After serving the last 16 years as principal of the Callaway Hills Elementary School at Holts Summit, Dr. Ramona Dobson has decided to retire.
In appreciation of her dedicated service, teachers at the school will have a retirement dinner for her today.
"Education is a noble calling," Dobson says. "I love the children at this school. I will miss them. Serving as principal is challenging but fulfilling. I'm eager to come to work each day."
Dobson often arrives at work at 7:30 a.m. and doesn't leave until 7 p.m. or 9 p.m.
One of her main duties as an elementary school principal is to make sure teachers are covering course material and communicating well with students.
She's learned the qualities of an effective teacher. "The most important trait of a good teacher is to have a deep love of kids," Dobson says. "Teachers need patience, perseverance and a sense of humor. They also should have a knowledge of effective teaching practices and the ability to apply those practices every day."
Teachers, she says, must have good communication skills. It isn't enough just to cover the material in the course. Teachers also must make sure students fully understand what is said.
"If children don't understand," she says, "nothing is accomplished."
Teachers make sure students understand in a variety of ways. Tests help indicate what students have learned. Teachers also work together and discuss various students individually and learn how to connect with each of them.
Dobson says a principal today serves as an instructional leader of the teachers. She sits in on classes and evaluates the effectiveness of each teacher.
"We now know more about how kids learn than we did years ago. It's my job to stay current on research-based teaching strategies. I bring that information to teachers and then help them apply those teaching practices. It's one thing to read about it. It's another to put into actual use," she says.
Callaway Hills is a professional learning community school. That means designated teachers are team leaders. "I have two teachers on a team with me and we go to training at the professional development center for Missouri. The center includes partly University of Missouri faculty and partly faculty from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We have been to the center six times this year. Then we bring what we have learned back to the building and try it out on our students. Teachers collaborate in planning their instruction. They also work together to meet the needs of certain students who need more help," Dobson says.
Teachers spend much of their time away from the classroom working together on a variety of projects.
Teachers do assessments on what students have mastered and what they have not mastered. They then work on ways to make sure students understand what is being taught.
"Kids learn how to assess themselves and what they have learned. That's why this teaching technique is powerful. We get more buy-in from the kids," she says.
Students then meet with teachers and let them know what they did not understand.
"We have conferences with students in small groups or individually on a regular basis to make sure they comprehend reading, writing and math," she says.
Dobson is familiar with all elementary public schools in Callaway County. She grew up in Fulton and is a 1971 graduate of Fulton High School. Her late husband Don also was teacher and track-cross country coach at Fulton High School.
"I have lived and worked in Callaway County my entire life," Dobson says.