Julie Dietrich, Curriculum Consultant, Provides Encouragement for Lutheran Educators

Julie Dietrich is serving as the curriculum consultant for the Indiana District, covering the Southern, Central and Northwest regions. She has 28 years of teaching experience, mostly in 2nd grade, and has spent the last 18 years at St. Peter’s Lutheran in Columbus, Indiana.

One of her responsibilities is helping educators build curriculum maps, a process for collecting and recording a teacher’s curriculum by identifying core skills, content, assessments and any other learning activity used for a subject area or grade level.

Because the tool is a living map created online, it can be viewed by other teachers in the same grade level or content area, allowing for the professional learning community to interact and share ideas.

“Curriculum is sometimes misdefined,” Julie says. “Curriculum used to be thought of as a stack of textbooks. Now it can be visualized more like a Ferris wheel where your curriculum is the center hub of the wheel with the cars representing the varied curriculum components. The textbook can still be one of the cars on the wheel, but other critical curriculum components get a car as well—assessments, state standards, faith connections, resources, instructional strategies, etc. Everything you do is curriculum.”

“Teachers can use their curriculum maps as conversation tools with teachers above and below their grade level,” Julie explains. “Gaps and redundancies can be identified through a variety of reports. Having curriculum maps to engage and lead necessary vertical conversations among teachers is a huge asset. So it’s not just about building the map itself, it’s also the continual conversations those maps will initiate among teachers for healthy reflection of their curriculum and instruction.”

Tracie Douglas, early childhood teacher at Our Shepherd (Avon), says the impact she sees at her school is positive. “This initiative highlights the importance of high quality early childhood education and will help all early childhood educators in the Indiana District by providing not only valuable resources and information, but also community.”

Julie’s work also includes working with a team of teachers from around the district to begin creating another kind of map: a consensus map for grade levels and content areas that creates consistency across all the Lutheran schools. Consensus maps ask critical questions of educators: “What do we want all our Lutheran schools to teach for 3rd grade? How can consensus maps be a tool to intentionally connect our Lutheran faith into everything we teach? Consensus maps get all the schools on the same page,” Julie explains.

She is also encouraging community through conversation days, when teachers come together across the District to share curriculum ideas. The idea has now expanded to having a conversation day for principals, which is planned for November 29.

“Our teachers can sometimes feel isolated from support or resources that larger schools enjoy, but Julie works to connect schools throughout the District through conversation, encouragement, empowerment and collaboration,” says Sandy Price, principal at Trinity Lutheran in Elkhart.

Larry Brummet, 5th grade teacher at Trinity, felt encouraged by his time collaborating with other teachers. “I left empowered, finding the time worthwhile, especially since I gained ideas from others in my grade level. I was encouraged by positive feedback from my peers about things I was doing in my classroom. I’m thankful to now have a network to collaborate and share ideas moving forward.”

Julie has also created Facebook pages for grade levels to continue the conversation after their meeting is over. Principal Sandy Price adds, “Julie is gifted not only as a curriculum coordinator, she is providing a valuable ministry to everyone that has the privilege of working with her through the attention and acceptance she gives each individual, and the encouragement to see things in a new light, to try a new path and embrace the power of ‘yet.’”

For questions about upcoming conversation days for teachers or principals, contact Julie Dietrich at julie.dietrich@in.lcms.org.