Hillary Gnerer - Instructional Coach

I have been teaching for Billings Public Schools for the last 20 years. I spent the first 15 years in the classroom teaching grades K-5 at a variety of urban and suburban school settings. The last 5 years have been spent working for the district's Curriculum Department as an Instructional Coach, focusing mainly on ELA and Literacy in grades K-5. Billings is the largest district in Montana.

My role as an Instructional Coach includes providing PD to staff and administrators, coaching teachers in the classroom, and working on curriculum development teams.


When it comes to how we view our environment and the people we interact with, there is often a disconnect between what we think should be and what actually is. As we make decisions and take action based on our perceptions, there is a risk that these unconscious biases could negatively affect the outcome. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to take part in the various exercises that showed me my unconscious biases/privileges and how to think in a more global way so that those biases/privileges do not get in the way of my leadership skills.

Working with brand new teachers it is important to build relationships right off the bat so that there is a sense of trust and safety. Once those relationships are built it will open doors for communication and needs can be evaluated and met. I want new teachers to feel like they have a voice, and that voice needs to be heard. I don't want to lose good teachers because they were drowning and no one was there to help them. They need to be supported!

My first Overarching Competency is Adult Learning. I felt like I was in the performing stage of this progression at the beginning of this program. I lead learning activities to enhance the practice of teachers through my job as an instructional coach and curriculum specialist. I deliver professional development to teachers at all learning levels in our district. The picture on the header of this page shows me leading one of my ELA Cadre group meetings.

My second Overarching Competency is Continued Learning and Education. I felt like I was at the developing stage of this competency when the program started. I have not received my Master’s Degree. I do participate and seek out a multitude of professional development opportunities in my field. I have belonged to various professional organizations, however not consistently. I work closely with my curriculum team and other instructional coaches to share new ideas and attend events to learn about the issues being advanced. TLI is a good example of me participating in a learning opportunity outside of my familiar context as a literacy coach.

This institute has definitely made me more aware and has raised my level of understanding when it comes to inequity and cultural competence. I think this will make me a much more well-rounded teacher leader and in return my modeling will then impact others looking to become teacher leaders themselves. I have learned to voice my actions and explain why I am doing things a certain way so that others can understand and see the reasoning. This is definitely an area that I need to expand on and learn more about. I am so thankful for this institute giving me the opportunity to do just that. It is so much fun talking to other educators from around the country and getting all of their different perspectives on issues that we all deal with.

Term 2 has opened my eyes even more when it comes to the issues of the Foundational Competencies. The competency I have chosen to focus on is Collaborate Purposefully. I feel like this is an area that I now have a little more understanding on and it is critical to develop this area to ensure my success as an Instructional Leader. I feel like I am still in the Emerging/Developing stages of this competency but I look forward to learning and growing through the stages. The Foundational Competencies have really shown me the areas I need to grow the most in. Like I said earlier I need to think bigger picture and open my eyes to what is going on out there and that will make me a more effective leader. I will continue to engage in ongoing self-education and self-reflection in this area. I included an article below that was very eye-opening for me in terms of purposeful collaboration.

I feel that this experience has only deepened my passion for coaching and mentoring. I chose the Instructional Leadership pathway because I feel so strongly about it and I wanted to learn more about how to be a more effective coach and mentor. This last term has shown me that I am strong (Performing/Transforming) in the area of Coaching and Mentoring however, I need to widen my vision and think bigger picture. I engage in formal roles of coaching on a daily basis with my job as a Literacy Coach. I utilize multiple measures to identify effective teaching and successful student learning by visiting classrooms and working individually with each of my LEAP teachers. Below I included the information we give to our new teachers when entering the LEAP program.

My primary stakeholders are the new teachers in my LEAP (Learning, Engaging, and Applying Practices) trainings , as well as my ELA Cadre group of veteran teachers who, often time, take on that role of “mentor” to their new teaching partners. My secondary group of stakeholders is the Curriculum Team made up of instructional coaches, tech-integration specialists, G/T coordinator, ELL coaches/coordinators, Assessment Director, and Curriculum Director. I would also consider the students, parents, and building principals to be stakeholders in my project.

Hillary Coaches Capstone Approval Form