Danz teachers celebrate collaborative achievement and master’s degrees

Teachers Carissa Teaters, Amber Funmaker and Kristen RetzlaffOn December 18, Danz educators Carissa Teaters, Amber Funmaker and Kristen Retzlaff (left to right in the photo above) will graduate with their master’s degrees in Applied Leadership for Teaching and Learning from UW-Green Bay. They also graduate knowing their degrees have been put to good use at Danz Elementary School in Green Bay, where they work as bilingual educators.

The three worked collaboratively on their research topic — “Improving Bilingual Literacy.” The master’s program provides a culture for collaboration and encouragement for educators to do their research in a subject area that they are passionate about. Graduate students are also encouraged to connect their action research to the goals of the district or school in which they work.

Amber Funmaker“Because we are all bilingual teachers, it made it quite easy for us to choose a topic that was both relevant and helpful,” said Teaters. The three focused their studies on areas of bilingual word study, assessment and resources.

Teaters said that being able to meet consistently to share research ideas, findings and suggestions regarding their subject matter, was especially beneficial for all three educators.

“We gained great information about word work and word walls and how to incorporate them in the balanced literacy model,” said Retzlaff. “The models we found acknowledge the differences between learning English and Spanish and are designed specifically for Spanish. We are also including ways to improve our assessments throughout the year. The improved assessments (rubrics) have been worked on by staff members at various grade levels and are designed for specific writing genres. This allows us to focus our teaching more and target the skills that we expect students to learn.”

Kristen RetzlaffThe search for resources was fruitful. Always on the search for authentic Spanish texts, the three discovered many resources that can be used for multiple literacy purposes such as mentor texts or guided reading texts.

Retzlaff said they found the master’s program flexible and organized. “We have been really well informed the entire time in the program. We are able to meet with our adviser (Tim Kaufman) any time it is necessary and he has been very helpful in assisting us and offering advice and feedback. We have had great discussions as a cohort class as well. It is interesting because we all come with different perspectives and it is helpful and important to learn about the insights that others have. I really like how the Saturday courses have been set up. The Institute (which I have learned more about through this experience) offers many great experiences for educators as well, such as the speakers and events that it sponsors.”

Carissa TeatersSince its inception in 1998, about 150 classroom educators and others in leadership positions in business and industry have graduated with a Master’s Degree in Applied Leadership for Teaching and Learning.