Professional Development Highlights - Parts 1 & 2

John Loeser, Head of School
Our faculty and staff work hard to remain at the cutting edge of their craft, continually learning, stretching and growing to provide the most dynamic learning environments for our students. In addition to the Parent Guardian Association Summer Grants provided by the PGA, Redwood Day supports robust professional development throughout the year. Recently, I had the opportunity to connect with some of our faculty and staff to hear about what they learned on their summer professional development adventures. In a two-part series (this week and next), I’ll be sharing some highlights from our faculty and staff.

Klingenstein Summer Institute

Brisa Camacho-Lovell, 6th/7th Grade Spanish teacher, and Kayla Stoler, 6th/7th Grade History teacher, attended the Klingenstein Summer Institute at Columbia University, a competitive 2-week intensive program that accepts a cohort of 75 independent school teachers from all over the world in their first five years of teaching. We’re excited (and not surprised) that Brisa and Kayla were accepted into this program.
Q: What did you learn in your professional development workshop?
Kayla: The program was impressively comprehensive. We met to discuss teaching philosophy, we learned from guest speakers, and we met in curriculum groups to discuss our particular areas of teaching. We also met in diversity and equity groups.
Brisa: One of the greatest take-aways was the notion that my teaching is my craft, and as such, it will constantly be growing and evolving. While seemingly a simple concept, it was a good reminder to think of what I impart to students as deriving from my own experiences and passions and learning, rather than merely a job to complete by the end of each day.
Q: What takeaways or strategies are you actively bringing back to Redwood Day and your professional practice?
Kayla: We learned new strategies to help students truly comprehend and apply their knowledge, rather than just regurgitate facts. As a history teacher, I’m always looking for authentic ways for students to demonstrate their understanding.
Brisa: One strategy I’ve been trying to implement in both 6th and 7th-grade lesson plans is to give students exposure to new concepts (frontloading the learning), that they play with and consider before I explain to them any new rules. A goal this year is to let them do more of the learning rather than have me do the learning for them, and this starts by first allowing them to become curious and inquisitive about Spanish on their own.
Brisa and Kayla just shared a more comprehensive presentation about their learning with faculty and staff this week. If you’d like to learn more, please ask!

National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Diversity Leadership Institute

Meredith Spencer, Director of Equity and Inclusion, attended this week-long residential program focused on leadership, diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Q: What did you learn about in your professional development workshop?
I attended daily plenary sessions led by nationally recognized experts in the areas of: ability, implicit bias, gender identity, race, and socio-economic diversity. Throughout the week, we worked together in small groups and moved through a series of strands led by DLI faculty that covered privilege and power, leading and managing, cross-cultural communication, intercultural conflict, identity, and cultural competency.
Q: What takeaways or strategies are you actively bringing back to Redwood Day and your professional practice?
Last month, I led trustees, faculty, and staff through an identity exercise that I learned at DLI called, “How Diverse Is Your Universe.” I look forward to leading parents and guardians through this same exercise at the PGA meeting on Wednesday, November 7. I’m also working with the Student Life and Academic teams to evaluate our cultural competency practices.

Professional Development Highlights - Part 2

Every time our faculty and staff step off campus to stretch and grow our minds around teaching and learning, our work has a direct, positive impact on our students. Last week, I shared with you highlights from the Klingenstein Summer Institute and NAIS Diversity Leadership Institute. This week, I write to share a glimpse into Learning and the Brain and Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop at Columbia University.

Learning and the Brain: The Neuroscience of Learning Disabilities

Jen Evans, K-5 Learning Specialist/K-8 Learning Plan Coordinator attended a workshop focused on neurodiversity.
Q: What did you learn about in your professional development workshop?

This course explored how cognitive neuroscience can be utilized to better understand learning disorders in children. We examined reading, writing, and math disorders from a brain-based educational perspective. We used case study examples to generate specific interventions and accommodations for struggling learners.
Q: What takeaways or strategies are you actively bringing back to Redwood Day and your professional practice?

I gained a deeper understanding of the power of early intervention (specialized instructional techniques) because of its power to change children's brains. I also expanded my toolbox of remediation approaches and intervention strategies, including how to more effectively match them to specific subtypes of learning differences

Reading and Writing Workshops

Jessica Stern, 3rd Grade teacher attended two week-long courses: Using Goal Setting and Self Assessments in Writing and Supporting Joyful Writing in Students with Learning Plans. Sara Giordani, 7th/8th Grade English teacher, Jennifer Firestone, Kindergarten teacher, and Kenny Lim, 5th Grade teacher, attended Lucy Calkin’s Reading and Writing Workshops at Columbia University in New York.
Q: What did you learn in your professional development workshop?

Jennifer: I learned so much about the writing process of young writers. Writer's Workshop encourages students to write with meaning and purpose.
Sara: I learned how to better integrate leveled reading groups, genre study, and whole class thematic mini lessons into a more cohesive unit. Even if students are not reading the same text, they can still productively practice skills as a collective unit by applying the same techniques. This approach allows for teacher guidance and student-driven discussions.
Jessica: I learned about supporting students in using self-assessment rubrics and setting goals as writers. We looked at the research behind effective goal setting and what factors make it more likely for goals to be achieved-- all with the purpose of helping students have/show agency in their own writing progress.
Kenny: I learned more about reading fluency and comprehension strategies and resources to build classroom libraries with leveled reading books. I also learned about best practices to assess students and guide them to become flexible, resilient readers who read for pleasure as well as for academic purposes.
Q: What takeaways or strategies are you actively bringing back to Redwood Day and your professional practice?
Jennifer: In kindergarten, we are learning that the writing process begins with an idea, and an image. Students have been working with a "writing partner" to share their knowledge, ideas, and stories. When students become excited about their real-life experiences, they also become excited to show what they know on paper.
Sara: Currently, besides the dystopian book clubs we already do in seventh grade, I am integrating more book club style workshops with eighth grade during the short story unit. My ultimate goal is to revise a whole literature unit that includes a single class novel, and instead incorporate several books being read simultaneously around the theme of social justice and literary nonfiction.
Jessica: My classroom this year is ALL about goal setting. Students have their goals posted all over the classroom for every subject area. These goals are on charts so that they are accountable for these goals to themselves and each other and so their goals can move and change as they achieve them. They also have partners for different academic areas and they are accountable for explaining to their partners how they are working toward their goals.
Kenny: I am building my classroom library with more books, leveled reading choices, more in-depth assessments for reading fluency and comprehension (currently utilizing Fountas & Pinnell's assessment system), and supporting students with additional strategies as confident and curious readers (currently, supporting them with summarizing and retelling, identifying main ideas with supporting details, and to compare/contrast for interpretive reading).
While the summer affords us the perfect opportunity to engage in professional development opportunities, our commitment to excellence and honing our craft as educators continues throughout the year. I look forward to sharing more with you, later this year, about the many opportunities our faculty and staff will engage in to stretch and grow their minds and their teaching!