Michele Whaley – How Anchorage Got Going

People have asked me how our Anchorage TPRS group got going. They’d like to have something similar in their communities. Susie thought I should present a “how to” at a TPRS conference, but I knew it would only take about six minutes to explain. Here goes:
Ben’s books gave me the concept of today’s TPRS in May 2008. He laid it out so beautifully that I just couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I tried out his plans in Russia in June, and gained a fellow TPRS-er there. Three months later, I stumbled into a TPRS workshop where Corinne Bourne had invited Kristy Placido to Redding, and wanted immediately to have the community I found in her school.
I wrote to every teacher in our district and said that I would enjoy gathering with like-minded people. It turned out that another Russian teacher had also been studying TPRS. He had been to a Von Ray workshop. What a shock! We’d never worked together, but the two of us started to share what we knew.
Our group started with five. I wrote to ask Ben whether he would meet with us on Skype. By then we had perhaps eight very dubious teachers. We had a great online meeting with him, talking mainly about PQA and TPRS philosophy. Ben gave us our first taste of the generosity and total support that TPRS teachers offer one another.
We kept meeting once a month on First Fridays. I made sure there was always food, and we usually had an expert from “outside” on our computer. The group grew to fifteen by the end of the year. People were observing one another and getting very excited, and some suggested we make these meetings a credit class.
Three of us went to NTPRS last summer, and man! Did we ever feel both like rank beginners and like people who had found the Holy Grail. We did not sleep all week. When we came back, we presented to our in-service group at the beginning of the year. Some teachers from out of district came to listen, and they joined our group.
Twenty people signed up for our three-credit class this year. Up to ten others came every time. We met from August through April, and now we have experts in literacy, in songs, in grade-based assessment and writing. We’re about to start a second year of credit classes, and Susie and Kristy are coming up in October to our AFLA conference. 
This week Katya is here teaching a Russian class. Yesterday she presented a TPRS lesson to 300 teachers from all over Alaska. I think we just might grow again. 
Best information anyone ever gave me about meetings: have food.



2 thoughts on “Michele Whaley – How Anchorage Got Going”

  1. How wonderful. What a special gift to have such a large group of colleagues close enough and excited enough to meet First Fridays. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am so excited to have someone else within a day’s drive to collaborate with! Michele and I used to do music and dance together, waay back even before children, and it is a wonderful thing to have this strong connection together. Having teachers from Anchorage allow me into their classrooms is an incredibly generous gift. Thanks to you all.

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