This summer hundreds of teachers from the Shelby County School District are taking classes rather than teaching them. The district is offering 87 different workshops with over 2,000 registrants. Kristi Sayers, Shelby County Schools Professional Development Supervisor, thinks this level of participation could be a record.
“It’s exciting to see teachers learning. Since school ended, the Shelby County Instructional Services Center has been filled with them,” she said.
The district made sure that it offered a wide range of topics so that teachers from all grade levels, subjects, and specialties had a chance to learn the latest teaching strategies without having to go somewhere else or pay for training out of pocket. Some of the most popular sessions include Content Literacy Strategies for all grades; Quality Core training for English and Math; Problem Based Learning; Engaging Students; Classroom Management; and Technology.
“Our sessions do more than just help individual teachers learn new techniques. They bring teachers together from across the county. This lets them share ideas about how they can apply what they are learning. And that’s the really exciting part – knowing that what they are learning this summer is going to benefit our students come August,” said Ms. Sayers.
A new approach that the district is using this year is to include a 21st Century component in every session.
“This took some advanced planning, but it is really paying off,” said Lauren Woolley, Technology Program Area Specialist. “In the past most of our technology workshops were held separately from those focused on curriculum. This year we met with each of the workshop leaders in advance and planned together what technology fit best with what they were training teachers on.”
“We still offer separate workshops, especially for technologies that take more time to master. But we love this new integrated approach,” she continued. “There’s a thousand different ways a teacher can use technology to improve teaching and learning, and sometimes little ideas can make a big difference – especially with today’s students.”
Carla Harrell, a teacher from Montevallo Elementary, is one of many who think Shelby County does a great job with professional development.
“Our district is always embarking on the cutting edge of the current trends in education,” Ms. Harrell said. “They do an exceptional job preparing their educators.”
And school administrators are not left out. They will be learning the same information as the teachers when school resumes this fall.
“What we do for teachers in the summer, we do for administrators during the school year. This August all of our school and district administrators will begin another yearlong Professional Learning Unit. This means that they will be spending a few hours every month developing their leadership skills. That’s what we are about—continuously learning and improving,” said Ms. Sayers.