Professional Development That Works

How can we prevent professional development from being a waste of time? We will discuss seven elements that, as they drive the design of professional development, make it increasingly effective. at is, this kind of professional development leads to lasting change in teacher practices that in turn leads to increased student learning – and flourishing. While this session is more about the process than the content of professional development, we will speak about what we have used in our schools that, through this model, is leading to an ongoing transformation of classroom practices.

Jim Reynolds

Jim is currently the Head of Lower School for the Veritas School in Richmond, Virginia. Previously, he served for seven years as the Dean of Faculty for e Geneva School in Winter Park, Florida. Jim and his wife, Nancy, and their three boys moved to Florida in 2002 for Jim to work for Harcourt School Publishers – now, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Before that, he had served as an education consultant for the publisher and conducted training in private and public schools. Jim’s passion is to encourage and develop teachers – and improve school’s practices – so that students and teachers thrive.

Brian Polk

Dr. Polk has 17 years of experience working at both the secondary and post-secondary levels, with 10 of those years at K-12 classical Christian schools, including Regent Preparatory School of Oklahoma in Tulsa, where he currently serves as Dean of Students. In addition to teaching chemistry, he has served in various administrative roles pertaining to both faculty and students. He earned his doctorate from Vanderbilt University in educational leadership. rough his experience and training, he has come to believe strongly in the role that faculty play in high-quality schooling. They must be equipped and inspired, and must be provided opportunities and space to grow. Aside from hiring, Brian believes that high-quality professional development is the only path available for administrators to improve their faculty, and thus, their schools.

Triangulating Community Outreach, Parent Education, and Professional Development: The Great Conversations Series at Covenant Classical School as a Case Study

This seminar will develop the Great Conversations Series at Covenant Classical School as a case study. Speci cally, we will discuss how seminars, lectures, and reading groups hosted at CCS have attempted to draw parents, teachers, and even their friends beyond our immediate school community together in a positive experience of our school’s classical, Christian curriculum and pedagogy. Our hope is that our successes and failures would prove helpful to other schools endeavoring to (re)launch similar programs. The seminar will conclude with Q & A, especially aimed at exploring other schools’ attempts at similar programs.

Marcus Foster

Marcus graduated from Baylor University with a BA in Classics in 2000. He worked with youth in Berlin, Germany, for ve years, part of which was also spent studying theology at Humboldt Universität. He completed an MHum in Classics/Theology from the University in Dallas in 2011. Heavily invested in languages, Marcus aims to stir a love for language and literature in his students at Covenant Classical School, teaching 7th–12th grade Latin. He and his wife, Julie, have been married for 14 years, blessed with three beautiful daughters and one strapping son.

10 in 10: Top Ten Lessons in the First Ten Years

Is your school less than 10 years old? Are you thinking of starting a school? Are you involved in setting your slightly older school on a new trajectory for the future? If so, administrators and board members will want to hear the top ten lessons learned in the trenches over the first decade from Jean Kim, founder and headmaster of The Cambridge School in San Diego.

Jean Kim

Having graduated from a top NAIS school and Yale University, and after having spent her entire career in education, Jean Kim fell in love with the ideals of Christian Classicism, swallowed a few (very large) crazy pills and decided to start a Christian Classical school in one of the most expensive, challenging areas of the country—San Diego, CA—while trying to juggle being mother to three children under the age of four at the time and being a supportive wife to her entrepreneur husband. By God’s grace, The Cambridge School is thriving and she has lived to tell about the experience and share some humbling and hard-won lessons learned from the rst ten years.

A System for Staff Development – Moving and Growing Together

Utilizing the Administrative structure to develop leaders and to provide targeted training for faculty and staff.

Kay Belknap

After serving as a member of the Steering Committee, Kay Belknap has served as the Head of School for Veritas Christian Academy in Fletcher, NC, (between Hendersonville and Asheville) since its opening in August, 1998. Veritas is a Pre-K through 12th grade school with 372 atudents. Kay is a graduate of Charleston Southern University with a degree in Music Education. She has also taught Precept Upon Precept Bible Studies for over 25 years.

Principles and Elements of Effective Professional Development

The Biblical concepts of sanctification and community will set the foundation for a professional development plan that both encourages all teachers and challenges teachers to higher levels of professionalism. An overview will be given of a plan composed of: peer and self observation, collaborative lesson design (a.k.a. Lesson Study), a four year cycle of readings and discussions, critical friends tuning protocols, smaller team/cluster meetings, weekly email updates, monthly collegiums, annual traditions, and summer conferences. A corresponding packet of sample documents will be provided to participants.

Andrew Elizalde

Andrew Elizalde earned his B.A. at Depauw University where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude, earned a math major, physics minor, and religious studies minor, and received the H.E.H. Greenleaf award as the most outstanding 2000-2001 graduate of the school’s mathematics program. He later obtained a teaching credential from California State University Long Beach with a professional- clear qualification for his coursework regarding exceptional children and technology integration. His teaching experience includes work in both public and private schools in subjects ranging from 5th grade mathematics to advanced calculus and physics. Andrew now serves as the Dean of Academics, Mathematics Department Chair and Lower School Principal at Veritas School, a K-12 classical Christian school in Richmond, VA. His work at Veritas has most notably included a comprehensive reform of the schools’ K-12 mathematics program, the design and implementation of annual in-house professional development, and the advancement of a student support services plan. Additionally, Andrew offers consulting services to classical Christian schools aiming to refine pedagogy, mathematics curriculum, and professional development strategies. He has been a keynote speaker at the ICS Math and Science Lyceum and most recently, Trinity Classical Academy’s annual conference in Southern California. Andrew and his wife have three daughters and are members of All Saints Reformed Presbyterian Church.

How to Get the Education You Never Had

Those who are teaching students how to think, how to act, and the basic story of the civilization they live in are already doing classical education, whether they know it or not. But in order to do it well, parents and teachers need to know these things themselves. Classical educator Martin Cothran gives you practical advice on what you should know and what you should read in order to get the classical education you never got.

Martin Cothran

Martin Cothran is a writer and teacher who lives in Danville, Kentucky. He holds a B.A. in philosophy and economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from the Simon Greenleaf School. He is a prominent voice in Kentucky on public policy issues and is a regular guest on radio and television. He is author of Traditional Logic: Books I and II and Classical Rhetoric.

Thriving Not Surviving: A Real Life Plan for Teacher Development

Teachers who thrive as individuals and as professionals inspire students. So, build your teacher development program around the objective of developing teachers within their specific needs for improvement. Most teachers find themselves often in a ‘just survive’ mode that is not healthy for themselves, their families, nor their students. You must demonstrate enough care and investment in them in order for them to trust you with a spirit of vulnerability. Then, give them specific, practical, time-based goals of personal growth that reflect your school’s mission. And, the image of God is more likely to emerge from each lovely teacher who wakes up every day to invest in children, and to impact eternity.

Rod Gilbert

Rod Gilbert is the Headmaster for Regents School of Austin. He assumed this position three years ago a er serving as the Head of Upper School for four years. Prior to his career at Regents, Rod was a founding member of Trinity Academy of Raleigh, NC, and served as the Assistant Headmaster.

Human Assessment

The plural of anecdote is data.” To a great extent we have the higher education community to thank for the concept of assessment – at least as it pertains to education. Assessment became the mantra of higher education accreditation in the 1990s, leading to the generation of massive amounts of data at colleges and universities across the nation. But, what to do with all these data? That was the dilemma faced by thousands of institutions until the turn of the millennium when accrediting agencies began to realize the purpose of the data produced through assessment was institutional improvement. Suddenly, only data that were relevant to answering questions about institutional direction and strategic improvement were of value, and such data could genuinely help frame and answer questions that, in turn, could guide the improvement process.

Similarly, assessment applied to human performance (i.e., evaluation) must be improvement–focused. And, the best evidence that improvement is possible or, indeed, warranted is, likewise, data. No longer is the subjective opinion of a single supervisor, based upon the perfunctory annual (or semi-annual) visit to the classroom sufficient to convince the professional educator that improvement is necessary or important. Without data trends, corroborated by a variety of sources, the performance review process is reduced to little more than a difference of opinion, often between someone with many years of classroom experience (the reviewee) and an administrator with, perhaps, considerably less classroom experience (the reviewer).

In reality, there are numerous predictors of professional success for the contemporary independent school teacher, with mastery of subject, curriculum development, pedagogy, and instructional and classroom management skills sharing the lime light with other now equally important indicators. Today’s master teacher must also master a growing set of essential soft skills, such as team work, peer and supervisor relations, parent communication, and student relationship building. So, the effective assessment process must accumulate and benefit from data relevant to each of these aspects of professional development and success.

In recent years, Trinity Academy of Raleigh has gradually implemented such a process, incrementally adding survey data from peers, parents and students to already existing supervisor and self-evaluation instruments. Instruments have been collaboratively developed and revised by teachers and supervisors, with input from students and parents, where appropriate. Brainstorm sessions have identified professional and relational skills and characteristics that are valued by each constituency group, and online surveys (Survey Monkey) have been used to prioritize a list of 20 assessment questions for each instrument. Surveys have been similarly created for teaching assistants, academic administrators and administrative staff. Parents and upper school students have completed the surveys online, and staff have identified peers who could reasonably review their performance and whose performance they could confidently review via online survey.

Although we are still learning, we have already seen considerable value in this process for relevant professional development and genuine performance improvement. The data speak for themselves, especially as compared to whole-staff averages for the 20 assessment questions. Staff are readily able to see patterns from multiple sources that corroborate both areas of professional strength and those where improvement is necessary. We have found it to be a creative way to provide objective feedback for typically subjective notions about performance.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of our implementation of the process is building a credible means of rewarding current performance and performance improvement into the process. For three years, our board has designated a generous pool of “merit compensation.” Everyone gets something, but higher performers (as judged by survey data sets) are rewarded more generously. Perhaps not surprisingly, this reward system has been met with decidedly polarized reaction. As NAIS president Patrick Bassett notes in speaking engagements:

The culture of schools’ workplace militates against innovative thinking about compensation: Teachers prefer predictable, non-competitive compensation and resist being “singled out.” NOTE: Research shows, on the other hand, that rigid pay scales discourage high ability individuals to enter or stay in teaching. (Goldhaber, The Urban Institute, “How Has Teacher Compensation Changed?” Selected Papers in School Finance 2000-2001).

The system is not perfect, but is far superior to the “standard” in many independent schools. As Paideia, Inc. president Bruce Lockerbie often quips: “The first evaluation most private school teachers or administrators receive is on the back of a pink slip.”

It is important to express thanks to Eddie Krenson, VP for Non-Public Schools with SACS- CASI, for leading Trinity Academy in the initial process of implementation of principles of performance review that he has personally adapted from Independent School Management (ISM).

The Teacher’s Seminar: A School within the School

In Norms and Nobility, David Hicks suggests that a classical school must have a teacher’s seminar to drive faculty improvement and to insure proper classical pedagogy. This seminar is a scheduled weekly gathering of faculty to discuss readings, questions, tests, topics for debate, teaching methods, and more. It also serves as an excellent mentoring program, an effective platform for teacher evaluation, and a continual source of faculty development. This seminar will look at the abundant benefits of the teacher’s seminar for a classical school and how it could be implemented.

Peter VandeBrake

Peter Vande Brake attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, where he was an All-American decathlete and Philosophy major. He a ended seminary at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA, and then did his doctoral work at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids. He taught, coached, and was Headmaster at North Hills Classical Academy from 1996–2010. He is a leadership consultant for the CiRCE Institute and the high school principal and track coach at The Potter’s House School in Grand Rapids, an urban Christ-centered school. He is married and has two daughters.

Reading Toward Greatness

I love books! I love the feel of them, the smell of them, the way they look on the shelf, and, most of all, the joy of learning something that feeds my mind and soul. Before I married and acquired a mortgage, I spent a ridiculous amount of money on books. I adopted the philosophy of Erasmus: “When I get a little money I buy books;and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” I had a quote in my class- “ room by Samuel Davies, “The venerable dead are waiting in my library to entertain me and relieve me from the nonsense of the surviving mortals.”

Beyond my personal love for reading I am very cognizant of the central role that reading plays in education. Mortimer Adler, editor of Britannica’s Great Books, was distressed that reading for understanding is not taught in schools. “There is nothing more important that our schools could do,” he said, “if our schools have as their main function the preparation of young people to go on with a life of adult learning after they have left school.”

Neil Postman, in his famous book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, demonstrates the educational, social, and epistemological implications of moving from a text-based culture to an image-based culture. Text-based communication, the primary means of communication before television, requires reading. And reading requires deliberation, contemplation, reflection, and reason. It primarily engages the mind, as opposed to images, which target the emotions. Reading also requires that one be quiet and methodical. Images demand little, if anything, from us intellectually. In fact, Postman says, images are predominantly meant for entertainment and not for instruction, which is why they are literally killing us intellectually.

Reading is also educationally valuable in that it requires activity and skill from the reader. Adler says, “… the most important thing about reading, as about learning generally, is that it must be active, not passive.” To use an analogy from Adler, reading is like tunneling. Imagine yourself on one side of a mountain and the author on the other. You both work hard to meet in the middle to find understanding.

The Great Books are over everyone’s head. That is one reason why they are great. Do not expect to breeze through Milton or Dante. Reading many books is not the point. Thomas Hobbes once said “If I read as many books as most men do, I would be as dull-witted as they are.” Reading well is better than reading swiftly.

And there is, of course, great spiritual value in reading. Paul told Timothy that study is the path to legitimate spiritual leadership. Reading is not just about schooling. It is theological. Cultivating a love for reading in children is perhaps the most important thing one can do to induce lifelong learning. Our efforts may bloom into a love for reading that leads to a skilled, passionate ransacking of the Bible.