Week of workshops for St. John teachers give ‘great start’ to school year

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 22, 2008

RESERVE – The full first week of class for students in St. John the Baptist Parish Schools has come to a close, and class schedules and homework assignments will soon be a regular routine.

But many teachers have already been hard at work after starting their school year early with intense professional development sessions that began nearly a month ago.  However, their work is still far from routine!  

That is because district teachers have undergone training for a new reading program and enhanced teaching strategies promoted by a leading education institute that can help them enhance learning among their students.

“We are making a major push for professional development in our schools.  We have shifted federal grant money to pay for a lot of this extra training,” Superintendent Dr. Courtney P. Millet said.  “These trainings are a great investment of our resources.”

“A good teacher in the classroom is the most important element for success,” Dr. Millet said.  “I am so happy to report that the teachers of our district have been very willing to participate and very eager to learn new strategies and to put into practice our new programs.”

Dr. Millet noted that many teachers returned from their summer vacation early to participate, making this year’s “back to school” professional development sessions some of the best ever attended.

Title II Coordinator of Instructional and Professional Development Lanette Perrin said the district introduced to teachers a core reading/literature series for grades K-6 by Scott Foreman, called “Reading Street.”   The program includes a “Sidewalks” kit that helps teachers develop successful intervention exercises for students who are struggling.  At the same time, middle and high school teachers were provided with “Elements of Literature” to improve literacy across the content areas.

Perrin said the professional development sessions allowed teachers an opportunity to observe effective learning strategies by some of the district’s more effective teachers and national consultants during classroom demonstrations in the district’s “dream classrooms,” which were set up in the central office’s annex complex.

She said Reading Street Representative Ann Klein presented several hands-on demonstrations, as did several of the district’s Master Teachers.

“These demonstration classroom sessions allowed us the opportunity to address elements that are critical to a successful classroom, including classroom management, curriculum, instruction and assessment,” Perrin said.

Dr. Millet said the district modeled the demonstration classrooms after Dr. Lorraine Monroe’s dream school for teacher development outlined in her book, “Nothing’s Impossible: Leadership Lessons from Inside and Outside the Classroom.”  Dr. Monroe’s teaching strategies are highly acclaimed, and her foundation is regarded as a leading national educational think tank.

“If we expect our students to continuously learn and improve, then it only makes sense that we have the same expectations for our teachers,” she said. “Our teachers are excited about the tools we are giving them to ‘move the bar’ higher in their classrooms.”

The professional development sessions were held July 21-31, including a week-long workshop for new teachers.

Responding to surveys handed out after the session, many teachers praised the experience and cited ways they could improve their own classroom activities.

One respondent said, “Great job on presenting the information and relating the situation to everyday teaching.”  Another commented, “The discussion about guided reading helped me to understand how to implement it successfully in my classroom.”

“I enjoyed the mixture of reading and writing tips.  I gained many ideas and feel more confident about utilizing centers in my classroom,” acknowledged another teacher.

Dr. Millet said she will work with master teachers assigned to each campus in the district and central office curriculum coordinators to schedule more learning opportunities for the parish’s teachers throughout the school year.

 “We’re off to a great start this school year.  We want to continue to provide our teachers with the tools needed to keep high expectations so our students enjoy good results.”