District Adds New Learning Coach Positions


Pictured above is Ingrid Youngblood as she chats with a student over a Google Meet. Youngblood is one of the newly appointed learning coaches for students doing online school. Specifically, her position is to assist 9th and 10th grade students.

Cassidy Gillis, Editor-in-Chief

Before students went back to school this fall, they were given the option to either return to in-person learning or to attend school online. In order for the district to still provide assistance to the students that chose online, they hired learning coaches. 

Within Salida High School there are two learning coach positions, one for the 9th and 10th graders and another for the 11th and 12th graders. In those two positions, former SHS Spanish teacher Ingrid Youngblood and former SHS librarian and English teacher Kate Clark were hired. The two were originally supposed to be in charge of 7th and 8th graders as well, but a sudden spike in registration within the secondary (7th-12th grade) platform, prompted the district to hire Alison Levy to fill the online learning coach position for the 7th and 8th graders. Overall, there are six total learning coaches throughout the district, as well as one principal, Amy Ward, to oversee the whole operation.

“A learning coach is responsible for knowing the weekly schedule of students and asking students any specific questions about what they’re learning, to make sure they’re grasping the big concepts,” said Youngblood. “It’s a lot of coordinating kids and coaching them to be successful learners.”

Clark added, “We are a combination between a counselor and an advisor in our coaching role. We help with life skills and how to connect with the people who can help you get something done.”

Another instrumental part of their job is making sure that students stay connected and don’t feel isolated when being completely online all the time. 

“Humans need human contact,” said Clark. “I make sure that people have a human that they can talk to instead of just look at a computer all day.”

Although when they first started their new position, there was a rough idea but nothing set in stone as to what these new learning coaches might expect when exploring their new position.

“As a learning coach nobody was quite sure what we would be tasked with or what we would be asked to do,” said Clark. 

Youngblood agreed, “It was basically like getting a brand new school up and running off the ground.”

In the first couple of weeks, Youngblood helped students organize their workspace at home, create an organization system for each, and helped them set up their daily schedules, so that they could be ready and prepared to take on their online classes. 

“We really try to give kids the tools and tips they need to be successful learners,” said Youngblood. 

But the first couple of weeks were certainly not without their challenges. Clark explained how when they first started, there were many problems with the online platform the school was using called Colorado Digital Learning Solutions (CDLS), as the program found itself overwhelmed with the huge influx of students at the start of this school year. 

“It’s taken a while,” said Clark. “I think it was only last week (around Sept. 12-14) before all students were able to smoothly get through their courses and understood who they could call for technology help at CDLS.” But overall, Clark said that CDLS has been quite helpful at training the teachers and at working on all the technology issues. 

Although Youngblood loved teaching Spanish at the high school, she was ready professionally to make a shift. Youngblood had been teaching Spanish at the high school for the past nine years.

“It was time for me to do something in a different direction,” she said. 

Youngblood had already been working with the school district technology cohort for the past four years. 

“Technology is a personal and a professional passion of mine; I love to see it used as a tool,”  said Youngblood. “I think as we move forward in our world, we are going to need to look at technology as more of a tool.”

For Clark, she has switched positions and the classes she has taught quite a bit over the years.

“It’s never because I’m tired of what I’m doing,” said Clark. “I loved what I was doing… But I saw a chance to build something new, to build an opportunity or a safe space for people to learn.”

But just like for Youngblood, the change for Clark was very difficult as well. 

“It was heartbreaking,” said Clark. “I really treasure the community at the high school and the middle school. I’ve worked hard to be a strong part of that community and move it forward and be a positive presence there.”

Although she realized the option for online school was important for many families in our community.

“I know there were people in the community that felt very stuck in the decision when it came to sending their kids back to school,” said Clark. She realized that there needed to still be an option for them, which is partly what made her so enthusiastic about the new position. 

“Not everybody can do education the same way and not everybody wants to do education the same way right now,” said Clark. 

Youngblood added, “I’m really grateful to work in a district that recognized that there is a population of students that were not going to be able to attend school this year because of the situation around Covid. I feel really grateful that we’re able to work with those kids and give them a chance to stay in school and to stay connected.”

As far as the future goes, it’s hard to say where the learning coach position will end up. Although the school might have some sort of online learning platform in the future, it’s hard to say if the model we currently have will be something that we still see even a year from now. 

“Our world is shifting so much right now it’s hard to make long term plans on anything,” said Youngblood. “I know that education is potentially moving into a more flexible pattern. We’re in the year 2020, I can’t imagine that we’re not gonna want at least some options for online school in the coming years. 

“I see a lot of growth potential in this job,” said Clark.

“There is no perfect solution right now in our world,” said Youngblood. “We want to go back to normal and we want everything to feel a certain way, but I don’t know if there’s this magic solution that we can have. Maybe someday, but right now we just have to kind of roll with it and be grateful for the options we do have.”