Coaching Beyond the Classroom

April 16, 2024

When you see the names Vince Lombardi, Bear Bryant, Tom Landry, Phil Jackson and Jesus you may think, “Oh, these are some of the greatest coaches in American sports, but wait, how does Jesus fit into the conversation?” You may not have thought about Jesus as a coach before, but let that sink in. 

The Office of Education at the Southwestern Union has implemented an instructional coaching model as an additional service of the department. Utilizing Coach Jesus as the model, and “The Impact Cycle,” framework for instructional coaching by Jim Knight, a program was designed to offer educators in the Southwestern Union a relational, growth-oriented, non-evaluative safe space to enhance their professional practice. Instructional coaching is not a traditional role in the Adventist educational arena, but under the visionary leadership of Southwestern Union President Carlos Craig, Southwestern Union Vice President for Education Carol Campbell and the five conference superintendents in our union, a position was created to provide an additional layer of support for our educators. 

What is an instructional coach, and what do they do? An instructional coach is a content expert who is well-versed in teaching and learning. They facilitate the needs of teachers by providing resources, training, mentoring and a non-judgmental listening ear to assist with the navigation of day-to-day instructional experiences. Mainstream services are inclusive of, but not limited to, alignment with the Adventist worldview with continuous school improvement methodologies, onboarding of new initiatives (such as standards-based learning and grading), technology integration, differentiated instructional strategies, co-teaching and decoding and utilizing data sources to provide relevant educational experiences for our students. 

The most important component of the instructional coaching role is interpersonal support. It can be compared to the Moses, Aaron and Hur story of Exodus 17:12-13. Instructional coaches are akin to Aaron and Hur, who held up the arms of Moses when he became weary during battle. Instructional coaches hold up the arms of our educators as they minister to the academic and salvific needs of our students. 

The most exciting part of being an instructional coach, in my opinion, is building relationships and helping teachers develop self-efficacy and agency. I joined the Office of Education team in 2022 and my focus has been to implement and oversee the development of instructional coaching in our territory. Prior to my appointment, I dedicated the last 20 years to serving in Adventist educational institutions across five conferences. I’m humbled and excited to see the evolution of instructional coaching in the Southwestern Union. 

Coaching is a ministry tool that was modeled by Jesus and has now been implemented in the Southwestern Union for the enhancement of our educators and learning communities. We are excited to serve the nearly 400 educators who minister to over 4,000 students in our 56 schools across Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.

By Renee Whiting, M.S.
Southwestern Union Associate Director of Education