Star Teachers Speak On Their Experience With A High-Quality School District

By Anita Moua

 

 

 

 

 

Hmong Times is concluding its series on highlighting high performing schools by taking the opportunity to interview some star teachers at state recognized high-quality charter school, Noble Academy. Bringing these highly-effective teachers onboard has been one of the most important factors contributing to the school district’s academic achievement. 

“The team in our organization is only as strong as its weakest link.” This is a strong belief held by Deputy Superintendent of Academics, Dr. Mai Yia Chang. Agreeably, Mr. Neal Thao, Superintendent of the school district is known to say, “We’re all about putting the right people in the right seat.” For this very reason, the school is very strategic on how it selects and develops its teachers. The school system is set up to provide an environment supportive of research-based, best teaching practices. Teachers who come into the organization with a growth mindset are those most likely to thrive. Let’s see what these star teachers have to say about their experience teaching in a high performing school.

Teacher Name: Mr. Jacob Boe

Grade Level/Subject: Middle School Social Studies

What makes Noble Academy a great place to work? What sparked your interest in joining this organization?

Noble Academy is a great place to work because of the amazing students, staff members, and administrators. I’ve always believed that the people within an organization are its bedrock and that could not be more true of Noble. The people that I have the privilege of working with and for make coming to school fun and exciting each day!

What sparked my interest in joining Noble Academy was the systems and best practices that our school applies to help students achieve their full potential. As a young teacher who is still relatively new to the profession, having a structural backbone has really helped me grow into my role as a facilitator of knowledge for my students much quicker than I would have in a different district. When you have a teacher who is comfortable using proven best practices and feels comfortable in their classroom, student achievement increases dramatically.

Talk about the organizational culture of Noble.

The organizational culture of Noble Academy is a mixture of rigor and joy. As educators, we hold our students to very high standards of excellence because we are held to similarly high standards ourselves. Because of this, Noble Academy is a very high performing school. I love working here because I’m pushed to step out of my comfort zone and go above and beyond for my students each day. For all of our hard work, we have a lot of fun working together as well! One of our rules for staff meetings is to, “embrace laughter” and we definitely do a good job with that! It’s great to work in a district where we, as educators, are pushed to do our best, but can have a good time as well!

Talk about the leadership at Noble.

The leadership at Noble Academy has really made me feel welcome and comfortable in my young career. Dr. Chang and Superintendent Thao have taken me under their wings and I have learned countless lessons from them over the course of my two years working within the organization. They challenge me to improve daily and become the best educator that I can be for my students. I am truly grateful for their love and support!

Talk about the students at Noble.

The students at Noble Academy are AMAZING! They are up to the challenge of learning each and every day and truly embrace our culture and expectations. They love to learn and to be challenged by their teachers and are so well-mannered and kind. They’ve really made me feel like I belong at Noble Academy and I hope to have helped them feel the same! They truly deserve every teacher’s best effort!

What is your role in the success of the school district?

My role in the success of Noble Academy is to help my students become the next generation of society’s leaders by aiding in their growth as well-rounded citizens. For me, this approach is just as much about social education (how to speak to others, how to listen to others, etc.) as it is about academic and content enrichment. Noble Academy affords me the trust and freedom to interweave these two important facets of education and my students become well-practiced speakers and listeners by the end of our time together. Nothing makes me prouder, as an educator, than helping a student find their voice!

How are teachers held accountable to academic standards?

Noble Academy is a very data-driven district. As such, we are challenged to document and provide data on everything that students learn in the classroom. As such, we assess our students on a daily basis and have frequent meetings with our administrators to discuss these metrics. In these meetings, our administrators utilize a growth mindset to help us improve so that the data we present helps us back up the great teaching that we do in the classroom.

Teacher Name: Ms. Sarah Krall

Grade Level/Subject: 4th Grade/Lead Teacher         

What makes Noble Academy a great place to work? What sparked your interest in joining this organization?

When I started teaching at Noble five years ago, I knew it was unlike any other school that I had experience in previously. It is a great place to work because every member of the staff is dedicated to providing students the best education possible. Teachers at Noble are not only coming up with new and creative ways to meet the needs of our students, but they go out of their way to share ideas with other teachers as well. It is because of these reasons why I am still teaching here five years later and loving it.

Talk about the organizational culture of Noble.

High expectations of both students and staff is a major component of Noble Academy. Teachers are expected to design and implement creative, engaging, and rigorous lessons for our students. We also hold students to high expectations when it comes to their work as well.

Talk about the leadership at Noble.

Administration encourages teachers’ creativity when designing and implementing lessons. They provide clear expectations for staff, and also encourage us and give us room to think outside of the box in order to give our students a one-of-a-kind learning experience. Mentor Teachers and PLC (Professional Learning Community) Leaders are put in place to help teachers through both formal and informal observations and PLC meetings.

Talk about the students at Noble.

The students and families we get to work with are one of the many things that make working at Noble Academy great. I’ve had the privilege of teaching 4th graders for five years at Noble, and each group of students I’ve had have been unique. What they have all had in common is their dedication to their learning. Ending our 2019-2020 school year with distance learning was challenging for staff, students, and families. However, it highlighted the resilience and dedication of our students and families, and it made me incredibly thankful for the students I get to teach each year.

What is your role in the success of the school district?

As a teacher it is my job to provide the best education to every student that I serve, their success is my success. I ensure student success by creating engaging and meaningful lessons, and by making sure that I am able to reach every student. As a teacher leader, I provide coaching to teachers through observations and PLC meetings. I help teachers implement new strategies as well as refine existing ones in order to make their lessons as engaging and meaningful as possible.

How are teachers held accountable to academic standards?

Every lesson we teach is tied to the Minnesota State Standards. We explicitly state our lesson objectives with students at the beginning of each lesson so that they know their learning goals. Teachers are provided with trainings and tools throughout the year, as well as coaching from PLC leaders, to assist them in creating lessons and activities that help students meet these rigorous standards.

Teacher Name: Nou Moua

Grade Level/Subject: 5th Grade

What makes Noble Academy a great place to work? What sparked your interest in joining this organization?

I’ve taught here for 11 years. There really is one simple reason that the school is a great place to work and that is a very strong and effective leadership team. With the kind of leadership Noble has, it drives teachers to do their very best. Furthermore, we are given opportunities to grow and improve teacher quality work weekly and hold Professional Development Days throughout the year. In this development of high quality teacher work and team collaboration, this helps with the Improvement our school data. With Noble’s high expectation and accountability our school holds, we are driven to close the achievement gap. 

Talk about the organizational culture of Noble.

Noble emphasizes the importance of high standards for both staff and students. This message is clearly accepted across the board. In my class, I push for 100% participation even if students are just making a guess because here at Noble, everyone’s voice matters. Along with Noble scholars given a voice, they are led to become curious and hard workers. Noble Academy community instill in our scholars to be organized, good at problem-solving with good note taking and completing high-quality work. Giving students these high expectations maximizes students’ chances of success.

Talk about the leadership at Noble.

As I mentioned, the leadership at Noble Academy is what makes this school great. It speaks truth as these things are what I experienced and have taken part of here. Here are just some of the leadership qualities: Noble Leaders are visionary, have goals and plans, coaches their employees, give credit to where credit is due, have compassion, develop people, have clear communication, transparent, have high expectations, support and respect staff and teacher’s decisions, focus on the best interest of students, challenge staff and teachers to be the best version of their self, and allow staff and teachers to give feedback without retaliation.  In all these years I’ve worked at Noble, the leaders have invested and prepared me to be the best teacher possible and have challenged me when time arises to not let myself be too comfortable where I was at because they saw the potential in me. Dr. Chang and Superintendent Thao personally mentored me through the years. Even when it appeared they were tough and rigorous, reality was they were looking out for the best interest of my students and me.

Talk about the students at Noble.

Noble scholars learn year after year to not be afraid to ask questions and/or to guess an answer. They’re taught that this allows learning to occur and has given them the tool to move forward. I’ve noticed that once we established a safe environment at the start of school, allowing students to make mistakes, their desire to learn and grow jumps dramatically. In my class, I’ve allowed mistakes to happen, myself included, and students take noticed that it’s okay to make an error because we’ll solve the answer one way or another.

Many of our students are able to go far and make great improvements not only by their teacher’s help but with their parent/guardians’ involvement also. I’ve seen Noble families support their scholars mainly by having their child come to school regularly, pushing their child to do their best work, praising their child, attending school events like Parent Teacher Conference, and or helping their child with their homework and assignments, and most importantly working alongside with the teachers to meet the needs of the student academically, socially, physically, and psychologically through open communication.

 I’ve been at Noble Academy for a long time, and I occasionally encounter previous Noble scholars who would share with me their experiences at Noble and how the tools and skills they’ve learned at Noble have helped prepared them for high school and college. Some of these Noble scholars I know are already off in college studying to become an educator, nurse, and police officer. This is why Noble scholars are the best because they give their best in all their endeavors and continue to strive further beyond Noble Academy.

What is your role in the success of the school district?

My role as a teacher is to take on any challenges that come my way, that could be a student who is struggling, or a new assignment and utilize the training and tools I’ve been equipped with and take the challenge head-on.

Noble Academy leadership develops leaders and allows teachers and staff to advance or shift their positions. During my 11 years of teaching here, I’ve taught kindergarten, 2nd grade, 5th grade, and have served two years as PLC Lead. This year, I am looking forward to teaching middle school science. With this amount of experience, I am being developed as an educator in all areas and can only continue to improve. Therefore, I am thrilled to be working at Noble Academy yet again.

How are teachers held accountable to academic standards?

Noble’s consistent with aiming for a rigorous educational program that focuses on core content areas and standards mandated by the state of Minnesota in reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies and providing tools to help learners to achieve their highest potential. Each grade level teachers at Noble use effective discipline tools such as the RC (Responsive Classroom) language and follows the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) Pyramid. This helps meet the needs of students that are in different tier groups of learning and behavior. Not only do teachers have tools, but students are given tools that help them academically. These tools are Power of Math, Super 6, 12 Powerful Words, and 6 plus 1 Writing Traits and are used all across each grade. This makes it easy for students as they transition to the next grade and recollect what they learned and put into practice with the new skills.

Additionally, each student has their own individual learning plan where teachers can track their academic progress. Teachers are held accountable for making sure students reach their goals, and when they do teachers have the potential of earning bonuses as part of the school wide Q-Comp program.

Teachers have tremendous power that affect student learning more than imagined. Most importantly, when you combine high quality teachers with effective leaders and school system this helps to create a thriving school district where students are in their greatest position to learn. With the most unusual school year over, teachers continue to spend the summer preparing for next year. It is critical to acknowledge the biggest asset of our children’s school’s– their Teachers as they deserve to be applauded for their commitment to the profession despite the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Noble Academy is currently enrolling grades K-8 for the 2020-2021 School Year. Please visit their website www.nobleacademy.us  or www.nompengacademy.us to learn more or call 763-592-7706 or 763-204-8406. Questions may also be sent to enrollment@nobleacademy.us

Nou Moua

Sarah Krall