For the first time in four years, the Hillsborough Early Learning Network (HELN) hosted an in-person community of practice (CoP) session on March 4 with an attendance of 41 teachers and both English and Spanish sessions offered.
Participants and leaders recognized the significance of learning communities in improving teacher practice and child outcomes and examined data to create an action plan for growth.
Spanish participants described the session as positive learning experiences where they enjoyed building professional relationships and feeling included in early learning development in their preferred language.
March HELN Spanish CoP participants.
“Ha sido una gran experiencia muy agradable y de mucho aprendizaje.”
– Participante de 2023 CoP en español
“This has been a great experience, enjoyable and filled with learning.”
– 2023 Spanish CoP Participant
The UF Lastinger Center for Learning offers Spanish CoP opportunities that center its Spanish-speaking learners while developing strategies and cultivating professional networks. By facilitating Spanish CoPs like those of HELN, the Lastinger Center ensures that more people have access to these resources and are a part of professional development conversations.
What is a Community of Practice?
A Community of Practice (CoP) is a group of individuals who share a common goal and passion or profession striving to improve practices or outcomes. In education, CoPs come together regularly to share best practices, address problems of practice and reflect and collaborate to develop new knowledge to improve outcomes.
Since its inception in 2018, HELN offers CoPs in Spanish to uplift Hillsborough County’s community of Spanish-speaking educators.
In the first year of HELN’s implementation, Spanish-speaking participants reported the highest mastery rates in their courses with rates reaching higher than 99%. These participants also stated how participating in HELN transformed their educational beliefs and practices, especially noting how Spanish CoPs supported their learning journeys.
Mairelys, a Cuban education professional and early learning leader, participated in some of the first HELN Spanish-led CoPs and said how they taught her “to be more confident, stronger, and to feel that what you are doing is okay.”
Today, these Spanish CoPs continue to provide participants the opportunity to ask questions about HELN coursework and receive direct support from trained CoP facilitators.
Implementation Support Specialists Jennifer Cao, Ana Lantingua Pascual and Ana Valdes help facilitate these sessions and focus on tailoring the CoP strategies, toolkits and discussions to educators’ needs. HELN Coordinator of Implementation Support Rebecca Gonzalez co-facilitated the CoPs on March 4 with Early Learning Network Manager Ellen Zinzeleta, Implementation Support Coordinator Karen Molinario, Jennifer Cao and Ana Lantigua Pascual.
March HELN Spanish CoP session facilitators and participants.
“We have a lot of Spanish-speaking educators here in Hillsborough County who are a part of our program. It’s important to not only be able to offer them Flamingo Early Learning courses in their native language, but it’s also important that we have these CoPs that build on the strategies that they’re learning in the courses.”
– Jennifer Cao, Implementation Support Specialist
The average HELN Spanish CoP session has 14 to 17 Spanish-speaking participants. Participants are excited to meet in person again, and in the future, HELN will offer in-person or virtual sessions as preferred by the participants.
“When you facilitate these CoPs, you notice how thankful participants are for the time because it is their time to collaborate with peers. They don’t get that time while they’re working. So, it was very important to them to find a way to come together.”
– Ana Valdes, Implementation Support Specialist