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Boro teachers become the students at professional development daysProfessional Development

One of the most common misconceptions surrounding the teaching profession is that those in it, specifically kindergarten through grade 12 teachers, do not work when school is not in session; however, nothing could be further than the truth. Whether in summer, when many educators either teach - summer school, summer enrichment or extended school year programs – or else spend a good portion of their break busy preparing for the coming school year - developing lesson plans or writing curriculum, or during the school year on designated breaks when they are hard at work preparing for their students return. And no matter the time of year, teachers always stay busy by taking part in professional development courses that are designed to expand and enrich their professional knowledge and skills, enhance their instructional techniques and improve their efficiency.

“During the summer months, district teachers took part in both in- and out-of- district professional development courses, which have included curriculum updates and a variety of articulation sessions focusing on AP courses, literacy units, and new electives,” said Director of Curriculum & Instruction, Dr. Susan Ladd. “Trainings have also taken place on the Google Platform for Education with workshops on Google Keep, Google Forms and a variety of Google extensions and apps to support learners. And additional technology workshops have been offered to educate our teachers in the use of supplemental programs and tools to help streamline classroom instruction and make for a more effective and efficient learning experience.”

Prior to the start of the school year, district teachers also attended Panther Academy, the district’s intensive annual professional development program.

At September’s professional development day district staff participated in a variety of different trainings that included everything from how to administer Narcan, a first response treatment for opioid overdose, elementary English Language Arts focused on the continued integration of Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, additional trainings on the Next Generation Science Standards, which were introduced at the elementary level this year.

Professional Development“The new standards, which are now implemented district-wide, present a new approach to science education that is more consistent with the way scientists work and think,” said Dr. Ladd.

Under the new standards, students engage in hands-on experimentation and use critical thinking skills to design investigations that answer questions about the world around them.

An additional professional development day was held at the district on Oct. 6.

Although no students were present, school was in session on Oct. 6 for the district’s teaching staff who were taking part in comprehensive 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 the summer workshops as well as at Panther Academy. 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 participating in continued Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop trainings.

“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 third 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.

Additional elementary workshops were offered in the use of iReady, an adaptive Diagnostic tool for reading and mathematics that pinpoints student needs and monitors their progress showing whether students are on track to achieve learning targets, and Mindfulness Training for related arts teachers.

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 specialized technology-themed workshops that focused on specific technological tools and programs to enhance instruction and improve teacher efficiency and to improve articulation across grades and the curriculum.

Among the courses offered were, Achiev3000, STEM Planning, Mindfulness, DBQ or Document-Based Questions and iReady.

“The course content was developed for our teachers, by our teachers,” said Dr. Susan Ladd. “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, which provides differentiated reading and writing instruction, strengthening students’ literacy skills,” Dr. Ladd said.

The district also sought to further encourage teachers’ use of the Google suite of Apps for Education as well as their 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 19 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.”

“Offering so many distinct professional development workshops 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.

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