Teachers gather for special instruction
RIVERSIDE — Teachers from many neighboring school districts are meeting at the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort this week to attend the Washington School District’s professional development workshop.
Over 200 people from area school districts are scheduled to attend, with teachers coming from Highland, Williamsburg, Iowa City, Mid-Prairie and Grant Wood Area Education Agency.
“It’s called a ‘hybrid model,’” said Washington school district curriculum director Veta Thode. “We are going to be live-streaming from San Antonio, Texas, some ‘big name’ people in education – Becky and Rick DuFour.”
Thode said that the program would have a facilitator from the DuFours’ group work with the teachers. The program will run today through Thursday.
“It’s shifting the focus,” Thode said. “Rather than on teaching, it is about student learning.”
While professional development is common in the Washington School District, Thode said that this is the first time the district has had a learning program of this magnitude. She said this would be the structure for professional development in the future. One hundred twenty-eight teachers from the Washington district are participating.
The cost of the event was about $340 per teacher for out-of-district teachers to attend. The event is paid for with teacher quality money. The total is about $68,000. One-third of that will come from out-of-district sources.
“Our teacher quality committee felt strongly enough about this opportunity to really focus on that and get it here,” Thode said.
The committee is made up of five teachers and five administrators.
According to the DuFours’ Web site, Rick DuFour, a former social studies teacher, developed the PLC (Professional Learning Community) At Work program in response to what at the time was common practice in school districts – focus on compliance to rules rather than whether students were learning. The main points of the program are: Ensuring all students learn; establishing a culture of collaboration among the staff; and focusing on results.
Thode said that many of the concepts being taught at the seminar are things district teachers do already, but the program is giving the teachers information they need to take the teaching philosophy to the “next level.” She said the instruction provides more depth and structure into teaching and helps teachers to address individual problems while still moving the rest of the class ahead.
“This is the way the entire state is moving,” Thode said. “We are just working to stay ahead of the game.”
She said the teaching procedure being taught is research-based and there have been many examples of school districts that have adopted the philosophy and greatly improved student achievement.