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For starters, Threatt flourishing at Siler City Elementary

SILER CITY — There was a point during this past school year when some of the third-graders in Sarah Threatt’s classroom hadn’t quite figured out the very handy negotiating tool of disagreeing agreeably. 

Becky Lane was in the room taking notes. 

It was Threatt’s first year teaching at Siler City Elementary School. In fact, last school year was her first time running her own classroom. Lane is her New Directions coach. Siler City Elementary School teacher Sarah Threatt

New Directions is a Chatham County Schools initiative that provides mentorship for the district’s educators who are in their first few years of teaching. Threatt so flourished in the program that she is the district’s nominee for the inaugural North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) Beginning Teacher of the Year Award. It was developed to both honor beginning teachers and retain potentially excellent teachers in North Carolina’s public schools. Threatt is eligible to earn regional distinction and possibly statewide recognition from NCCAT. 

“She learned very quickly the importance of being well planned each day and the need for positive and productive relationships with all of her students,” said Dr. Larry Savage, the principal at Siler City Elementary. “She also found the balance between seeking and receiving help from her teammates and bringing her own ideas into her classroom. All of these attributes led to outstanding student learning.”

Back in Threatt’s classroom, where those third-graders needed help with diplomacy, Lane suggested implementing a chart that would guide students toward more productive conversations during group work. Known in education spaces as accountable talk, the concept wasn’t foreign to Threatt. She said she learned about it in college and used it while working as an instructional assistant at Silk Hope School. What Lane did through her coaching, though, was give Threatt a mind to see how the approach would benefit her students at Siler City Elementary. 

“The students just jumped all over it, and they spoke to each other that [more helpful] way,” Threatt said. “But not only in the classroom but outside at recess I could hear them speaking to each other using the sentence starters from the accountable-talk chart. So they took that outside of the classroom.”

In addition to professional development with Carmen Gaby-Walencik, who is the New Directions site coordinator at Siler City Elementary, the program helped beginning educators at the school gain an appreciation for the particular dynamics there, Threatt said. 

Threatt said she’s not sure how she would have made it through that first year without Lane, whose classroom visits didn’t come across like formal observations. 

“She was just there as a mentor,” said Threatt, who also received guidance from Siler City Elementary teacher Tracey Troxler. “The program was very reassuring.”

Published Aug. 29, 2019