Instructional Coach

Coaching is an essential component of an effective professional development program.
~ Elena Aguilar, The Art of Coaching

Pushed Me Outside My Comfort Zone

Eileen, you have been such an inspiration to me and have pushed me out of my comfort zone with tremendous support, and for that I will always be eternally grateful.  After 30 years you still get me excited about learning new technology.  You’re a great example for others!!!

Margaret Spigner
Science Teacher  and Department Chairperson
Charleston County School District

My Students are Even More Enthusiastic Learners

Eileen has been one of the greatest gifts of my 18 teaching years. If every teacher in [my] county had an Eileen in their corner, our students would be learning even more authentically and meaningfully than they do today. I am grateful to Eileen for pushing me out of my comfort zone with every unit/project/lesson we plan together, and I am equally grateful for her positivity and for the support she has provided me. My students are even more enthusiastic learners because of Eileen, the iPads, and the support and encouragement from [the District]!

Julie Bullard
ELA and SS Teacher

Charleston County School District

Wealth of Knowledge and Great Ideas

Eileen was amazing. Her willingness to come out to see how we were doing and offer her expertise was appreciated. She had a wealth of knowledge and gave so many great ideas. She was very accessible when I had questions or wanted to bounce ideas off of her.


Anonymous Cohort Teacher
Charleston County School District

Help and Support Were Invaluable

If it hadn’t been for [Eileen], I may very well have dropped out until I had time to teach myself about Google Classroom etc. Her help and support were invaluable!!!

Kat Dunleavy
Math Teacher

South Carolina

Teachers Polled After 1 Year of Instructional Coaching with Cultivating the Learning


Extremely Helpful


Somewhat Helpful

The graphic above shows data from teachers in a technology integration cohort.  They expressed that the one thing that made them grow most as teachers using technology is the job-embedded PD they receive through their Technology Instructional Coach. Because of this realization, schools and districts should consider investing in technology coaches within their buildings as a part of their technology budget.  While there are probably people in place to help struggling teachers, when it comes to technology, schools and districts get a bigger bang for their buck when they choose high flying teachers and help them fly even higher with a Technology Instructional Coach because she/he provides job-embedded training.

28%  Recommended percent of technology budget dedicated to professional development

5%  Actual average percent of technology budget dedicated to professional development


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How will an Instructional Coach help your teachers?

The ultimate goal of an Instructional Coach is to help teachers use all available tools to help students achieve.  This could happen by increasing student interest or confidence, increasing digital differentiation through formative assessment, changing a teacher’s teaching style to include flipped learning or PBL or sometimes by revitalizing the teacher. Instructional Coaches are equals in the room with their teachers.  Their role is to nurture and challenge.  They are present to question the teacher in ways that get the teacher to grow and begin to answer her own questions.  They also provide resources to assist the teacher along the technology integration journey.

Collaborative Coaching: Teachers who have support and collaboration are much more creative and content in the classroom.

Teachers who have support and collaboration are much more creative and content in the classroom.


Instructional Coaches plan with the teacher in advance to set the stage for a positive experiences.  Things like expectations and timing or pacing can ruin a lesson. Sometimes coaches have to help teachers see that their expectations are too high or too low depending on the grade and the level of experience of both teacher and students.  Sometimes a teacher over-plans for a single period only to find out that there is no reasonable way for her students to achieve what she had planned.


Once the plans are in place, it is so very helpful to have an instructional coach in the room when the lesson is being implemented.  If technology is involved, it is especially important during the initial deployment, the first few lessons, or the launch of a totally new app.  Those of us who have experimented with technology know that it requires a lot of learning, troubleshooting, and thinking fast on your feet.  For some, this requires great change that they might not be ready for.  For others, it is a challenge worth overcoming.  The former is not a bad teacher for having given up.  She might decide she just doesn’t have the time or the know how to proceed.  This is where an Instructional Coach is priceless. Troubleshooting on the spot, coaching students, and encouraging all are vital if participants are to remain positive about change in the classroom like technology use or competency-based or personalized learning.


Recursive Chart of Effective Teaching

Recursive Chart of Effective Teaching


After the lesson has been completed, reflection is of utmost importance.  First, it is important that the teacher reflect on how things went. Most of the time, the teacher points out 90% of what the Instructional Coach is planning on saying.  Then, the final 10% can be reviewed or ignored depending on how serious it is to the success of the teacher.  Allowing the teacher to process the information first is key to growth of the teacher.

Next Steps

Next steps wraps up a coaching cycle.  This phase taps the teacher to decide how she wants to proceed.  It gets the teacher looking forward to the next lesson.  It might be a chance to try it again because she liked it and wants to hone it, or maybe she knows it should have been better and wants to try again for her own and her students’ comfort levels.  Maybe she wants to try something more challenging, and something is starting to develop in her head.  This brings the cycle back to the beginning with the planning phase starting right there.  The instructional coach simply needs to schedule their next session to plan or perhaps to observe and give feedback. Instructional coaching is a recursive process that rarely moves forward at all times.  Oftentimes there is back and forth movement, and that is okay.

Free Online Resources on Instructional Coaching

  1. Coaching Teachers: What You Need to Know by Elena Aguilar
  2. What Good Coaches Do by Jim Knight
  3. Interview With Superintendent Pam Moran On Instructional Coaching by Larry Ferlazzo

Job-Embedded Technology Training

Job-Embedded PD is rated as the most powerful training for teachers because of isolation within the classroom and lack of time. It is usually through the use of an Instructional Coach that this is accomplished.  Many schools are calling on teachers within their buildings to be an instructional coach part time and teach part time.  This is an excellent model for regular classroom instruction, and it works just as well for technology training as long as the instructional coaches are getting regular technology training, too, to keep them fresh and up to date on the latest EdTech advances. For some schools and districts, this is difficult.  This is where Cultivating the Learning can collaborate with you to solve your instructional coaching problems.  Successful coaching can be transformative as can be seen in the data and testimonials below.  The idea behind Instructional Coaching is that the coach is collaborative not evaluative (see Interview With Superintendent Pam Moran On Instructional Coaching).

This instructional coaching is job-embedded because it occurs in the classroom during planning periods and while students are working on an activity.  We meet with teachers either live or via a Google Hangout.  Usually, we try to block out two periods for each teacher, one of which is usually a prep period that enables us to talk, plan, or reflect.  In the beginning, We observe the teacher to get to know his/her style.  Then we meet to discuss goals for technology use and upcoming projects and/or standards that need to be covered.  From there we plan.

Our next visit might be another planning session building up to the technology-infused lesson.  Depending on the teacher’s schedule, we might debrief to reflect during lunch, during a prep period, or after school to ensure that debriefing occurs in a timely manner.  All of this is taking place during the contractual day making it more convenient and more powerful for the teacher.

    "I enjoyed this class.  The pacing was excellent as well as Eileen's instructions.  Now I will be able to do a newsletter with my 4th grade students."

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