After years of teaching youth, Marianne Waters changed gears, becoming a teacher for incarcerated adults at California State Prison, Solano.
In 2005, she earned a multiple-subject credential and Master’s Degree in Cross Cultural Education.
“Following that, I spent a decade as an elementary specialist for a public alternative education charter school in Sacramento County. Although I did spend a few years teaching fourth grade in a traditional setting, I found I preferred the academic freedom alternative education permits educators,” she said.
Her interest in adult education led to her current position as a prison educator. She’s been with Solano for three years.
“My current position provides me the amazing opportunity each day to effectively deliver instruction to and assist individuals who are trying to better themselves while serving their sentence,” she said.
Inside CDCR caught up with Waters to discuss her career and what it takes to be a teacher in a correctional setting.
Q&A with Solano Teacher Marianne Waters
What is something you think the public doesn’t know about education inside prison?
Overall, I’m not sure the general public is aware of any educational opportunities offered inside of the California prison system. Most Californians probably don’t realize students are required to consistently attend classes with the goal of earning their GED. I personally wonder if people realize there is an Office of Correctional Education. This office is responsible for, and assists in, overseeing and supporting every incarcerated person in all of the state’s prisons.
One specific aspect of incarcerated education in our state that the public may not realize is the recent implementation of state-of-the-art computer-based learning programs. We have Computer Labs for the students to practice essential skills taught during face-to-face instruction.
All instruction is differentiated to the needs of each learner. This is powerful as it provides them the opportunity to monitor their work and visually see progress towards specific set goals. Most people may not realize that along with the Adult Basic Education classes CSP-Solano also offers vocational and college programs. The Office of Correctional Education provides our students the chance to achieve the goals necessary to become productive members of society.,
Showing up, willingness to learn
How do you measure student success?
As an Academic Teacher, I measure student success in a variety of ways. In the prison setting, I immediately measure if they are conditioned to show up to their classes every day.
I have seen an enormous amount of self-discipline in my students. They arrive each day prepared, ready to work, and they are extremely motivated to learn and achieve their goals. As I develop relational capacity with each student they allow me to measure their success. When you create a safe learning environment and organize the subject matter, students are willing to participate.
They tell you what they need help with and ask for practice. If a student confides to me that they need assistance with specific subjects this is huge. It informs me they are buying into their learning and want to become a successful learner.
Of course, measuring understanding of content is embedded in our curriculum too. We routinely do weekly pop quizzes throughout the week to assess if we are suitable to continue, or if further instruction is necessary.
Alongside quizzing, another tool used to measure success in the classroom is the weekly use of computers. These computers provide an extension of the text book and teacher explicit direct instruction. Computer scheduled time allows each student the time needed to practice essential skills at their differentiated level. The great thing about the implementation of this technology is the instantaneous feedback and scores. This information is essential in allowing students the ability to track their own learning and projected goals, and can act as a source of motivation for each learner.
Solano Teacher Waters said pandemic was challenging
What was the best day in your career?
After over two years of distance learning, one of the best days of my career was the memorandum announcing Open Phase programming would begin taking place.
During the pandemic, the educational plan for each student was an Independent Study model. Academic Teachers created individualized weekly homework packets for their students. The COVID-19 pandemic was extremely difficult for our students.
Aside from facing the adversity we all had at that time, they also lost one of the few consistencies they have in attending school. I can tell you that as an educator, my heart swelled each time I delivered and received the weekly Independent Study packets.
Soon after Open Phase programming was announced, CSP-Solano was able to celebrate many students’ completion of their current and progression to their next level ABE course. We also issued many GED diplomas during that time.
I am extremely proud to be part of this amazing school and community. Finally, as we enter into the 2022-2023 school year, I am excited as I meet my new students that are beginning their newly assigned class.
By David Maldonado, Deputy Chief
Office of External Affairs
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