By: Paige Montgomery
As second semester wears on, three new department coordinators are handing the reins over.
While departments are not the same, the department coordinators roughly serve the same function for their departments.
“I got into being coordinator to help facilitate curriculum growth and to help improve student learning,” said current English department coordinator, Jenette Vanwormer.
Among helping to develop curriculum, department coordinators manage teacher schedules, dropping or adding classes, substitutes for teachers, and handing down information from district and school administration.
While each department coordinator in a sense serves the same function for their departments, each one has a different vision for the department.
One of Vanwormer’s main goals was to develop College Prep, or CP, curriculum.
“I was really wanting to do more things to help make the CP curriculum that we have more accessible, more engaging, [and] more realistic,” said Vanwormer.
While Advanced Placement classes are guided by College Board and have what are considered the most motivated kids in school, CP curriculum has more room to change.
However, Vanwormer is the first to point out that change is slow.
“The English department is very big, there are a lot of voices, so change is slow, much slower than I thought it would be,” said Vanwormer.
Vanwormer first got into being a department coordinator through her years of teaching.
“There comes a point when you're in a system, in the business world or education, you become what they call a veteran. You know pretty much what you're doing, you know how to navigate in the system,” said Vanwormer. “You can either sit idly by, be upset with the decisions that are being made, and always complain about them, or you can take a leadership role and try to be a part of making things better.”
This is Vanwormer’s fifth year as a coordinator and her twenty-fifth year teaching.
“It was really just about taking some control of my own professional development and instilling some of what I feel like is helpful experience and knowledge to grow the department and the curriculum in a positive way,” said Vanwormer.
Because of this mindset, Ann Manchester is stepping up to take over Vanwormer’s role.
“I just feel like with Mrs. Vanwormer stepping down and no one else stepping up that maybe this is my time to be a leader for this department,” commented Manchester.
This is Manchester’s 18th or 19th year teaching. She couldn’t remember exactly.
“Now that we have a new coordinator named, she and I have already started working together on things,” said Vanwormer. “We’ll be working more closely together especially with building the schedule, a huge task in the spring.”
Department coordinators have to figure out how many sections of each class are needed once students have registered for classes and which teachers teach what classes.
Like Vanwormer, Manchester presented her vision to the department.
“I want any kid who does want to take an AP class to have that opportunity even if they don’t think they fit the AP student model,” said Manchester.
Manchester called this goal “AP for All.” The idea is that students won’t have to take English Honors 9 or 10 to take an AP class their junior or senior year.
While being a department coordinator is overall beneficial for the department and the students who take those classes, the position does not come without challenges.
“I knew one of my weaknesses would be taking things personally because over fifteen years, I have built some really strong friendships in the department, and I would say probably even bigger than how slow change is, the biggest challenge is to be a manager of your friends,” said Vanwormer.
Manchester echoed this sentiment reminding that it is difficult to manage 26 adults.
As Vanwormer finishes her last year as coordinator, she is excited to go back to being a teacher instead of a teacher and coordinator.
“I am just happy to be able to go back to really just being with students because as a coordinator you only teach three classes which is nice in terms of your paper load, especially in English, but sometimes the only days I’m truly happy is when I’m in the classroom with my kids,” said Vanwormer.
It is evident how much Vanwormer loves teaching.
“When I’m with my kids, it's just so great,” said Vanwormer. “They are just...teenagers are great.”
While Vanwormer is excited to pass on the position, she made sure to remind that being a coordinator is not “bad.”
“I don’t want people to think this is miserable. I think a lot of people should try it. I think that terms shouldn’t be super long,” said Vanwormer. “The more you can see the building from a coordinator perspective makes you a better employee and a better teacher because you aren’t just in your own little room. I think more people should be willing to do it.”
While being a department coordinator can often be thankless, much that happens in each department behind the scenes is due to the people who give up their time for the betterment of their departments. As the English, Physical Education and Business Departments transition from coordinator to coordinator, we should take some of our time to thank them for moving education forward.