Teachers’ teamwork has taught them a lesson, too
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
Two teachers have discovered a new way of collaborating with one another, and it all begins by sharing a classroom at Alhambra High School, just blocks away from Grand Canyon University.
The joint effort was developed by Dr. Jim Mostofo, a GCU professor who said he wanted to revisit the high school classroom “to stay relevant, up to date and learn new methods of teaching.”
He turned to a former student, Mayra Diaz, who teaches algebra at Alhambra, and offered to team teach.
“I think my major role is to plan and improve my own practice (at Alhambra) so that I have plenty of stories to tell my students (at GCU) and become more familiar with planning and teaching,” Mostofo said. “I’ve learned a lot from the pacing based on the level of these kids.”
Mostofo, who taught algebra in the Tolleson Union High School District for 16 years, said the experience is a nice balance between teaching at GCU and being at Alhambra. Diaz, who attended Fairfax High School, in the same district as Alhambra, and did her teaching practicum at Alhambra, said the local perimeters have positively affected her outlook on teaching.
The 23-year-old was hired full-time one year ago.
“I now have kids in my classroom that I student-taught to, so that’s kind of interesting because they are comfortable and they’re very friendly — I’m not entirely ‘new’ to them,” Diaz said.
The 29 students in her classroom benefit from the co-planning, co-teaching and co-assessing that goes on between the instructors. In addition, this initiative has allowed for Mostofo to improve his own practice and become more familiar with current curriculum and teaching practices. That, in turn, helps him improve his teaching methods in the College of Education’s teacher preparation program.
Diaz admires Mostofo’s teamwork and effectiveness in the classroom. However, she admits that getting used to each other was no easy task.
“Think of it like having your boss coming in to watch you all the time. It is a little nerve-racking because you want to make sure that you are doing everything right — they did, after all, teach you,” Diaz said.
Mostofo and Diaz both said they had to overcome some initial hurdles to mesh their teaching styles, but through communication they have built trust.
“Ms. Diaz is incredible, a star — that’s why I wanted to do this with her,” he said. “I needed her to understand that I wasn’t here to judge her.”
Now, they sometimes sound like a married couple who finish each other’s sentences and pick on one another.
During one lesson, Mostofo uses the phrase, “When in doubt, write it out,” to help students remember how to solve several problems.
“I like rhymes,” he tells the students.
“Surprisingly,” Diaz teases.
Diaz and Mostofo usually do whole class lessons, but sometimes one or the other will lead a smaller group.
“We teach similar, plan similar, we play off of each other and we try to make it fun and engaging,” Mostofo said. “Most of these kids are nice, quiet. Some don’t speak English and some don’t speak Spanish, so we’re working on those social skills, too.”
With two teachers in the classroom, every student in the classroom gets individualized attention, Diaz said.
Often, she added, a student might not connect with her but might feel more comfortable with Mostofo.
(So comfortable that Mostofo laughs when the students call him Godzilla.)
“Mostofo is really good at figuring out the roadblocks that kids are going to hit because he has been teaching math for such a long time,” Diaz said. “Just having someone else in the room who can monitor, walk around the classroom and provide some really great input — that’s really beneficial.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected]