The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
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    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Co-Teaching 2008.12.10

Written by David Green.


Morenci social studies teacher Jesse Bach presents a concept to his world history class via the overhead projector and calls on some students for response.

Bach is at the front of the classroom talking, but then a woman’s voice chimes in from the back of the

Another teacher, Deb Hojnacki, is also in the room and she has something to add to the lesson, she offers another way to look at the topic.

Two teachers to a classroom?

This is known as co-teaching and it’s a concept that’s growing rapidly in many districts across the nation.

Morenci teachers see benefits from the practice, but they also see some challenges—challenges that will increase over the next couple of years.

In Michigan, the concept has developed in response to changes in the Michigan Merit Curriculum. Hojnacki, a special education teacher, didn’t come alone into Bach’s history class. Her special needs students accompanied her.

“In the past, students came out of the regular classroom and took classes in the resource room,” she said. “Now, the Michigan Merit Curriculum requires they take classes in the regular room or it might jeopardize their diploma.”

The state goal, she said, is to have 80 percent of special needs students in the regular classroom 80 percent of the time.

Although it’s a complete turn-around from special education practices over recent decades, Hojnacki is adjusting and she often reminds herself of her role.

“It’s a service that I’m providing, not a place,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be in a special room.”

Bach is pleased to have her in the classroom.

“I really like it because it gives me another person in the room,” he said. “It cuts the student/teacher ratio in half. It’s a benefit to all students, not just those with special needs.

“We bounce ideas off each other. We develop new ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.”

Sometimes it’s obvious to Hojnacki that the kids just aren’t comprehending a lesson and she might be able to present the concept in a different way, via a different teaching style. She’s had some students thank her for that extra help.

Hojnacki said she had some concerns about how the regular class students would respond to her—a special ed teacher—but it’s gone well.

She might provide some extra help, but the classroom hierarchy remains clear.

“Jesse Bach is the social studies expert,” she said. “I’m the one who studied how people learn.”

It’s the same thing when she spends some time each week in Kerry Nieman’s science class. Hojnacki knows she’s not a science specialist and she’s spending extra time in her evenings brushing up on material she hasn’t visited in several years.

In a big science class with 31 students, Nieman can take half the class for a lab session while Hojnacki takes the others and reviews material for a test.

The two teachers tried out some co-teaching last year and have learned how to make it more efficient and beneficial.

“I have strengths and my co-teacher  has other strengths. Together we are able to express both in the classroom and all our students benefit,” Nieman said.

There are always challenges to reach all students’ needs, she said, but that’s nothing new. That’s what teachers face every day.

Meeting the challenge

The high school’s other special education teacher, Caryn Shaner, is ready for the challenge.

“Deb and I approach co-teaching like we approach just about everything else: we do what we have to do to be successful,” Shaner said. “One must adjust, adapt, re-adjust, and re-adapt. We constantly work at improving things. Besides, we really don’t have a choice.”

She’s not complaining about the lack of choice because of the changes she sees from the Michigan Merit Curriculum (MMC). Personal accountability and responsibility are growing among students.

“There is much more effort expended by students on a daily basis–it’s as if working harder is becoming more and more the norm,” Shaner said.

Data shows that students will score higher on standardized tests if they’re part of the regular room, Hojnacki said.

From Shaner’s experience in co-teaching, most students are able to understand the bulk of the concepts.

“What seems to hold a lot of them back, however, is a lack of the basics and a lack of ability to persevere,” she said.

First-year teacher Brandi Boswell is very appreciative of Shaner’s help when she visits her room.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s definitely benefitting all the kids. I truly believe that all the kids can learn.”

At the middle school, Andi Rorick left her resource room last trimester to help in Dan Hoffman’s science class. She describes that a as a positive co-teaching experience, and her current work in a Lisa Runion’s English class is also going well.

She believes co-teaching will work well in most subjects, although she’s concerned about mathematics where she sees a large gap between the skill levels of some students.

She also has some concerns about the future.

Challenges ahead

Next year’s scheduling could place Rorick in two classes at the same time, so she’ll be able to spend less time—and offer less help—in each one.

That apprehension is also shared by the high school staff.

Last year’s co-teaching effort involved only freshmen with special needs. This year it’s freshmen and sophomores. Two years down the road all four levels will be involved.

“This is where the problem is going to come,” Hojnacki said.

In the future, her role might focus more and more on study skills and less on teaching core academic classwork.

Adjust and adapt, Shaner says. Rule No. 1 in special education: One must be flexible.

The next couple of years might be tricky, she said, but each year the MMC is in place should make the process a little easier.

“Students will come to the high school more prepared to be good students: paying attention, taking notes, making homework completion a priority,” she said. “The MMC is not just being taught in the high school, it’s district-wide and there must be a commitment from all grades, K-12, if students are to succeed.”

 In addition, she said that if parents are informed and prepared for the challenges of the MMC early on, there’s a much better chance of their students experiencing success and earning a diploma.

Fifty years ago, there was no such place as a special education room. That approach developed later, and now it seems to be disappearing. Rorick wonders if eventually the pendulum will swing back the other way—as it often does in education.

“I don’t believe it will,” Shaner said. “There are too many good things coming from this. I do think co-teaching is here to stay.”

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