Teachers spend summer in professional development
Summer provides a unique opportunity to offer our teachers professional development sessions. Without the need to create plans for a substitute and later evaluate just what was learned in one’s absence, a classroom teacher can attend a course, focus on the topic and skip the catch-up that almost always follows a teacher missing class.
This year, teachers in Sonoma Valley Unified School District took advantage of more than 150 opportunities to develop the art and science of their practice. In a district of about 200 teachers, that is a significant percentage.
At the elementary level, educators sought training in the link between science and English language development through the Exploratorium Project. They learned to provide responsive classrooms and bring higher level thinking into their art activities. They immersed themselves in second languages. They learned how to teach geography through maps, and learned the foundations of the curriculum for transitional kindergarten. They began to unravel what it means to be a reader by third grade and wrestled with how to bring project-based learning to elementary school.
At the secondary level, teachers studied how to deconstruct primary source documents to elicit the historical essence and truly understand meaning within context. They attended AVID trainings to enhance their ability to both challenge and support their students. They sought to build units that target the Standards for Mathematics Practice – the foundation for the Mathematics Common Core Standards – and to integrate lessons that link multiple curricula around a common theme. Seventeen of us attended the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics – the largest representation of any district in attendance – and began the process of developing a common vision about the inquiry-based instruction and articulate, evidence-based products students will be expected to produce.
Our specialists earned authorizations in understanding autism and in preparing students for advanced placement coursework and exams. And our high school Engineering Academy staff learned what it means to launch a program that, for this past year, has lived only in our imaginations.
To help us manage the data and compile evidence about the effectiveness of our programming, we purchased a new data and assessment system – Illuminate – to replace Edusoft.
Following our implementation plan, this summer every site administrator, and one or more teachers from each school, attended a training session so we can quickly maximize the power that this tool offers for our teaching teams. A follow-up event is scheduled for a week into the new school year.
In many ways, we are more prepared than we have been in many years, and we share a common focus on the five interim goals – effective preschool, reading by third grade, English proficient by the end of fifth grade, ready for college prep work in high school and graduating college and career ready.
This has been a remarkable summer. This is a remarkable staff.
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Lynn Fitzpatrick is the SVUSD director of Curriculum and Instruction.