Teacher of the Year has unique position in NB district

Teacher of the Year riddle:  Who is the teacher that has no students (pre-K through 12) but impacts every student in the North Branch Area Public Schools?

Members of the North Branch Education Associaion say the Teacher of the Year for 2011-12 was an unconventional but very appropriate choice.

Dona Yetter

Dona Yetter, currently serving as the Teacher Preparation and Development Coordinator, was selected last spring by her colleagues for this recognition.

Her “students” are her colleagues, teacher candidates, and adult learners.  Here is her story.

Going back to grade 2, it was then that young Yetter decided to become a teacher.

Her family had just moved to the Sandstone district and for Yetter the move was not a good experience.

It was then she announced to her class, “I’m going to be a teacher some day.”

In high school she would spend her study hall hour at the elementary school helping teachers.

Her high school advisor tried to talk her into majoring in business, but a determined Yetter headed to St. Cloud State for elementary education.

With a contract already in hand from New London-Spicer, Yetter came to North Branch for interviews, first for first-grade and then for the fourth-grade position that she accepted.

Through the years, she has had opportunities to leave, including pursuing an administrative license and joining the staff at St. Cloud State, but she always decided to stay in North Branch.

Yetter taught fourth grade for five years, then fifth grade for 10 years.  She did some coaching, traveled with students to the Bahamas and hosted her students’ Bahamian pen pals, and participatied in innovative teaching, including taking a larger class with a teacher aide.

True to her commitment to spend the first half of her career in the classroom focused on student learning and then to give back to the profession, Yetter began the transition to her current position.

For three years she taught fourth grade half time, job sharing with another colleague, and half-time teacher Development Coordinator.

Since 1999 Yetter has been the full-time Teacher Preparation and Development Coordinator.

The first part of her job connects the North Branch Schools to St. Cloud State in a unique relationship.

Yetter supervises teacher candidates who complete their student teaching in North Branch schools and coordinates college programming for both St. Cloud State and Anoka Ramsey Community College for courses and programs taught in North Branch.

Three new programs for degrees and certificates will be starting next fall.

The other half of the job is to work with all licensed staff to enhance their professional practices.

It is in this role that Yetter touches each student in the district by her work with their teachers.

One program she coordinates is the mentoring program, supporting new teachers who are expected to do what veteran teachers do.

Another is the peer coaching program, where teams of teachers observe and coach each other.

Yetter says that this program is “constantly opening doors for feedback, strategies, and ideas, as this can be a very isolating profession.”

Yetter has helped to build a culture of collaboration in the district.

Coordination of the observation program is the third part of her work.  Yetter recalled that she was hired in the teacher development position to “make sure our practices were consistent.”

She trains both administrators and teachers in the Pathwise model so that all have a shared understanding of the expectations and requirements.

“Many districts do not have this piece,” Yetter explained.

Even now she recalls that it was a hard decision to leave the classroom full time.

She would ask herself, “What am I doing?”

But she knew that she would be in a position to impact all the classrooms in the district.

“I am still teaching, but now it is adult learners,” said Yetter of this role.  “And I am in classrooms all the time” observing and helping teachers.

Yetter recognizes the challenges schools face today.  She wants to work with new colleagues with new ideas to move forward.

“I hope the community understands that we need their support.  We are doing the best we can.”

She knows that the teachers are doing everything to ensure that students leaving North Branch have received the best education they can get.

“We have been recognized statewide for our programs and have such talented teachers, but it is hard to match up.”

Yetter wants to make the most of years she has left in the profession, and she continues to seek ways to impact teachers and the students they serve.

After serving three years as the district coordinator for the Q Comp program, she has just been selected to attend national training for the course Foundations of Effective Teaching, a staff development initiative of the American Federation of Teachers.

She hopes that North Branch Schools will continue to be cutting edge.

The North Branch Education Association feels she certainly has done her part in making it so, which is why her colleagues selected her to represent them as Teacher of the Year.

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