REYNOLDSVILLE — The co-teaching method, which has really started to take shape in the Special Education department at Jeff Tech (Jefferson County Vocational Technical School), has been beneficial for both students and instructors.
Casey Burkett, a learning support teacher at Jeff Tech and an alumni herself, said co-teaching gained momentum when Jeff Tech incorporated its in-house Special Education department in the 2020-21 school year.
Co-teaching is generally defined as two teachers working together with groups of students and sharing in the planning process.
“Since it has started, the students have shown so much growth and benefit from having not only the general education teacher, but also the special education teacher, working together to ensure everyone is grasping the content being taught,” she explained.
A variety of benefits come from co-teaching, Burkett said.
“It increases student engagement and involvement within the classroom, as well as increasing student self esteem, motivation and academic/social skills,” she said.
Co-teaching also benefits teachers, since having another teacher in the room to support the teaching of new content is helpful, said Burkett.
“It also helps provide more time for instruction, being that there are two teachers to work with students and also to be able to better manage behaviors,” she said.
There are many approaches to co-teaching that educators can choose from, Burkett added, depending on the group of students they are working with and the best way they learn.
Last year was Burkett’s first year teaching at Jeff Tech.
“When I was a high school student there myself, I don’t remember the co-teaching model being as predominant as it is today,” she said.
Burkett has been co-teaching chemistry with Mr. Brian Lenkerd, and has experienced and witnessed the benefits herself.
“Over the past year, we have learned how we work best together to fit the needs of our students in our chemistry classes,” she says.
The teachers work together in planning lessons and labs, updating Google Classroom, monitoring grades and creating activities for students who may be struggling with certain things.
“Chemistry, which can be a difficult subject for some to grasp, seems easier with a co-teacher in the room,” she said. “On a typical day, you will find us both helping the students whether it be a lecture or lab activity.”
From what Burkett can tell, students enjoy having two teachers in the classroom.
“In my experiences here at Jeff Tech, the two teachers could divide the classroom and assist students as needed,” she said.
This helps with individualized learning, Burkett said, when it comes to larger classes and students who may be in need of more assistance.
“In addition to the learning support teachers acting as co-teachers, we also have para-educators who support students in academic classes and shops,” she noted.