< Back

Exchanging Ideas, Offering Support in Online Teacher Cohorts


Shana Martin felt alone and without guidance when she first started teaching Advanced Placement® Chemistry. Thanks to NMSI’s online teacher cohorts, she now has a community of educators offering support.
Each month, NMSI coaches and AP® Chemistry teachers from across Martin’s school district meet in an online forum to discuss lessons, resources, struggles and successes in the classroom.
“I enjoy that we all have our own ideas of how to do things in the classroom,” says Martin, who teaches at Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts in Clayton County Public Schools, Georgia. “Listening to others, we’ll say, ‘Wow I like that activity. Can you send that to me? I never thought about doing that with my students.’”
Martin also appreciates that the NMSI coaches are currently teaching in the classroom, so they understand the difficulties teachers are facing. “They can tell us what works because they are working with kids as well,” she says.
Whenever questions arise between the meetups, the coaches, who are expert teachers, are readily available via email and phone.
“They [coaches] go above and beyond,” says Chanikki Brown-Reeves, an AP Environmental Science teacher at Mundy’s Mill High School in Clayton County. “They check up on us. They text us and make sure we’re OK and respond in a timely fashion.” 
Before teaching a lesson, online cohorts discuss the best approach and resources to utilize. After the lesson is complete, they give each other feedback on what worked and didn’t work to continue improving on the content going forward.
Brown-Reeves sees the regular check-ins as a way to make sure her class stays on track. “I don’t want to go into the webinar and say I’m behind and need to catch up,” she says. “It makes me more accountable than I’ve ever felt before.”
When the AP environmental science standards changed – increasing the number of units to cover from five to nine – Brown-Reeves says the online group gave each other guidance on how to manage teaching these topics in a fast yet effective manner.
“If I didn’t have that support, I’d probably be lost right now,” she says.
Martin met with a NMSI coach before the school year started to go over an outline for the year and determine how long to spend on each topic. Throughout the school year, the online group discusses where everyone is in a content area and what they needed to do to finish it in time.
When stuck on what hands-on classroom activity to do, Brown-Reeves is thankful to have access to the online AP lounge available through the cohort. One she recently used demonstrates how long different types of species care for their young. Students guide a bubble toward a hoop to show the lifespan it takes to reach maturity.  
Along with a wealth of resources, Martin says the online group also goes beyond basic techniques. “Some people will give you a book and say, ‘Go learn it,’” she says. “They [NMSI coaches] are not just showing what they did but also modeling how they did it so you can see it in action.”  
Before joining the online cohort, Martin knew the answer to chemistry questions but couldn’t always clearly explain to students why it was the answer. Through the regular online check-ins, she says it’s given her “confidence in myself and the content. Before, I had the ‘this is just what it is.’ Now, I have the why and the how, and that makes a difference to the kids.”
Brown-Reeves says NMSI coaches are “emphasizing and demonstrating that I am important. They want to help me. They are helping me grow.”
Want to learn more about NMSI’s online teacher cohorts? Contact us.