Russell Hill

Russell Hill is superintendent of the East Valley School District. With more than 20 years of education experience, he has served as both teacher and administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

Pandemic Proved Importance of PLCs

At the start of the pandemic, our teachers struggled to know what to teach, how to teach, and most importantly, how to ensure high levels of learning for their students in a remote format, despite having reduced instructional time. However, through the PLC process, staff had the opportunity to work collaboratively to support one another in growing professionally to address these questions.  Specifically, through their collaborative time, they were able to:

  • Identify the essential standards that were most critical for students to master in order to ensure success at the next grade level
  • Determine instructional strategies that were most effective in supporting student learning in a remote format
  • Determine assessment strategies to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate learning, despite being behind a computer screen
  • Identify interventions to successfully meet the needs of our students, despite not having the face-to-face opportunities to quickly address student misconceptions.

These topics were challenging. Typically, teachers have past experience to draw upon to be able to clearly address these questions. However, this year that was not the case.  None of the teachers within each team were experts in how to provide remote instruction, how to reach students who were not engaging while at home, how to support students virtually who did not have family support, or any of the other challenges that our staff were facing for the first time.  

This is where the true power of the PLC process became most evident. We began to see teachers grow professionally through the regular collaborative time they were utilizing. More and more, staff were regularly implementing new and innovative ways to engage students in learning in their remote format.  They stretched themselves out of their comfort zone to utilize various programs and technologies in ways they wouldn’t have otherwise. Teachers became more focused than ever on the essential standards they identified, and ensuring instructional activities and interventions supported all students in reaching mastery in these essential standards. This was a demonstration of the professional growth our staff was exhibiting. As a result of this work, we started to see students exhibit growth and success that we had been fearful we would not see. 

As we transitioned to a hybrid learning format, and now as we prepare to bring students back in a more traditional format, our instructional delivery, assessments, and interventions have continued to evolve throughout the year. The PLC process has continued to provide our staff with the structure necessary to work collaboratively to successfully meet these numerous challenges head on.  Without this structure, this year would have, without a doubt, overwhelmed many of our staff members. 


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