STEM School Highlands Ranch

Never Stop Innovating

Maura Ridder and Michelle Gasser take on new roles to Support Teachers

Maura Ridder and Michelle Gasser

STEM is thrilled to announce the appointment of Maura Ridder as Professional Development Coordinator.  Maura has been working at STEM for the past nine years, and is currently a Secondary Language Arts teacher.  She will continue teaching, but it will be in a reduced capacity so her focus can be more about coaching new teachers and giving PBL instruction, leadership and guidance.

“This is my third year coaching, and I’m doing it part-time, half teaching and half coaching, so when Stephanie Mendrala left, it seemed very natural for me to move into this role,” Ridder said.

Ridder talked about what she will be focused on for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, which includes training teachers, coaches, holding workshops, meetings and discussions each week.

“Continuing to train and work with the teachers, I’m currently coaching 16 individual teachers and continuing to help mentor them as well as the Language Arts department,” she said.  “But really, what I’ve been doing this past week in my new role is trying to get into classrooms, really talk to teachers.  I’ve built up pretty good trusting relationships over the years and I feel like most teachers trust  me, and can come to me and I can listen to them and be a voice for them.”

Ridder is also working on professional development with Michelle Gasser, Dr. Karen Johnson and the entire leadership team, which includes ‘Problem Based Learning’ (PBL).

“Really training our teachers, training our coaches to work with our teachers on the PBL process, so that’s a big one., she added.  “And working at really looking at our coaching program, reflecting on it, and hearing teacher’s feedback.”

To see Maura’s full interview about her new role at STEM, check out the video below.

A big part of Maura Ridder's new role has to do with 'Problem Based Learning' (PBL), and making sure teachers are on the same page with it

Michelle Gasser, who currently works as a third- and fourth-grade teacher at STEM, will be assisting Ridder in her new role.  Gasser will continue her regular schedule as a teacher, and will also be making time to help Ridder with PBL instruction and professional development with teachers.

Gasser says she was interested in taking on the new responsibility because she has direct experience in professional development, from other school districts in the past.

“I felt like there was a need this year in our school to have structured professional development,” Gasser said.  “Our teachers have said it in staff feedback, they have said it to their coaches.  In the coaching meeting, I’m also an instructional coach, so in the coaching meetings, we’ve talked about the need for professional development.”

Gasser says at the beginning of the school year, she brought in professional development for guided reading for the elementary school, and it’s really a passion of hers, so she chose to apply for it.

Gasser says the current focus is on PBLs, and will have a training session for all staff during the next professional development day on Friday, Feb. 12.

“Overwhelmingly, we have heard feedback from teachers to say that they felt that they had not received proper training in PBLs, and that we have had new staff come on since our last training in PBL and we really needed to focus on that,” she said.  “And so for the month of February and March, we will really be focusing on that.”

To see more of Michelle’s full interview, along with her definition of a PBL, and an example of a PBL that she found success with in the past, check out the video below.

Michelle Gasser says the new focus on PBL and coaching has a lot to do with staff feedback
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