A conversation with the National Managing Director of Teacher Leadership Programs for Teach Plus on how pre-pandemic adoption of TORSH Talent to support geographically dispersed coaches & teachers better prepared them for Covid-19
TORSH is delighted to celebrate the fourth year of our partnership with Teach Plus, a service organization that provides professional development for teachers through various training and coaching programs. We sat down with Michael Savoy, their National Managing Director of Teacher Leadership Programs, to discuss the partnership and the ways in which TORSH Talent has allowed Teach Plus to continue with business-as-usual in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We felt fortunate that we had this opportunity to just continue to do the work as we have been doing,” Savoy began. “Our work is a little different than many other coaching organizations, in that we’re not coaching classroom practice.”Michael Savoy, National Managing Director of Teacher Leadership Programs for Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. The organization empowers expert teachers to advance policy changes and improve instructional leadership and teacher supports; trains and coaches teacher leaders to successfully mobilize and lead teacher teams; and empowers teacher leaders to be change agents among their peers and policymakers. Since 2009, Teach Plus has trained thousands of teacher leaders across the country who are driving policy changes and improving the instructional practices of teachers to create an education system driven by equity, access, and excellence for all students. (For more information, please visit https://teachplus.org)
In Search of Solutions to Support Their Dispersed Network of Coaches & Teachers
Four years ago, Teach Plus was searching for a solution to a pressing issue: how to maintain the same level of support and quality of coaching to an increasingly dispersed network of coaches and teachers.
“Most of us with Teach Plus started out in an in-person position somewhere… but as the organization grew and we were starting to work with teachers spread out in different places, we realized that it didn’t always make sense to hire a local full-time coach. We wanted to figure out how we could coach our teacher leaders without having to have someone physically sitting there with them all the time,” Savoy described.
“Where I live is nowhere near any of the work that I do… TORSH gives me that opportunity to affect change on a lot of teachers without having to be physically in those spaces.”
Though Savoy is based out of Maryland, he and Teach Plus’s other remote coaches are able to utilize TORSH Talent to work effectively with teachers across the country. This expansion of possibilities and increased accessibility was a driving motive behind the organization’s decision to partner with TORSH. “Being able to do my work from my space, without having to physically be in DC, or LA, or Chicago – that was where we were headed. Ultimately, we’re thinking that we could have a teacher leader in the middle of Kansas, and we would still be able to support them and their leadership role without having to spend the money to fly one, or two, or three people all over the place,” Savoy explained. “TORSH Talent has made it much easier for us to continue to keep our coaches where they are, wherever it is that they are located, and still utilize their talents effectively for supporting our teacher leaders.”
Supporting Coaches from Coast to Coast
Savoy stressed that this support is vital when it comes to improving the quality of education and educational outcomes. Today, the organization reaches coast to coast and has eleven regional state programs serving teachers in both rural and urban school districts, from high-population-density states like Massachusetts to low-population-density states like New Mexico. The programs currently support 300 teacher leaders across the United States using TORSH Talent.
Savoy emphasized just how convenient it is to have “all of the tools in one place” – including features such as video uploads with time-synced comments, coaching rubrics, feedback, observations, coaching logs, and goal setting. “With TORSH, I have the evidence, I have the feedback – it’s all right there. It’s time-stamped….You don’t have to sit there and try to remember what you said when you were in the middle of something. The platform allows us to really focus our coaching conversations and provide targeted feedback in a way that simply isn’t an option when relying on memory alone.” Savoy underscored the ways in which TORSH Talent has been invaluable to Teach Plus.
Virtual Coaching Before it Was Cool
No massive COVID-related growing pains for Teach Plus. Reflecting on the process of adjusting to the virtual platform four years prior, he emphasized the collaborative nature of their partnership with TORSH and the customizable features of Talent. “Back then, TORSH Talent was still in the process of being built. Anytime I needed anything, I could reach out to our customer success rep and say, hey, it would be really great if we could have this feature or that addition… and our contact would say, okay, well, let’s go talk to the developers, and then our request would be completed,” Savoy extolled.
Looking to the future, Savoy hopes that “virtual coaching options for teachers will become more available.”
We at TORSH are continually honored to partner with innovative organizations such as Teach Plus, working to empower teachers to improve our educational landscape.