Coaching Model Sets New Teachers Up for Success

Luke Marbach, a New Braunfels native, grew up watching his mother teach fifth-grade students. From an early age, he knew he would follow in his mother’s footsteps as an educator.

As a senior first baseman for Islanders Baseball in spring 2020, Marbach clearly distinguished himself as an athlete: He started all 18 games the team played before the Southland Conference announced on March 12 it was suspending all spring sports competition due to COVID-19.

In the classroom, the kinesiology major remained steadfast in his academic goal of becoming a high school PE coach and math teacher even after Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi shifted to online instruction after spring break. Unfazed by the sudden instructional curveball, Marbach completed his classes and graduated in May 2020 from the Island University.

During his clinical experience as a teacher candidate, Marbach said he has benefited greatly from his experience in the Field-Based Experience class, a model that features an embedded teaching coach on-site to reinforce the importance of clinical practice, lesson planning, classroom language, reflection, and goal setting to a cohort of roughly 18-22 teacher students.

As a teacher candidate at Tuloso-Midway Elementary School during summer 2019, Marbach said coaching sessions with Dr. Robin Johnson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Learning Sciences and Field-Based Experience Coordinator, helped him adjust from the onset.

“My first lesson was successful in time management, but I didn’t engage all of the students correctly,” Marbach said. “During my coaching lesson with my professor, I was reminded that PE is all about movement – every kid has to be active, every kid has to be moving – so we revised that lesson to help make sure all the kids are participating and not just watching.”

The College of Education and Human Development has implemented usage of the Field Experience Coaching Model at four elementary schools and four secondary schools in three school districts to date. Johnson said the key to the model’s success is direct and immediate communication with each teacher candidate.

“This coaching model is powerful – it’s the cycle itself and the time we invest with these students,” Johnson said. “I tell my students from the beginning: Most of what you learn is going to come during coaching.”

While the program abruptly turned to a virtual format in response to COVID-19, Johnson said faculty was still able to coach individually with students through video conferencing platforms, such as Webex and Zoom.

“Because coaching is such an important part of our field-based experience and we have seen the lasting impact it has on our teachers as they begin their careers in education, we are committed to synchronous coaching in a virtual format. It has worked well,” Johnson said.

Johnson said faculty will continue to provide virtual coaching until it is safe to provide face-to-face sessions in partnership school settings.

Islander alumnae Michelle Cortez and Sarah Gomez both teach pre-kindergarten students. Cortez was in the Field-Based Experience class in spring 2018, which was held at Oak Park Elementary School.

“The coaching sessions really helped me out because I was able to reflect on what I needed to do as a teacher,” Cortez said. “Even now, I’m constantly reflecting back on what I can do different the next time so that I can constantly improve.”      

Gomez completed Field-Based Experience at Tuloso-Midway Elementary School. She was initially nervous about teaching fifth-grade science but gradually gained confidence during her coaching sessions with Johnson.

 “I had never taught science, but Dr. Johnson helped me stay organized and stay on top of everything,” Gomez said.

A&M-Corpus Christi currently encompasses the strongest network of any educator preparation program in the region, with 56 school partnerships and an on-campus bilingual public school dedicated to providing vast observation opportunities. Mirroring the sentiments of the Texas A&M University System We Teach Texas Initiative, the Island University tirelessly works toward the development of future educators, their long-term success, and strong retention within the discipline.

“The A&M System graduates more teachers than any other public university system in Texas,” Dr. Carmen Tejeda-Delgado, Professor and Director of Clinical Teaching and School-University Partnerships said. “I believe our coaching model and fidelity to student mentoring are examples of our unwavering commitment to our students’ success and to helping to prepare the best teachers in Texas and beyond.”