Members of the ERWC Evaluation team with LAHS Principal Carter Payne during a welcome reception hosted by LAPS Foundation, from left, Mariam Ogle, Dr. Jennifer Fletcher, Dr. Lisa Benham-Lewis and Payne. Courtesy/LAHS
A team from California State University and the California State University Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC) traveled to Los Alamos High School (LAHS) in September to coach the Los Alamos High School English Department on the implementation of the curriculum and the teaching pedagogy of the ERWC.
Dr. Jennifer Fletcher, Dr. Lisa Benham-Lewis and Mariam Ogle spent three days with English teachers observing classes, attending social dinners and a reception with the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation, and meeting with Superintendent Jose Delfin and Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Guy.
In addition, the entire LAHS English Department, including all Special Education English teachers, participated in an extended training session on the ERWC materials and teaching pedagogy.
“The purpose of the visit was to coach the LAHS English Department in the implementation of the ERWC and to explore further possibilities for deepening our partnership with the ERWC,” explained English Department Co-Chair Margo Batha. “We were so excited to meet our ERWC coaches in person and to work with them to effectively teach the ERWC. I know that all of our students will benefit from our interactions with our coaches.”
“We have spent hours training and meeting with our ERWC curriculum coaches online so it was significant and especially fulfilling to show them our beautiful environment here in Los Alamos,” added Lori Thompson, English Department Co-Chair. “The context of our unique town was not lost on them, and they now know how to better support us here at LAHS. The time we spent with them was invaluable and will lead to furthering our curriculum implementation and teaching pedagogy.”
The ERWC was recently adopted by the district as the English Language Arts curriculum for the high school. The curriculum was adopted in August of 2021 when the English Department staff began training on and implementing the curriculum for high school English classes.
Los Alamos High School is the first high school in New Mexico to adopt the ERWC as its adopted curriculum for grades 9-12. Most of the high schools in California have adopted the ERWC for grades 11-12 and 15,000 teachers in California are ERWC trained. The curriculum also is used in Washington state, Hawaii and West Virginia.
“Although the ERWC was originally developed as a college preparatory course for California high school students, the mission of the ERWC has grown to include grades 6 through 12 and students who are preparing for career and technical education,” Batha said. “The ERWC curriculum has been an excellent fit at Los Alamos High School since the course meets the needs of many different types of learners. “
“The LAHS English and Special Education Departments appreciate a curriculum that puts teaching pedagogy and student-centered learning as the primary goal,” she added.
The ERWC curriculum includes high-interest topics such as immigration, mental illness and social media usage, explored through a wide range of texts. The inquiry-based approach supports students in becoming flexible, adaptive and reflective thinkers and communicators, and the Integrated Universal Design for Learning (UDL) creates equity for students with disabilities, general education students and English Learners.
Dr. Jennifer Fletcher completes an observation form in an English class taught by Lori Thompson. Courtesy/LAHS
All of the ERWC coach observations of the LAHS English Department classes included observations of co-taught and special education classes. This is the first LAHS English curriculum and teaching pedagogy that has been implemented across both special education and general education classes.
“Our ERWC team is excited about the continuation of our partnership with LAHS,” Ogle said. “We knew from our technology-based distance coaching that ERWC was a perfect fit with LAHS’s goals and feel honored to be able to support them in person. The passion for pedagogy and valuation of students’ contributions to the learning environment was clearly evident.”
Dr. Fletcher added, “During our visit to Los Alamos High School, we encountered an extraordinary culture of care expressed through extensive support systems for students and teachers and founded on deep trust and authentic relationships. It was clear to us that LAHS students are used to having their thinking and well-being taken seriously.”
“We look forward to continuing to learn from the outstanding team of educational leaders at Los Alamos Public Schools,” she said.
“Thank you to the LAHS staff for making us feel so welcomed, and hosting us for the professional learning opportunity in Los Alamos,” Dr. Benham-Lewis said. “The community should be proud that teachers work hard to provide lessons to engage students, that students are proud to attend LAHS, and that the administration team has built a culture of learning. We look forward to continuing our coaching and professional learning time with this outstanding group of educators.”
The LAHS English Department would like to thank the administration of Los Alamos High School, Sharon Fogle, LAPS Director of Professional Development, Assessment, and Curriculum, Assistant Superintendent Guy, and LAPS Superintendent Dr. Jose Delfin for their support in bringing the ERWC team to Los Alamos. They also want to thank the LAPS Foundation and Foundation Director Jenny McCumber for the grant that allowed them to cater meals for the California team and their department members during the visit. Their support allowed teachers to observe other teachers and participate in professional development sessions.
About the ERWC Team
Dr. Jennifer Fletcher, Professor of English at California State University, Monterey Bay, where she coordinates the undergraduate program for future English teachers. Her twenty-seven years of experience in education include a decade as a high school teacher. The author of Teaching Arguments (2015), Teaching Literature Rhetorically (2018), and Writing Rhetorically (2021), Fletcher facilitates workshops and webinars on rhetorical literacy skills for teachers across the country and is a frequent speaker at conferences. She serves as a curriculum developer, workshop leader, and steering committee chair for California State University’s Expository Reading and Writing Curriculum (ERWC), a nationally recognized rhetoric-based literacy initiative.
Dr. Lisa Benham-Lewis is the i3 Grant Director for Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, in Fresno, California. In this capacity, she coaches teachers and administrators, manages fiscal duties and collaborates with educational partners across California, Washington, West Virginia, and New Mexico. Benham-Lewis has served on the ERWC Steering Committee and ERWC Advisory Committee since 2010 as a grant partner and member.
Mariam Ogle, Content Coordinator for the ERWC i3 Grant, is a learning coach for the ERWC. She develops and leads training in response to participant needs and to ensure the effectiveness of the ERWC. She also leads technology-supported communities of practice to support collaboration, communication and professional development.