Reflections of an ACPS Instructional Coach (Jennifer Underwood)

“What do Instructional Coaches do anyway?” is a question I am asked frequently, and I often reflect upon that question myself. When looking at current research we find the role of coaches is multi-faceted. Elena Aguilar (2012) concludes, “Coaches can bring teams together in healthy ways, they can support teachers to increase their emotional resiliency, and they can facilitate systems change” (para. 2).
JU_IMG_5299Other roles of the instructional coach include: listener, encourager, and confidante. I find many times until the teacher shares the emotions he or she is feeling that day, we can’t begin the lesson planning, data analysis, or other project. It is important for coaches to understand the fast-pace of the educational life and how emotion can certainly play a part. My job as a coach is to meet people where they are and help them move forward. Change does not happen overnight, but it can begin one “interaction” at a time.

When you ask teachers what their role with coaches looks like you may uncover varying aspects such as: supporter, reflective partner, facilitator, mediator, resource-gatherer, data-researcher, co-teacher, co-planner, and overall sounding board.

Aguilar (2012) says it well, “Coaches often see the parts and the whole at the same time — this is essential” (para. 6). When I review my own personal data, I see trends in my work that include: technology, engineering, maker space, and other current digital integration, as well as collaboration on student engagement, project-based learning, unpacking curriculum, implementing new research-based literacy components, facilitating in professional learning communities, observing classroom instruction to gather data for teachers, and much, much more.

And I find teachers appreciate the opportunity to stretch themselves, to collaborate with a fellow teacher and to better understand the process of lifelong learning. Do you know what the best part of my job is? I am learning, too! I feel so blessed to go to work every day enveloping a true model of collaboration, reflection, and progression.

I believe instructional coacJUhes are able to unite teachers around the core purpose of Albemarle County Public Schools (2015), “to establish a community of learners and learning, through relationships, relevance and rigor”.  I cannot think of a better model for building relationships, instilling a positive learning community and ensuring our students the very best educational system.



Welcome to our ACPS Instructional Coaching Blog! We invite you to check back often to hear stories about instructional coaching. A blog seems like the perfect way for us to model “collaborative, public, and reflective” practices that are the foundation of our model.

We will start with posts by instructional coaches, but hope to expand soon to include posts by teachers and coaches together.

– The Lead Coach Team