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March 4, 2021

Thristene Francisco: High Academic Expectations From Student Voice

Sarah's Summer Road Trip

This interview with Thristene Francisco is part of Sarah’s Summer Road Trip: Uncovering the Secrets of Great Teaching. Engage with the Zaption tour of Thristene’s classroom and ride along on the road trip!

“I’m really about students. I have high expectations. I want them to think.”

Five minutes into talking with Thristine Francisco and it’s clear: she not only cares about her students, but she’s passionate about teaching them to think, helping them to exceed even their own expectations. This eight-year veteran found her way to the classroom after a series of mission trips to Haiti and tutoring students from urban schools. Her accumulated experiences in social justice permeates the way she talks about teaching and her students: “I believe kids can. They have more to say than they think and I don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘I don’t know.'”

When you watch her students in discussion, you can see this is true. Not waiting a single day to start teaching, Ms. Francisco begins questioning protocols with students the first week of school so they understand the importance of their voices, the necessity of their minds is the foundation of their class. Listening to her talk about teaching students to ask questions is almost like listening to a chef describe her favorite dish: it’s all art and science and a lot of love. Yet, beyond the questioning skills she focuses on, what’s she’s really creating is a student-centered environment which helps engage students while pushing them to think.

The students have exceptional models for this kind of learning. The teachers at Orange Grove Middle Magnet School in Tampa, Florida, concentrate on integrating arts and academics so that students have deeper experiences with the content they’re learning.

“We see every teacher as a teacher leader here,” notes Ms. Francisco. This means that teachers are action-researchers, it means that administrators are creating supportive environments for their teachers, and it means that students are watching the adults in their school practice the very skills they’re being asked to master.

As you watch and interact with the video of Ms. Francisco and her students at work, I know you’ll see the impact of her two great strengths: relentless pursuit of a clear purpose for student learning, and the way she trusts her process enough to turn it over to her students as she quietly watches and listens to learning unfold.


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