Relationships: The Power of Learning Together as New Coaches with Nadia Lee Ellis & Jana Poukka


In this episode Kim is chatting with two of our amazing participants in the second cohort of our The Coach microcredential: Jana Poukka and Nadia Ellis. Jana is currently a Technology Coach in Germany, and Nadia is a grade 3 classroom teacher and team leader in Vietnam.

Bonus: Watch the video of this episode on YouTube!

Featured Guests

Nadia Lee Ellis (Welchel)

Nadia Ellis (Whelchel) on twitter

Jana Poukka

Jana Poukka on twitter

Show Notes

Jana and Nadia are both new to coaching and describe their professional growth process for learning about how to be an outstanding learning coach. For those of you new to coaching, this conversation highlights the many different elements which are critical for the success of developing your coaching skills. And you’ll get an inside look at our The Coach microcredential to see if it’s right for you!

About Your Role & Professional Growth …

What’s your role in your school? What does it look like? What does it mean to you?

Jana: moved from Tokyo to Germany, shifted from classroom teacher to IT teacher, current school has a computer lab, which has prompted her to reflect on the value of this kind of space. Ultimate goal is to put technology in the hands of teachers and learners and have in the classroom in an authentic way. Transitioning from a classroom teacher to a coach. Started pushing the boundaries last school year by bringing technology into the classroom. Has now removed desktops from the lab and has a totally free schedule so she can be booked, attending weekly planning meetings with every grade level.

Nadia is a grade 3 teacher and team leader. Coaches a team of 5 homeroom teachers, 2 EAL teachers and 1 Vietnamese Teaching Assistant. Purpose of her role, transitioning the team into a backwards design approach and translanguaging and has shifted towards implementing the PYP. As a peer, planning response to learning.

How do you learn as new coaches? What do you use for professional growth? How did you learn about coaching before this program? What resources and opportunities did you use and take advantage of?

Nadia: Books: The Art of Coaching Teams by Elena Aguilar, before she found Eduro. Coaches struggle with receiving the support of professional development as a new coach or leader. Googled “How to Coach a Team” and the book came up.

Jana: Came into the role of filling the shoes of being an IT teacher. My progression towards the role of the coach stems from strategic planning that she started last year. Reason she started stepping into the role of the coach was because of the support she got from leadership. Would have appreciated more guidance in the role. Leaned on her PLN from COETAIL and learned more and more about what her role should be. When the Coach opened, she knew it was the right fit.

What has been challenging for you in your roles?

Jana: struggling with getting common vision of what the new modern approach to learning looks like and how it fits into the school. Works on building strong relationships to build trust

Nadia: Thought it would be creating a culture of buy in. Biggest struggle is time. My priority is my learners and they are not just my students, but they are also my teammates. Navigating the hierarchical structure of the school culture.

What are your areas for growth? How do you identify what is an area for growth for you?

Nadia: Area for growth: listening. Really needs to focus on listening to understand not just to respond.

Jana: Area for growth: questioning. Also connects to relationships. Help learners get their ideas out there by using questioning instead of sharing ideas. But sometimes questioning can come across as if she’s questioning their practice. Second area: Balance.


About the Coach MC …

How has this program supported you in your learning?

Jana:  As you go through these middle leadership positions, you tend to have less and less colleagues at your same level that you can reach out to. At my school, I didn’t have a colleague to reach out to as a sounding board. Joining the coach provided not only rich learning through the course content, including the reading, resources and reflection activities, but I also have this partnership with Kim and Nadia provides a collaborative supportive environment. I feel like I have colleagues outside of the walls of my school, which is so helpful. That has been my saving grace through the transition of moving from a teacher to a coach. Without the coach, I would not have been able to develop in this way. I love it!

Nadia: This program has curated the resources and provided me the framework and structure in place for me to reflect. In general the type of people that are attracted to this sort of work, coaching, already have intrinsic motivation. It’s not about ticking the compliance box or having a class to respond to, but having the structure laid out for me that I don’t have to think through and create has been one of the top pieces for me. The most influential piece for me The mentorship piece piece between Kim and I and the collaborative piece with Jana is the connection piece that I was missing. Having someone outside of your environment who doesn’t bring the bias of the school culture, to have a raw sounding board to bounce ideas off of, you can’t put a price on it..

What’s the biggest value of the program for you so far?

Jana: The biggest value is the relationships. Structure of the different modules and flow of how they go together. They hit all of the different subjects that you would need to be a well-balanced coach. From developing a PLNs to figuring out what is coaching, also instructional practices for today, parent communication, and working with leadership. They’re really well balanced. All of it is different facets that come together so perfectly.

What made you look for this program? What made you look outside the normal resources to level up your coaching skills? Why/How did you choose The Coach?

Jana: I really liked the idea of the mentorship, and working with Kim. I got to work with Kim in COETAIL at YIS and the best part of learning in my masters degree was COETAIL, hands down. The opportunity that this existed to continue that learning on was the spark. The need to have another colleague with expertise, I was in a role, I knew it needed to change, but I knew I didn’t have the expertise to take it that far, but definitely had the drive. The opportunity to learn about The Coach, to reflect on my practice, has helped me move the program forward.

Nadia: The next level piece for me is: “No significant learning occurs without a relationship“ (Dr. James Comer). The significance piece, the connectedness, is what I was missing and craving. I didn’t know it existed, it just popped up. I didn’t go searching for it, it just popped up. That was the piece for me, I didn’t have the relationship piece. You can’t put a price on purpose and connectedness and relationships.

What’s different in the Coach in comparison to other PD that you’ve received or participated in? 

Nadia: In my experience, PD in general, has been very cookie cutter, one size fits all, it’s always the same for everyone. The Coach is personalized through time, through what you’re putting into it, it’s personalized through avenues (ie: not for credit). It’s all flexible. We’re talking about extending this and expanding personalized mentorship outside of this framework. It truly is personalized. I’ve had a critical awareness about personalized learning in general, especially when you put it with educator development. This is the first personalized learning experience that I have ever experienced. I hope, and I am rallying this cry that more professional organizations will follow this model because it works, and it’s working. This is what we want and what we need. 

Jana: This works better than university classes because it is personalized and we’re building relationships. That is what and why this program is so valuable. Going through it over a period of time and not just one weekend or one hour, but having it go through a period so you can see growth together. Reading and reflecting as we go along, which brings us further and further. It’s very well structured and also free for us to learn what we need to learn for ourselves. (until 38:34)

What would you say to someone who is considering The Coach?

Both: Do it!

Nadia: Prove me wrong that this is not for you!


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