Located in the beautiful capital city of Honolulu, Hawaii, Ali’lolani Elementary School is truly making a difference by serving future generations of our students. For over 90 years Ali’lolani Elementary School has dedicated itself to fulfilling a mission that “provides a supportive community that values: Living, Loving & Learning.”
An educator that’s dedicated herself to helping carry out this mission is Laurie Chang, former special educator, curriculum coordinator, and instructional coach for Ali’iolani Elementary School. Over the span of her 28-year career, she has witnessed many shifts in the education field in Hawaii, and her experience and expertise in classrooms has been pivotal to helping her advocate for other teachers.
As an administrator, one of the top challenges Laurie faced was: How can teachers uphold mandated curriculum while catering to the individual needs of their students? Furthermore, how can they do this with more financial support from their schools and/or districts?
Laurie took the initiative to find a solution and landed on Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT). Originally Laurie began purchasing resources from TpT on her own to help create the type of learning environment she felt would help her students, and herself. “I started buying things that I needed mainly to save time because to develop things from scratch was difficult.”
Unlike other states, Hawaii has a centralized DOE, which means that education initiatives operate in a top-down model that is adopted statewide. In 2010, Hawaii adopted Common Core Standards to create a universal set of standards to help students attain a valuable foundation they can later use in their careers. However, there were clear challenges that came from this model.
Teachers know better than anyone else that learning is not a one-size-fits-all method for students. For Laurie, this was especially true with her special education students. “When we adopted Common Core,” Laurie recounts, “it wasn’t exactly mandated, but it was highly suggested that we buy a certain curriculum. The problem was that the curriculum the state decided to go with wasn’t a fit for every classroom.”
In her experience as a special educator, she found that many of the materials were not really what she needed for students with their individualized education plan. “I often needed to modify the curriculum because my school didn’t have enough money,” she says “So I took the general education curriculum and tried to modify that. But doing that for 15 or 16 students wasn’t always feasible.”
The value of saving time while attaining the resources needed to educate students is crucial – but it wasn’t just the ability to save time that Laurie found noteworthy about the resources she was using from TpT. “What I like specifically about Teachers Pay Teachers is that it was developed by teachers.” Laurie continues to explain, “It wasn’t developed by some professor in a college, or somebody who was an expert on curriculum — but never really used it themselves in the classroom.”
For Laurie, these teacher-developed resources were a key factor to overcoming some of the challenges she was dealing with in the classroom.
Finding the best strategies to cater to a diverse mix of students is no easy feat. It requires being in tune with a student’s unique experiences and making sure teachers are adequately equipped to do their jobs. Laurie knew her teachers were facing the same challenges, and that’s why she advocated for Ali’lolani Elementary School to take advantage of TPT School Access — a school or district wide subscription service with a library of over 3 million teacher-created, teacher-tested resources.
“When we learned about [TPT School Access] and the ability to have this schoolwide subscription, all I had to say was,- ‘Teachers, do you want TPT?’ And the response was, ‘Please make that happen at all costs.’” So I told my principal, this is the number one priority. We need TPT for our teachers. If you want them to be happy and feel supported, this is going to be important.”
She further emphasized that TPT School Access has also been beneficial through helping supplement the school’s developing standards-aligned curriculum. “We use a universal screener to collect learning data. And through that screener, we have the ability to see some of the individual skill gaps that students might be having at any given time.”
As Laurie continues, she provides a clear example of how educators at Ali’lolani Elementary School strategically improve learning strategies for students. “What we did with reading was we looked at phonics and phonemic awareness. If there was a deficit in an area [at a certain] grade level, we realized that child is probably going to need interventions. And I was actually checking out some things on TPT where passages that have very specific targeted sounds in the passage that we can use as the interventionist to see if that child is really learning that specific skill that we’re trying to teach them.”
The strategic efforts that educators implement are core to helping students succeed. The meticulous behind-the-scenes work that educators do is constant and necessary for growth and development. By using TPT’s teacher-created resources to supplement the standards of Hawaii’s curriculum, administrators like Laurie can feel confident that teachers are better supported and saving teachers time to focus on what matters most: the growth, development, and success of their students.
As Laurie and the educators at Ali’lolani Elementary School wrap up another successful school year, she shared what she’s looking forward to next.
“There’s so much we want to do. We’ve projected out three to five years of things that we want to implement. We just have to make sure the important things stay the important things, which is the data. What that means is data matches up to our curriculum [and] matches up to our strategies. And I’m really excited because our scores went up. Our Smarter Balance math scores went from 59% to 73% this year. So we’re happy. The kids are here and they need to learn regardless of how hard it is, that’s our job as educators.”
TpT School Access provides tons of resources to cater to the specific needs of teachers and their students.
Learn more about how you can get started with TpT School Access today.