The dedicated community of staff and families at Willa Cather Elementary School have embraced a collaborative, engaging and domain-based approach to learning.

After extensive review, we are proud to include Willa Cather Elementary School among our Core Knowledge Schools of Distinction due to the following qualities:

Willa Cather Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska

About Willa Cather Elementary School

Willa Cather Elementary School is part of the Millard School District located in Omaha, Nebraska. The district takes pride in the school’s high-achieving students, involved parents and top-notch staff. The school accommodates around 400 students in kindergarten through grade 5.

Willa Cather Elementary School and Core Knowledge Foundation

Willa Cather Elementary School has been utilizing the Core Knowledge curriculum since 1997 and has been a Core Knowledge School of Distinction since 2015.

The school started with the Core Knowledge Sequence and now also implements a range of Core Knowledge curricula (e.g., CKSci and CKLA) to ensure all students’ needs are met. The leadership at Willa Cather is committed to the Core Knowledge approach to knowledge-based schooling. Together with the staff, they’re able to provide an outstanding learning environment for students.

Exemplary Core Knowledge Implementation

At Willa Cather Elementary School, Core Knowledge is viewed as the “mast” of the school and is the central, driving curriculum.

The school’s curriculum plan reflects a coherent and cumulative sequence of topics that should advance The school’s curriculum plan reflects a coherent and cumulative sequence of topics that should advance knowledge building within and across grade levels. Additionally, curriculum planning tools, such as the curriculum plan, pacing guides, and domain maps, are considered living documents that teachers reference and revise regularly.

Integration of Content Across Subjects

Teaching domain content across school subjects helps teachers cover content and skills at the same time, while making learning even more meaningful for students. In many classrooms, teachers are able to connect history and science content to English Language Arts (ELA) skills.

  • During ELA, a Kindergarten teacher read aloud from “Weather Words and What They Mean” and made connections to what students were learning about weather as part of their science block.
  • A second grade teacher taught a lesson about subject pronouns using sentences about the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  • A fifth grade teacher linked what students were learning in a geography lesson about states to locations Frederick Douglass described in his autobiography, which students read during ELA.
Students working in groups

Outstanding Collaborative Planning Processes

The school schedule affords weekly grade-level planning sessions as a way for teachers and staff to regularly collaborate with their team, and the majority of teachers take advantage of these sessions.

While each team member applies their own style in the delivery of instruction, many student-facing resources were consistent across classes. For example, on numerous occasions, students within a grade level were observed studying the same topic, and, in some cases, completing the same activities or worksheets.

Supporting Staff and Fostering Partnerships

Dedicated leadership, teachers and parents eagerly adopted the Core Knowledge approach to ensure a cohesive and comprehensive education for all students. In light of these goals, teachers are offered ongoing support and families offered opportunities to learn and get involved in the Core Knowledge program.

Support for School Staff

Teachers receive substantial support from both the school and district. At the district level, new teachers work with mentors (at varying degrees) for their first three years of teaching. At Willa Cather, the classrooms of mentors and mentees are purposefully located in close proximity in order to facilitate ongoing discussion, observation, and support. In addition, new staff are trained at the beginning of the year in the Core Knowledge approach and receive ongoing feedback from leadership through classroom observations and walkthroughs, as well as additional training through staff development sessions.

School and Family Partnerships

Parent engagement and commitment to Core Knowledge is evident at Willa Cather Elementary School. Willa Cather is a choice school that attracts 75% of the student body from outside the school’s designated neighborhood.

Both the school administration and teachers regularly communicate with parents, including through annual events like Kindergarten Parent Night, Core Knowledge Parent Night, Back to School Night, and Curriculum Night. Teachers meet with parents via conferences, phone, and email. In addition, parents are invited to tour the school and meet with administration prior to enrolling.

Class of students at Willa Cather Elementary

Visit Willa Cather Elementary

To learn more about effective techniques and processes that support Core Knowledge implementation, consider visiting or speaking with the administration of Willa Cather Elementary. Check out their Facebook page and school website to learn more about this outstanding school and the means by which you can contact school leadership.