Nicole Manning

West Springfield Middle School
West Springfield, Massachusetts

Best Practices

1) 21st Century Learning: One best practice that has worked well at West Springfield Middle School (WSMS)  has been the development of courses that specifically promote project-based learning to further develop and foster a variety of 21st century skills. The student-centered approach in our courses, specifically the Computer Make-It and Library Passion Project classes, engages students in real-world problems and challenges. In those specifically designed courses, students consistently work collaboratively with peers to research, design, and oftentimes implement solutions to a variety of problems that are either assigned by the classroom teacher or chosen based on student interest. While the Computer Make-It and Library Passion Projects classes are not the only classes in the building that address those skills, both of these courses were designed to intentionally provide consistent opportunities for students to think critically, communicate effectively, collaborate with peers, all while tapping into their personal creative abilities.

In the Library Passion Projects course, students are encouraged to work collaboratively to research a topic of their choice that they are passionate about. Throughout the term, students participate in a variety of lessons that support their skills around effective communication and collaboration with peers. As the term continues, the collaboration and course really takes off on its own, and students begin to develop their capstone projects around their own particular interests.

While students are in the Computer Make-It lab, the main focus is around iteration and the engineering and design process. Students are often presented with a challenge, and must work collaboratively towards a solution. Once a solution has been developed, students must then test and retest the solution, continuing to make adaptations and adjustments to their design. This course and engineering and design process allows students to see the significance of the redesign process and continue to investigate solutions.

2) Assistant Principal’s Role as Instructional Leader: The role of the assistant principal as an instructional leader can have a profound impact on a school’s success. In particular, my specific role has contributed to a positive learning environment for students at WSMS. This has been done through promoting high-quality instruction, professional growth among teachers, and a focus on student success, all which are identified below:

  • Continued curriculum development and alignment to ensure teachers are using high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) and that students are benefiting from the resources. This year, I am working in collaboration with both the Math and ELA departments to select HQIM and overhaul curricular resources in an effort to enhance the quality of instruction at the classroom level. During the 2024-2025 school year, the school will begin the same process for science and social studies.
  • Specialized professional development (PD) that fits the various needs of the staff at WSMS. This is done through the organization and facilitation of PD throughout the year, with a focus on staying up-to-date with the latest teaching methodologies, technology, and pedagogical trends, allowing for an improvement in instructional skills. This often includes advocating for our middle school staff at the district level, to ensure they are receiving the highest quality PD that is being offered.
  • Fostering an environment that encourages collaboration among teachers, where educators are encouraged to share best practices and engage in peer observations. This collaboration has also led to an increase in my engagement as an instructional coach, where I work closely with teachers to provide constructive feedback which supports their professional growth. During the school day, I walk through classes as much as possible, oftentimes making it to each class anywhere from 2-4 times a day. My increased presence has also allowed me to have clear and open lines of communication with staff, giving me the opportunity to continuously provide feedback in a productive manner.
  • Using data-driven decision-making by collaborating with teachers to analyze student performance data and work toward identifying areas where instructional support can be tailored to meet the individual needs of the students. Throughout the year, I work in collaboration with department chairs and grade level teams to analyze a variety of data points (formative, iReady, MCAS, etc.) to help identify trends and develop ways to increase student achievement and engagement.
  • Continued parent engagement to involve parents in their child’s educational process. By creating open lines of communication, I am able to support families and ask for their support, which leads to increased student motivation, attendance, and success.