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Ms. Willoughby named K-2 curriculum coordinator

Second grade teacher Abiola Willoughby has joined the administration team as kindergarten-through-2nd grade curriculum coordinator and will be the counterpart to Greta Peacock, the district’s 3rd-through-5th grade coordinator of curriculum.

A native of Forth Worth, Ms. Willoughby got her first teaching job at Zoe Learning Academy in Houston, where she taught 2nd graders from 2006-2008. She joined the Varnett family in 2008 and taught at the same grade level at the Southwest Campus until her recent promotion.

As curriculum coordinator, Ms. Willoughby is responsible for ensuring the teachers have the resources and support they need to promote students’ abilities to think and create in personally meaningful ways through an integrated curriculum. She will work with teachers to ensure that students excel in kindergarten-through-2nd grade testing.

Ms. Willoughby took some time to answer a few questions about her new assignment.

What skills do you bring to the job?
Extensive knowledge of curriculum and technology implemented by Varnett schools and testing procedures. Being in the classroom for many years I have insight into some of the struggles teachers may have faced with the extensive testing of students and will able to relate and understand better what teachers need, in regards to training or class materials, which will allow them to implement the curriculum effectively. I also possess strong and effective communication skills with parents, students and teachers.

How did teaching second grade prepare you for the job at hand that now focuses on K-2nd?
As a teacher I was able to observe the different learning styles of students, and then was able to adjust the curriculum to meet those individual students’ needs. This is something I am hoping to help teachers with. It is important that teachers understand that we as educators are responsible for adapting and conforming to our students’ needs, not the child adapting to our teaching style.

How do you distinguish the learning curve between K, 1st and 2nd graders?
My plan for this year is to have teachers meet and plan together across grade levels. It is important for teachers to know what is expected of students in the next grade level. The goal of Kinder teachers meeting with 1st grade teachers and 1st meeting with 2nd and so on, is to better prepare students for the next grade. We often find that teachers are spending a lot of time teaching skills to students that they should have mastered in the grade before. This can hinder the learning process and may cause students to fall further behind.

What is your biggest challenge in achieving the bottom line: raising students' test scores particularly in the area of math?
Ensuring that teachers are implementing and using their resources effectively. Also ensuring that teachers are not only teaching students to pass the test, but are equipping them with the skills needed to be effective throughout their educational career and beyond.

What strategies will you put in place as you work with teachers?
By staying abreast of trends in curriculum development and instructional aids and methods, I hope to serve as a resource for teachers. I will conduct and organize trainings for teachers, which will help to enhance the methods and procedures we have in place to improve the quality of instruction throughout the district.

Math seems to be a persistent problem. Why is that and how do you propose to change that?
There may be many reasons as to why math is a problem for some students. No one reason can fit all children, because each child is different. What teachers should do is actively monitor each child and their progress. Once a problem arises, that teacher should address the problem immediately by implementing a plan and getting the parents involved as well. If the problem is addressed early it could prevent more serious problems from occurring in the future.

Do you plan to meet with parents? Is there anything you would like to tell parents?
Yes I plan to meet with parents to answer any questions they may have in regards to curriculum. I also would like to work with parents to provide students with an education. Getting parents involved in the academic process is the key to student success.

Will you miss having direct contact with students?
The great thing about this job is that it does not limit me to only interacting with students in one classroom. I will now be able to interact and hopefully have an impact on students across the district.

Brief Bio:
• Attended Prairie View A&M University- B.S. in Psychology, Masters – Family Therapy
• First job after college- Case Manager-Southwest Key
• Joined Varnett Family as 2nd grade teacher 2008-2012
• June 2012- Accepted position of K-2nd Curriculum Coordinator with Varnett.

-Teaching Career Highlights:
2010-2011- Awarded Southwest Campus Teacher of the Year
2010-2011- Awarded District Teacher of the Year

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