Teachers become the students at district's professional development day
Although no students were present, school was in session on Oct. 7 for the Point Pleasant Borough School District’s teaching staff who were taking part in varied educational workshops offered during one of the district’s designated professional development days.
The early-year professional development day builds upon concepts the teachers have learned during summer workshops as well as at Panther Academy, the district’s two-day intensive professional development program held annually before the start of school. The courses also serve as the prerequisite for additional workshops offered later in the school year and the following summer.
During the October program, teachers received approximately six hours of specialized training in specific programs, tools and techniques relevant to the subjects and grades they teach.
At the elementary level, teachers spent the day taking the second of a two-part course on Writer’s Workshop, after a summer foundational course offered an introduction to the interdisciplinary writing technique, which was implemented this year at the elementary level.
“Writer’s Workshop builds students' fluency through immersion in the writing process, the goal of which is to foster lifelong writing skills,” said District Supervisor of English Language Arts & Social Studies Heather Karagias.
The program, according to Ms. Karagias, acts as a complement to Reader’s Workshop, the district’s comprehensive K-5 Reading Language Arts program, now in its second full year of implementation.
“Both Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop employ multiple strategies that help students become thoughtful, critical readers and writers who are effective communicators, both in spoken and written word,” she said.
While their elementary counterparts were learning about the structures that support daily writing habits, Point Pleasant Borough’s middle and high school teachers were busy expanding their professional knowledge and skills in their choice of 15 specialized technology-themed workshops that focused on specific technological tools and programs to enhance instruction and improve teacher efficiency.
Among the courses offered were, Preparation for Google Certification; Site Reading Factory for Music; iMovie; Pear Deck; Genesis Rubrics; Genesis Lesson Planner; iReady; Achieve3000; Newsela; and Kahoot/Plickers.
“The course content was developed for our teachers, by our teachers,” said Director of Curriculum & Instruction Dr. Susan Ladd, Ed.D. “Surveys were administered to our grade 6-12 teachers inquiring into the specific topics that they wanted addressed by the district’s professional development program. The overwhelming consensus was they wanted to improve their technological skills and access more of the countless technological resources available to educators.”
The question then became on which of the myriad technological resources the district would focus.
“We selected a number of tools that the district presently uses like Achieve3000 and Newsela, which provide differentiated reading and writing instruction, strengthening students’ literacy skills,” Dr. Ladd said. “We also designed courses that maximized the district’s existing partnership with programs like Genesis, our online student management system, harnessing available tools like their lesson planner and grading rubrics.”
The district also sought to further encourage teachers’ pursuit of certification through the Google Certified Educator Program.
“The Google Certified Educator program is designed for educators who wish to demonstrate proficiency in using Google for Education tools,” she said. “Teachers that pursue certification must complete numerous hours of independent coursework that provides an in-depth look at Google’s many supplemental learning tools and how to effectively apply them to classroom learning.”
The program offers two levels of certifications, indicating an educator’s mastery of Google for Education’s tools, which are only earned through a rigorous cycle of training and practice that culminates in an increasingly complex performance-based exam.
“The district currently has 16 Level 1 and two Level II Google Certified Educators,” she added. “Though we are very proud of the teachers who have already earned their certification and for their commitment to 21st century teaching and learning, we would like to see that number increase.”
According to Dr. Ladd, the remaining courses offered training on programs and tools that are currently being used, successfully in some district classrooms.
“The iMovie, Pear Deck, iReady and Kahoots/Plickers workshops introduced these powerful and effective tools to a new group of teachers,” she said.
At the iMovie workshop, attendees learned the basics on shooting and editing videos to incorporate into classroom lessons. During the Pear Deck session, teachers were trained on how to use the interactive presentation tool to actively engage their students. iReady took a closer look at the reading assessment tool and learning how best to use the program’s data to increase students’ reading skills. And Kahoot/Plickers taught teachers to use the two tools to gauge student understanding.
“Offering 15 distinct professional development workshops – not including the elementary Writer’s Workshop program - during one day, though somewhat challenging logistically, made the most sense to maximize teachers’ learning opportunities and to ensure they were learning what was most personally relevant and interesting,” Dr. Ladd said.
Fortunately, the district didn’t have to look far for the workshops’ instructors, having tapped district teachers to lead the sessions.
“We are fortunate to have a staff full of outstanding educators, many of whom are proficient on some of the most current and innovative technological tools,” she said. “Plus, as district teachers they are intimately familiar with our educational philosophy and vision and are therefore, uniquely qualified to educate their peers.”
“This collaboration means more district educators become proficient with these tools, which they can then turnkey, adding what they’ve learned and continuing to share best practices with their peers, resulting in a unified digital learning experience across the district and unparalleled articulation between grades and schools,” she added.