Siegel: What does an academic coach do?


Most everyone knows what an athletic coach does, yet many are ignorant about the duties of an academic coach.

By next school year, all Maricopa Unified School District schools will have an academic coach on staff. To learn more about the role, I talked with Christine Skubisz, the academic coach at Butterfield Elementary School.

Skubisz, a Philadelphia native, is a graduate of Old Dominion University and has a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University. She has 22 years of classroom teaching experience. In her first year at Butterfield, she has become a valued asset in the school.

Skubisz sees her primary objective as increasing student academic growth by offering support to both teachers and students. She observes teachers to offer feedback on improving instruction. She is not an administrator, so teachers see her as a peer rather than an evaluator, which allows her to work closely with faculty members. Based on classroom observations, she makes recommendations about planning instruction as well as curriculum development.

Skubisz has access to student data, which provides insight to be utilized as she helps in working with small groups of students. She analyzes test questions to better prepare students for mandated testing and to train teachers how best to provide their students with the tools needed for testing success. This training allows teachers to use testing data to determine areas students need assistance and how to provide that support. Academic coaches can even lead English-language learner (ELL) instruction.

During this school year, Skubisz worked with new teachers at Butterfield, aiding them as they adjusted to classroom dynamics. Significant improvement has been observed in the performance of these new faculty.

Skubisz believes it is vital to her success students and teachers trust her and feel free speaking with her in confidence. She feels truly fulfilled in her role as academic coach, and if all MUSD academic coaches have her energy and focus, we should see meaningful increases in student learning.

The district’s efforts to hire qualified academic coaches is another bit of evidence demonstrating MUSD’s commitment to enhancing student growth and development.

Murray Siegel has more than 44 years of teaching experience and volunteers at Butterfield Elementary School.

This column was first published in the May edition of InMaricopa magazine.