Instructional Coaching


Instructional coaching focuses on what it means to improve as a teacher.

In District 401, instructional coaches — also known as instructional specialists — work with teachers in a partnership model to have a profound impact on student learning. Our coaches achieve through embedded support and professional development.

The mission of our coaches is to provide teachers opportunities for personal growth, collaboration and reflection, while supporting the implementation of exemplary teaching practices that foster student growth and promote a positive school culture.


Coaching in District 401


Our current District-level instructional coaches are:

► Ms. Dominique Byrnes | Languages
Ms. Byrnes is the District language coach, a newly created position that began with the 2020-21 school year. Prior to that, she was a 5th- and 6th-grade homeroom teacher for 10 years and an EL resource teacher for five years, all at John Mills Elementary. She also has taught dual-credit high school students and adult learners at Triton College. As District language coach, Ms. Byrnes provides the leadership, professional development and data-driven support needed to increase achievement for English Learner students districtwide.

Ms. Jamie Kanas | English Language Arts & Social Studies
Ms. Kanas has been the District instructional specialist for ELA and social studies since the start of the 2018-19 school year. Prior to that, she taught 4th grade at Elmwood Elementary for 11 years. In her coaching role, Ms. Kanas has assisted K-8 teachers with the successful implementation of such new curricula as ReadyGEN for K-5 English and MyPerspectives for 6-8 English. She has done that by providing differentiated learning that results in the refinement of teacher practices and improvements in student learning outcomes.

► Ms. Vanessa Woof | Mathematics & Science
Ms. Woof is in her first year as the District instructional specialist for mathematics and science. She comes to her new position from John Mills Elementary School, where she taught 1st and 3rd grade. She has also been an EL resource teacher. As instructional coach, Ms. Woof provides support to teachers in their use of such curricula as STEMscopes for K-8 science, GO Math! for K-5 math and Connected Mathematics 3 (CMP3) for 6-8 math. She succeeds Ms. Morgan Freeck, who is now assistant principal at Elm Middle School.

Together, our District-level coaches maintain The Coaching Corner website, which serves as an online repository for PD lessons and instructional support, and they continue to add to the District's Instructional Playbook and Coaching Handbook.

Our current school-level instructional specialists are:

► Ms. Mary Therese Anichini | Mathematics | Elmwood Elementary
► Ms. Megan Johnson | Mathematics | John Mills Elementary

These are newly created positions. As elementary math specialists, Ms. Anichini and Ms. Johnson provide K-5 faculty and staff at their respective schools with the instructional support needed to effectively teach math to all students, and to research and implement interventions that meet the needs of all math learners.


What Is an Instructional Specialist?


The job of our instructional specialists is to provide support for teachers in the implementation of effective practices to ensure the high academic achievement of all students.

The specialist positions are designed to increase individual and collective teacher capacity to provide leadership for change.

Our specialists strive to develop a community of professional learners who are reflective decision makers, who can identify, grow and develop new strengths to create a superior instructional program in our schools. This is done by developing mutually productive and trusting relationships.

Instructional specialists partner with teachers to help them improve teaching and learning so their students become more successful. They do this by:

  • Helping the teacher analyze current reality
  • Assisting the teacher in setting goals
  • Identifying and explaining teaching strategies to hit goals
  • Providing support until the goals are met

The ultimate goal of our specialists is to improve instructional expertise by working directly with teachers — but with the focus always on what is best for students and their learning.


"Parkside Chat" Podcast on Instructional Coaching


To learn more about instructional coaching in D401, listen to our "Parkside Chat" podcast on that topic, Episode 4: "Instructional Specialists," released on Nov. 5, 2018.

Click below to listen. For a direct link to this episode on anchor.fm, please click here.