For the 2017-2018 school year, the district hired a new staff member; Kristoffer Barikmo. Barikmo was welcomed into the staff as the instructional coach for our school, another set of eyes in the classroom geared toward improving teachers’ education methods.
An instructional coach is someone who is embedded within the staff who assists the teachers with ensuring the fidelity of the curriculums being taught, while also helping staff teach in a unique way.
“It might be everything from the way to run a classroom, classroom procedures or how to organize content,” Barikmo said. “It allows teachers to have an understanding of what good teaching looks like so that students can learn in the most effective ways.”
Along with practicing what effective teaching looks like, the dual purpose of instructional coaches is to show ways to better integrate the technology all students have easy access to.
“Those devices are scary for teachers,” Barikmo said. “Once that screen goes up we don’t really know what’s being watched or what messages are being passed along. So I’ve been working with teachers to integrate that device more effectively and not see it as an enemy within the classroom.”
Already, Barikmo has introduced different softwares and websites to progress student learning in the classroom. Through Barikmo’s help, AP American History teacher Curtis White now utilizes Pear Deck in his classes, allowing a more personalized learning experience for the students.
“I have used Pear Deck in all five of my AP American History classes,” White said. “It really helps me determine if the students are prepared and understand the material that I’m presenting.”
The idea behind instructional coaches revolved around elementary schools within the district. A lot of that idea stemmed from the fact that most elementary schools only have one administrator, so they needed some support to help teachers out.
Although there has been instructional coaches within the Shawnee Mission School District for three years, this is the first year that East has had an instructional coach that works within our school every day.
In years past, there was only one instructional coach to work at all five Shawnee Mission high schools as well as Horizons.
“One person did my job in all six buildings and it was impossible,” Barikmo said. “You can’t develop positive relationships with teachers, you can’t implement things and be effective, and you’re just bouncing around building to building.”
Barikmo was a classroom teacher for 15 years prior to instructional coaching, teaching social studies at various public and private high schools in the Kansas City area. Most recently at Blue Valley High School, Barikmo taught government and economics until designations for several teaching awards got him up into a new environment.
“[These designations] really gave me an opportunity to say, ‘how can I take this learning and help teachers out?’” Barikmo said. “‘And what can I do outside the four walls of my own classroom to really build a positive culture of learning and reflection for teachers?’”
While Principal John McKinney was hiring for Barikmo’s position, his passion and love for being inside a classroom stood out to him from the moment he met him.
“This guy enjoys working with young people and enjoys working with teachers,” McKinney said. “When you have great teachers and passionate teachers who care about what they’re doing and love what they’re doing, that’s going to benefit the kids and the school.”
Here at East, Barikmo has had the opportunity to work with teachers on matters such as ways of efficiently collecting data within the classroom to figure out whether students are learning or not, and being that second set of eyes and ears that can be available for teachers when in need.
“I’m not their boss, I don’t sign their evaluations,” Barikmo said. “What we work together on, I don’t go and report to the principal, my job is really to be that partner right alongside the teachers.”
Since instructional coaches are so new within our school and district, Barikmo hopes to one day be able to teach model lessons of a strategy in place of a teacher, allowing him to expand his influence among students as well.
“I made the step out of the classroom and into this job,” Barikmo said. “It’s a new experience for me, but I think that classroom experience allowed me to say, ‘Alright, we can make education even better than it already is in the state of Kansas.’”