Elaina Whitson talks fast, but she moves faster.
As a learning coach at Delaware Elementary School, she’s making moves across the school to support learners and help amplify their learning.
“I work with learners across the building to support their learning goals,” she says. “And learner means both teachers and students. I work alongside teachers to identify opportunities for growth in their classroom, and together, we’ll come up with solutions to help support student success. Then together, we’ll measure how effective that solution is.”
As a learning coach, Whitson works with teachers during their planning time, collaborating with educators, helping them determine a plan and path to specific learning goals. And when teachers implement a new strategy developed with Whitson, she’s there, co-teaching, planning lessons or brainstorming new teaching methods to support students, she says.
“I’m in their classrooms all the time, working with teachers for students,” she says. “I do my best to develop relationships with these teachers that if they need more support, they feel comfortable coming to me. The kids know me, and the teachers know me, because I’m here, in the building, every day.”
Whitson is one of 12 learning coaches in 11 elementary schools districtwide. The position was created last school year as a pilot program to provide individualized, site based professional development and learning support for both teachers and principals. Whitson thinks of herself as a connector and bridge between best practices, districtwide professional development and educational resources to classrooms at Delaware.
“There’s great value in having a learning coach because you can make an impact on a whole building,” she says. “Having a learning coach readily available is having someone to work with and collaborate with any time, and that’s really beneficial and something teachers value. It’s truly personalized, professional support, to help teachers tackle things they want to do.”
Whitson provided support for a Delaware teacher who wanted to do a lesson using a new technology tool, LEGO WeDo, but was apprehensive about how to use it. Together, Whitson and the teacher developed a unit that would support learning goals while effectively using the technology.
“The teacher tackled the tool confidently and students work well in teams with LEGO WeDo as a result of the planning and co-teaching she and I did,” said Whitson. “She felt comfortable using that learning tool because I was able to help her with both the technology and how to implement it well in her classroom. And watching her students be engaged because of the work we did together, it was the best.”
Whitson is a graduate of Parkview High School, going on to receive her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Drury University. She later earned her master’s degree in educational administration from Missouri State University.
Prior to becoming a learning coach in 2016, she worked as a first and second-grade teacher at Delaware for nine years. She is married to David Whitson, who also works at SPS in special services, and together, they have two children: Aubrey and Nolan.