The Newnan Times-Herald


Q&A with Rachel Spates

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Nov. 27, 2017 - 1:07 PM

(Executive Director, West Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency)

Q. What led you to work for RESA? 

A. I worked as a special-education teacher and then an inclusion facilitator for 10 years. I moved directly to a central office position after being a facilitator and primarily worked with parents in that role. 

Since I began my career in a Metro system, I was not very familiar with what RESAs did in their efforts to support teachers. When I was working in Coweta and learned that there was a position open at West Georgia RESA, I did some research and learned that the 16 RESAs across the state all work in different capacities to support teachers and leaders. 

That sounded like a dream job to me. My heart will always be the heart of a teacher, and it is my passion to support teachers in their work.

Q. What are your goals for the schools and programs you serve through West Georgia RESA? 

A. My goal is always to serve our systems in the most efficient and effective ways possible. That often means staying a couple of steps ahead of what is coming down from the state and federal level so that we can be prepared to support our systems. It means looking at the data, drilling down into the state, regional and local trends, and creating resources that our systems need. I hope that the folks who work in the seven systems we support know they can always count on us to get information or technical support. 

We have helped teachers laminate posters for their classroom. We have trained teachers to be culturally responsive. We have supported systems in completing their Comprehensive Needs Assessment. We have presented on innovative ways to address early literacy. We have worked with the Department of Education to make quality resources more accessible for teachers, and we have assisted principals and superintendents in the hiring process. And that was just this week! 

Q. What’s unique about West Georgia RESA?

A. I think the most unique thing about West Georgia RESA is our highly credible team. The coaches and consultants on our team are teachers and leaders themselves, people who understand all of the things that need to happen concurrently for a teacher to be successful in his or her classroom and for a leader to be successful in his or her school. 

Because of that high level of credibility, our team is able to build and maintain high quality relationships with our schools and systems. Those relationships are really the secret to our success. 

Q. What is the most fulfilling aspect of working in the education profession?

A. The best part of my job is finding innovative solutions to problems. One example is our recent move to video coaching in many of our programs. We have learned through years of action research that professional learning is most effective when paired with coaching and feedback. Our capacity to do much face-to-face coaching with less than 10 full-time staff members was an obstacle to providing valuable feedback. By adding video coaching to our toolbox, we can impact more teachers and therefore impact more students.

Another example of our innovation is our conference series that we offer every year in an effort to bring the latest trends and tools to our teachers. The conferences include topics on technology, STEM, mathematics, English-language arts, and evidenced-based academic and behavioral interventions. Last year we served over 1,000 teachers through our conference series.