Students in kindergarten classes at Hillman Elementary School are leading the district in growth on the Measures of Academic Progress or MAP assessment. That's a notable achievement for Hillman students and staff.
The teachers' two kindergarten classrooms are right next to each other. And what's more, the teachers -- Jaime Doubek and Jeffrey Doubek – are also married.
Their combined math growth from fall to spring on MAP was 90 percent of students meeting or exceeding projections. Their combined reading growth was 87 percent of students meeting or exceeding projections.
They take different routes to the same stellar results. Talk to them just a few minutes and you get a sense of their different teaching styles. While Mrs. Doubek's class is very structured, it is also a very social place. "We're probably louder than his class," she said. Mr. Doubek is technology-driven; he studied and worked in engineering before he switched to education. He not only leads the First Lego League Jr. robotics club at Hillman but organizes the districtwide chess competitions.
A major factor in their results, they both say, is getting parents involved. They use the platform Seesaw, which allows students to share digital portfolios with parents. That has led to parent buy-in and parents repeating learning activities at home with their kids. Parents also have a strong understanding of growth mindset, which emphasizes that intelligence is developed, not innate, and that mistakes help us learn.
The Doubeks met as kindergarten teachers during the 2013-14 school year at Hillman. Their relationship began as a friendship. Mrs. Doubek, who had been a paraprofessional at Hillman for seven years before getting her teaching degree, looked to her colleague for advice. "He was just helping me figure out how to be a teacher, because he did have some experience," she said.
Five years later, the support is two-way. Mr. Doubek said he appreciates the latitude their marriage gives them to have deeper conversations about teaching that are not rushed. "We don't talk about school non-stop," he said, although they both said their children might disagree. Zoey, 13, is a seventh grader at Thurgood Marshall School; Zada, 14, is an eighth grader at Eisenhower Middle School.
"You'll find us at coffee shops almost every Sunday, either just the two of us working on our lesson plans for the week, or talking about how we are going to make the week happen," Mrs. Doubek said.
Neither has observed the other's class, but they can hear. "She sings a lot. And I," he said with a pause and a laugh, "don't." Mrs. Doubek has heard her husband play the ukulele and drums in the classroom.
"We entertain. All day long," she said. "We try to keep the kids laughing and happy and trying to make things fun. We're trying to make learning as fun as we can."
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Rockford Public Schools will celebrate the eighth annual Champions Ball and Athletic Hall of Fame at 5 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center.
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