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New teacher trainer on the job

by Merrie Leininger

Pinon Hills Elementary School lost its teacher of the year, but the loss is a gain for five county districts.

Cindy Orr was chosen as PHES’s teacher of the year last year. This year Orr left her classroom to become the Regional Professional Development Center’s trainer. In that position, she is responsible for preparing all the teachers in Churchill, Mineral, Carson City, Lyon and Douglas counties for the new state school standards. The position was created by the Legislature and Douglas was chosen as the county to head up the implementation of the new standards.

Orr, who has taught for nine years in Douglas County, said she misses her students, but likes the fact that she indirectly touches so many students’ lives now.

“I like the interaction. I like learning new things and sharing them. I like that I don’t just touch one class at a time, but all the classrooms of the teachers I train by strengthening and making their lessons more efficient for those students,” Orr said.

She said she made the change because her goals are to teach college classes or to be a free-lance teacher trainer.

“So, this is a good start,” Orr said.

While Orr has just started, she said the job has been busy. She has had trouble getting the word out about what she is doing and where she and her assistant, Andrea Hammett, are located because their office is in a portable trailer behind the Douglas High School soccer fields.

However, she got right down to work last month with a two-day regional training in Carson City with 123 teachers and administrators from the five districts.

Each district has designated about two teachers from every school to learn state standards in math, science, language arts, health/physical education, fine arts, social studies and technology.

Orr said eventually, she will be traveling to individual schools to observe teachers training other teachers and helping them along.

“Eventually, I’ll be watching them as they present to their staff and acting as a peer observer. Hopefully, I’ll also be asked to come out and teach something and write lessons using the standards,” she said.

In July, the new requirements in math, science and language arts were implemented across the state. Next July, the schools will start using the new standards in the remaining four areas.

Now, Orr is spending a lot of time preparing. She said she is trying to get the word out to teachers in five counties that she is there to help and how they can find her. She said she will be using a newsletter and e-mail to get information to teachers and to help them whenever they have questions.

She also has prepared tool kits which include useful lessons the school trainers can use to show teachers how to implement the new standards.

While Orr said Douglas County will have a few problems with the state standards – the district put a lot of energy in determining that its competencies match up or exceed the state requirements – other districts are not as prepared.

“It’s just different and (the other districts) will need exposure to it,” Orr said.

Meanwhile, Orr has to turn in to the state evaluations of everything she does. In addition, she is trying to organize a database of the in-services throughout the five counties because teachers can receive credit for attending other counties’ in-services.

Some districts don’t have a professional development training center as Douglas does and so Orr is glad to be giving them a service they wouldn’t otherwise have.

With her background in math and science, Orr hopes she will be able to give some additional insight into those areas.

Meanwhile, Orr is working on her master’s degree long-distance through Grand Canyon University. She gets her lessons on video and gets down to work at night after her husband, Loren, a Gardnerville Town Board member, and two daughters, Isabella, 6, and Fallon, 5, are tucked in for the night. She plans to have her degree by Christmas.

She will continue as the trainer of the regional training center until at least July 2001, then the Legislature will determine how well the standards have been implemented and if her position will continue.