Iowa PBS/PBS Teacher Community Program to expand efforts following successful first year

Building on the success of the initial year of a pilot program geared toward supporting teachers, IPTV and the Centerville Community School District will continue working together to bring new technology and services to the teachers, students and families of the Centerville community. During the 2017-18 school year, IPTV and PBS piloted the Teacher Community Program in the Centerville CSD. The multiyear program is dedicated to addressing the needs of educators, who – especially in rural communities – often feel isolated and have limited access to peer-to-peer professional development opportunities. By empowering teachers, the IPTV/PBS Teacher Community Program empowers students.

IPTV’s teacher ambassador, Mekca Wallace-Spurgin, is embedded in the Centerville CSD and works directly with local teachers and stakeholders to overcome obstacles and create meaningful opportunities for educators to enhance their practice. The educator community-building activities include: creating in-person and virtual networks for teachers to engage with one another; providing professional development resources; and, bringing community partners, educators and parents together for events, workshops and other face-to-face learning opportunities.

The IPTV/PBS Teacher Community Program prioritizes the implementation of technology in classrooms. Wallace-Spurgin served on the Centerville CSD’s technology committee and was instrumental in getting funding approved, with the goal of reaching a one-to-one ratio of devices to students. She is helping the district with data collection to measure student cognitive engagement and technology use. With this information, teachers have already begun shifting from using technology as a presentation tool to students using technology in experience-based learning and media creation.

“The implementation of technology in the Centerville Community School District has taken some real steps forward in a meaningful and productive way,” said Tom Rubel, superintendent of Centerville CSD.

While technology is integral, the IPTV/PBS Teacher Community Program also brought the Centerville community together face-to-face in a variety of ways. Wallace-Spurgin hosted parent and family events, participated in the Centerville Koffee Klatch, coordinated visits from popular PBS characters at local events, provided professional development opportunities with graduate and recertification credits for educators, and much more.

Centerville CSD Curriculum Director Rhonda Raskie said, “Being able to bring the resources to our district through the Teacher Community Program, and having Mekca involved with our teachers, we’ve seen a tremendous benefit.”

The IPTV/PBS Teacher Community Program has another exciting year ahead. The Centerville CSD is investing in a new 21st-century learning space, which is underway at Howar Middle School and will be unveiled for the 2018-19 school year. With seating and tables designed for collaboration and multimedia use, eighth-grade students will have a new opportunity in an exploratory multimedia course. This reinvented learning space will be used extensively by students, faculty, parents and community partners to work together and connect virtually with IPTV, PBS and others outside the Centerville community.

“The Teacher Community Program is one of many ways IPTV Education is deepening its impact and building upon its legacy of being a trusted content provider to bring educators together with meaningful professional learning,” said IPTV Executive Director and General Manager Molly Phillips.

IPTV is one of five stations in rural areas across the U.S. that are part of the PBS Teacher Community Program. With the help of a private funder, PBS Education has awarded grants to help these stations hire teacher ambassadors to work in local rural communities. This pilot initiative aims to build educator communities across the state – connecting educators with each other and with IPTV around the shared goal of improving learning outcomes for Iowa’s students.

Mekca Wallace-Spurgin is IPTV’s teacher ambassador for the PBS/IPTV Teacher Community Program. A lifelong Iowan, Mekca earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Ashford University (Mount St. Clare College) and went on to earn a Master of Science degree from Drake University with a concentration in curriculum and effective teaching. She joined the IPTV team with more than 15 years of teaching experience, both at the elementary and secondary level, and is an adjunct instructor at William Penn University. Wallace-Spurgin is currently finishing her Doctorate in Education in instructional technology and distance learning.

Research shows that children’s learning increases when their parents, educators and community are engaged. That’s why supporting educators in Iowa communities is a major part of IPTV’s work as an education partner and leader in Iowa. IPTV has been recognized as a national leader in creating educational video, online resources and innovative approaches to teacher and community engagement.