From Where I Sit, Too: Celebrating Collaboration

Aug 8th, 2019 | Category: Columns, Here I sit
By Dara Soljaga

With heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Shirley Morgenthaler for the invitation to serve as guest editor, I am honored that this issue of the Lutheran Education Journal celebrates the ongoing collaboration between Concordia University Chicago’s Center for Literacy and the Chicagoland Lutheran Educational Foundation (CLEF).

Founded in January 2014, Concordia University Chicago’s Center for Literacy serves and leads by creating access to meaningful and innovative literacy-related experiences in diverse educational and social settings. Similarly, CLEF equips children in Chicagoland with the opportunity to experience Christ’s love and grace through a high-quality, Christian values-based education, in order to reach their potential and fulfill their vocation.

“Teaching is of more importance than urging,” wrote Martin Luther. We hearkened to this message as co-principal investigators, Simeon Stumme and I, sought to support thriving urban Lutheran schools. The Center’s and CLEF’s efforts resulted in a multi-faceted approach that included a strong teacher-training component, an articulated plan of study and the recognition of effective instruction. In the pursuit of academic excellence and to grow school enrollments, our worthwhile partnership with CLEF emerged; one that supported innovative practices and systemic evolution in Lutheran schools.

Our fruitful partnership began in 2014 when CLEF’s Executive Director, Janet Klotz, accepted an invitation to join the Center’s Founders Board. Janet’s leadership resulted in a multi-year, grant-funded, language and literacy initiative within two CLEF schools, as well as a curriculum series, and other consultative work between our two organizations. However, the Pathways to Excellence for Teachers program marks our first comprehensive effort engaging both entities with all 15 Preschool- through-Grade 8 CLEF schools. Janet Klotz will share a detailed overview of the partnership initiative, and then the baseline data regarding teachers’ writing pedagogy that was used in project planning as examined by Simeon Stumme, Amanda Mulcahy and me.

Also in this issue, various components of the Pathways to Excellence program are presented. The Innovative Teacher Institute (ITI), which provided all teachers in CLEF schools with ongoing, targeted professional-development sessions, included opportunities for professional collaboration, instructional and practice-based shifts and curricular work enhancement. The ITI component also offered weekly, in-classroom, on-site instructional coaching where coaches model lessons, support planning and engage teachers in the participating schools. Kari Pawl connects the theory and practice of instructional coaching. A glimpse into the importance of background knowledge and experience in a CLEF teacher’s development is shared by Della Weaver.

Insight regarding the second portion of the program, the Collaboratively Articulated Plan of Study (CAPS), which gathered teachers and university experts to develop goals, activities and assessments for writing, reading and an innovative framework for learning is offered by Tim Bouman. A book review from Simeon Stumme underscores the important role faith-based schools serve in urban settings. Finally, Samantha Lazich and Don Hendricks preview the next phase of the project by exploring the development and implementation of the CLEF Medallion program.

After two years of implementation, the partnership between CLEF and the Center for Literacy continues to flourish as we explore pathways to continue supporting excellence in teaching and learning. I earnestly invite you to enjoy reading this very special issue of the Lutheran Education Journal. LEJ