BIC teachers begin professional development

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The students of Buffalo Island Central may have gotten out of school June 4, but teachers were just beginning as the district's professional development for certified staff kicked off June 10.

Dr. Kima Stewart, West Elementary principal, and Nicole Stewart, East Elementary principal, both explained that Tuesday, June 10, Wednesday, June 11, and Thursday, 12 certified staff K-12 participated in the first scheduled professional development for the district. Tuesday the district's math and literacy coaches took K-12 staff members through curriculum alignment and pacing guides, while Jay Glass, Matthew Sills and Nancy Spencer talked to staff members about technology and everything Google on Wednesday. The week ended with Lynette Thetford and Cissy Lindley, teachers from the Rogers Public School District, sharing ideas of how to promote reading. More professional development is planned throughout the summer and in August prior to the start of the new school year.

Buffalo Island Central high school teachers engaged in exchanging ideas during the Thursday, June 12, professional development literacy workshop. (Town Crier photo/Christie Zolman)

"Public schools are navigating a time of change right now all across America with the Common Core curriculum changes that have been made, the new PARCC assessments, and the new teacher assessment system called TESS," Dr. Stewart explained. "There has never been a time at least in Arkansas education where purposeful and targeted professional development has been so important. With the TESS assessment teachers now get a level of performance evaluation similar to what students get."

Dr. Stewart explained teachers will be evaluated as distinguished, proficient, basic or below basic. She went on to say a portion of that level of performance is measured by students.

"Auxiliary staff such as coaches, art teachers, music teachers are judged by the literacy performance of the student in the school district," Dr. Stewart said. "So now everybody is a reading teacher, which is what today (Thursday, June 12) is about. We are on four campuses so it is very important for us to bring some unity and similarity - not identical - to our district. Now is the time for that with the Common Core."

With more than 100 computers and Chrome books being added to the district this year the technology program was very important. Teachers learned Google Talk, Google Share, Google Docs and more.

"I really think the Google workshop has been very beneficial," special education teacher Janice White said. "I have really enjoyed sharing ideas and learning with my fellow teachers."

"The All Things Google workshop was great," Rosemary Clester, elementary science teacher, said. "We are moving to using Goggle more in our district and I enjoyed learning how to contact parents through Google so they can be more involved in their child's education. Using the Chrome books with the educational apps that are available, my students will be able to use those in my science class. I also believe with the Common Core curriculum the Chrome books and their apps will help with that as well."

Most people think teachers get the summer off but that is not the case, Dr. Stewart said that is definitely not the case. She explained there are three elective days planned for the summer, four mandated days in August and teachers will spend the summer getting 12 hours of professional development on their own.

"Certified teachers are required to have 60 hours of professional development," Dr. Stewart said. "This district runs from June 1 until May of the following year to meet that required 60 hours. We really get that in early so they can use the knowledge they obtain through professional development to plan next year's classroom and implement the technology. It is all for students benefits. It is really good collaborations, it allows us to share ideas and improve upon what is already going on. Since we are on divided campuses things like this really allow us to come together to brainstorm and network."

Thursday's professional development speakers Cissy Lindley and Lynette Thetford talked to staff about creating a common literacy language and how every teacher regardless of subject is a reading teacher. The two ladies shared things that have worked within their district and how sharing ideas can help teachers generate new ideas.

"I'm learning so much from our presenters," Andrea Buck, family and consumer sciences teacher, said. "This has been awesome. Mrs. Lindley is very enthusiastic and it's great that she is a teacher and practices what she is talking to us about."

For new teachers the professional development workshop is a chance to meet their co-workers as well as get ideas for their classroom.

"This is my first teaching job so it has been kind of overwhelming to me," Krista Collins, junior high math teacher, said. "But is has been really good. I have gotten lots of information and great ideas that I can use next year."

"I'm not in the classroom but knowing what is going on in our classrooms helps me as the guidance counselor understand better when a student has a problem," Doris Willyerd said. "I can help students better that way."

Teachers who most think wouldn't have to be concerned with literacy enjoyed the workshops.

"I teach junior high and high school math," Kyle Rowland said. "I have learned that even though I'm a math teacher I can promote literacy in my classroom. I also found it interesting that when reading scores go up so do math scores."

"The literacy workshop has been wonderful," Melinda Wells, library media specialist at West campus, said. "We are learning about new books and getting new ideas of how to promote reading to our students. Just getting to hear someone else and their ideas has been helpful."

"I've learned a lot and I think it has been good to have professional development at the conclusion of the school year because it gives us an opportunity to spend the summer working on things for next school year," Jill Sanders, the district new EAST Lab facilitator, said. "The literacy workshop has given me some ideas of how I can promote literacy throughout the districts and that readers are leaders."

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