An Iowan was among 12 educators from across the country to be honored Tuesday at the White House. Jessica Gogerty is now a teacher at Des Moines Roosevelt High School, but the White House event recognized her efforts to improve academic achievement at Des Moines North High School, where she previously worked for 15 years.
Gogerty said one of the keys to improving student performance at North involved finding students who were not proficient in reading and grouping them together based on the skills they lacked.
“So, if they weren’t very good at fluency, we worked with just the kids who needed fluency with the choir teacher – who’s good at fluency. If they weren’t good at comprehension, we had them work with the biology teacher, who was really good at getting comprehension out of the text,” Gogerty explained.
“And we really targeted our staff development for how to teach those students and teach those skills, so they could read and access that information for themselves – whether it was in a textbook, online or whatever.” North High is one of 10 Iowa schools that receives federal funds through the School Improvement Grant program.
Gogerty, who took part in a panel discussion at the White House, noted that North – at one time – was recognized as the “lowest achieving” high school in Iowa.
“We had a really compassionate and highly talented teaching staff, we were just all going our own way. We were all separated,” Gogerty said. “One of the biggest things we had to do was get all of us together, moving in the same direction, thinking the same way, using the same terminology and kind of harnessing our power together.”
That collaborative effort, Gogerty said, resulted in students posting big gains in reading and math on state assessments. “I don’t think I’d ever want to teach alone again,” Gogerty said. “Having people to really talk about our instructional strategies and instructional challenges together – and solve those problems together…was really one of the most powerful and influential things that we did.”
Gogerty and the other 11 educators invited to the White House were named “Champions of Change.” The “Champions” program was created last year to honor ordinary Americans who strive to make their communities better.