Meeting Teachers Where They Are with Professional Learning

A day in the life of a Teacher Leader in Residence

When I was implementing Open Up Resources K–8 Math in my middle school classroom, as an early adopter of the curriculum I was comforted with finding a community of educators online to collaborate with to learn from challenges and celebrate successes. I was ready for a big change, and my heart was set on the shift in math education—where active learning was the norm and students were the owners and authors of ideas and developing conceptions presented in class. There was one thing missing for me: accessibility to any sort of professional learning around the curriculum.

Providing districts and educators the just-in-time professional learning support they need is what we strive for at Open Up Resources. Before ever stepping foot in an on-site or virtual room with educators for a district, it is our priority to understand the needs, experiences, and expectations of teachers. I talk with district leaders educators themselves about implementation successes and challenges, goals for the professional learning, and goals and initiatives that the school is striving to align. We meet again after the professional learning to look at feedback, takeaways, and next steps.

The room is smarter than any individual in the room. 

Meeting with teachers virtually has provided the opportunity to give every teacher a voice in professional learning like never before. I worked with a district, where we met monthly for continued support in a small group Professional Learning Community (PLC). There was a collaborative tool set up, where each screen featured a topic, like differentiation, assessments, student engagement, etc. Everyone in the virtual Zoom room had access to add things that were going well, as well as questions and wonderings. While the topics were coordinated ahead of time, the discourse that followed was authentic and unfolded in real time. With another team, we used our monthly PLCs to investigate and “try on” each Mathematical Language Routine to plan supports for children learning grade-level mathematics. Together, we collaborated and shared experiences to plan and make upcoming tasks and content accessible for all learners. 

Not everything needs to be perfect to still be wonderful

I never thought I’d have the chance to say that I had the opportunity to teach a math class in another state! Learning with middle school children from New Jersey, while educators observed, was unforgettable. With the 6th graders, we explored the Burj Khalifa on Google Earth to gain a perspective about the height, before using the context to dive into unit rates and ratios. In 7th Grade math class, we explored circles and graphed the relationship between circumference and diameter, with children in the physical building and others participating on Google Meets from home. Most memorable was the 8th Grade lesson. Our task was to finish up a unit with activities that use shadows to find the height of objects. At lunchtime, the sun was shining, which was the perfect set-up for this lesson; by the afternoon class time,  there was no sunshine – thus no shadows – to be found. We pivoted quickly and continued the lesson outside before returning to the classroom for synthesizing our learning and extra practice before the upcoming assessment. After my visit teaching six unique lessons in a day, we followed up with virtual PLCs to debrief, reflect, and wonder.

The great thing about new friends is that they bring new energy to your soul. – Shanna Rodriguez

One of the memories that I will forever cherish is meeting a classroom teacher that I was working with and coaching for the school year. Kathy teaches in Arizona, and my home is in Iowa. We met at Asheville HIVE 2022 in North Carolina, as we learned together with a community of educators around the Open Up Resources curricula. Kathy shared about her experiences with this professional learning coaching partnership:

The Open Up Resources K–8 Math curriculum is truly amazing to me because it seamlessly presents opportunities for learning that weave together mathematical relationships and concepts, developing conceptual understanding and procedural fluency, but it does so through discovery and well-timed learning experiences that were sometimes so stealth that as a first year OUR teacher I did not know where we were going with things. I know I was told to trust the curriculum and I did but it was difficult at times because I was not sure if I was doing things correctly and I did not have any colleagues or a teaching partner to turn to for advice and support. All of that changed when my school invested in an OUR Coach for me. My coach, Morgan Stipe, guided me through this journey with my students, and I cannot say enough about how that made me a better teacher. Morgan provided "just in time PD" and instructional guidance that was not only specific to my students' needs but to my needs. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Morgan, and I consider her part of our JH Math teaching team at St. Francis!  Lucky us!

The professional learning offerings at Open Up Resources are more than a career for me. They are a place where we get to amplify educator voices, as they are our professional learning facilitators. The events are customizable and truly meet educators where they are at to get the support they need for the reason many of us are in the field of education – the children in our classrooms.

Contact us at to learn more about the Teacher Leader in Residence program and professional learning at Open Up Resources!

morgan-stipe-mathMorgan Stipe, recently named Open Up Resources first Teacher Leader in Residence, combines her experience in teaching and school leadership and brings it to the OUR team. The team at OUR refers to her as our “Resources Ninja” as she is always creating and developing resources to support students that use Open Up Resources 6–8 Math, and is willing to share them with other teachers from around the country. Morgan also documents her classroom experiences on many social media platforms including #OpenUpMath and the Open Up Math Facebook Group.