess what we think of as traditional education. Students should have the ability to choose what works best for them. Some of my students love virtual learning and are able to thrive and interact with the class in ways that the traditional classroom did not allow. I think we will see a lot of new pedagogical approaches used through this time and “best practices” will be redefined. I hope we all embrace this time as a chance to reimagine public education for the better.

VYPE: Tell me about the Leader Team and how well things have gone thus far.

Gallagher: Our leader team at the high school consists of four Instructional Technology Site Leaders and an Assistant Principal. We work very well together and each of us have strengths that can enhance the team and enable to meet the needs of the teachers. There are site leaders at the other school sites, elementary through 8th grade, who have the same desire to help their teachers as we do. We have new Instructional Technology leadership this year, and I think we are well on our way to making things even stronger at OHS.

Conner: I am so thankful for my ITSL team. We are a diverse group that together we can accomplish great things for our school and district. Each member brings a unique set of tools and perspectives that make us better. We have been able to work together for several years now and have established a great working relationship. When our school decided to go pivot-to-home, our ITSL team was able to hit the ground running with developing and implementing a plan. I am thankful that our district recognized the benefit of teacher leaders and has worked hard to develop these relationships.

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