Each year our teachers gain new insight, knowledge and expertise through Tower’s robust professional development program. Opportunities include: math and literacy conferences, diversity workshops, graduate study, relevant travel, and a variety of additional workshops and national conferences for educators.
Thanks to the generosity of our families, Tower has the resources to enable teachers and administrators to continually expand their knowledge and enrich the classroom experience for our students.
Below are a few recent examples of faculty professional development that enhance the experiences for our students:
Deacon Chapin, Math
Deacon streamlined and enhanced the upper school math curriculum through a three-stage approach.
Stage 1. Identified areas of redundancy between 6th and 7th grade curricula and streamlined those to provide an efficient review rather than a complete re-teaching. Identified core Algebra concepts that could be covered during those times instead as a preparation for 8th grade.
Stage 2. Inserted those core Algebra concepts into the new 7th grade space. Also identified areas within the 7th and 8th grade programs that could take some geometry review questions in order to help mitigate challenges in those areas on recent standardized testing.
Stage 3. Integrated elements of the Phillips Exeter math curriculum into weekly problem sets for 8th grade students that will provide an opportunity for more frequent, graded feedback and discussion.
Colleen Parenteau, Science
Colleen is taking a permaculture design certification course in Shelburne Falls, MA, to learn first hand from ecological design professionals and educators about how to create permaculture gardens with her students. Through this course, she's learning design and growing techniques that she can apply to her lessons within the greenhouse and raised bed garden spaces.
Webb Thompson, History Teacher/Past McCann Chair
Webb Thompson traveled to Greece to enhance his ancient Greek history curriculum and the portion of his English curriculum that focuses on Greek Mythology, particularly the Iliad and Odyssey.
His itinerary included Athens, Crete and Santorini, and followed his history curriculum, which focuses on the Bronze Age of Greece through the development of democracy in Athens.
A significant highlight of his trip was walking up the path and through the Lion Gate of the citadel of Mycenae. "This was the site of the most powerful civilization of the late Bronze Age and the home of Agamemnon, the high king in Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. After teaching and researching this subject for 17 years, I thought I had a deep understanding of the Bronze Age civilizations, but walking under this Lion Gate was something else. With the Cyclopean Walls on either side of me and the huge lions and column that symbolized its power, I was struck by a greater understanding. I look forward to being able to pass along what I learned in Greece to my students for years to come."
Mike Marroquin, Grade 5
Mike attended a Lucy Calkins reading workshop at Columbia University's Teachers' College. Through the workshop, he gained additional training in the methods of Lucy Calkins for teaching reading and writing skills to students in grade five.
Rachel Perrella, Grade 2
Rachel spent five days at Kripalu participating in the “Breathe With Tigers” workshop. During her time at Kripalu, Rachel was able to take a deep dive into meditation, movement meditation, and Prana flow. Her goal is to strengthen her mindfulness practice with students and share her understanding and techniques with other faculty.
Sig Orne, History Teacher/History Chair
Sig Orne traveled the first 1000 miles of the Oregon Trail, documenting the journey through copious notes, interviews and photographs. Ms. Orne brings her seven-day, immersive education of westward expansion to life when teaching students about the mid-1800s and Westward Expansion.
Ryan Buckley, Head of Upper School
Ryan attended the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs this summer. The goal of the program: To raise competencies in teachers and administrators about what leadership entails so that they can understand own dispositions, become better leaders and, therefore, better teachers of leadership to students. Ryan is bringing elements from the conference to students in US in different ways, one of which is the new school climate committee service program and advisory.
Jaclyne Ainlay, Spanish
Jaclyne took a course through the Idioma Language Institute titled, “Latin American Rhythm and Beat: Using Music and Lyrics to Teach Spanish”. Upon completion she reflected, "In addition to learning new aspects of Latin American history I hadn’t previously studied, the course has provided me with a wealth of resources and ideas for using music in the classroom."
Angela Powell, Grade 3
Angela participated in “Reading Comprehension: Getting a Fluid Decoder to Understand”, a course taught by Adam Hickey at Landmark. This two day workshop focused on helping all types of students with reading comprehension, but had a focus on helping LD and Dyslexic students. Anglea commented "I will be thinking about how my students learn, and helping them reflect on how their brain processes work to help them strive to be more reflective learners this year. I will also focus more on schema before introducing new passages, now that I have a new appreciation for how essential this is."
Stephanie Fitzgerald, Visual Arts Teacher
During a summer-long course in ceramic coiling—one of the oldest pottery-making techniques—Stephanie Fitzgerald was introduced to clay compression as a method of attaching clay.
Additionally, she learned to use a variety of clays such as stoneware, porcelain and terra-cotta and examined ancient methods of building with clay.
Each year Tower students build on their clay skills and hand building techniques. Third graders study ancient techniques in ceramics. The historical background and ancient techniques of clay building in in Asia, the Americas and Europe adds depth and context to Tower's ceramic curriculum.
Anna Walcutt, Spanish
In expanding the Spanish curriculum to include Kindergarten and grade 1, Anna evaluated several programs known to be successful, and selected Mundo de Pepita for grades K-4.
The curriculum is organized into thematic units. Highlights include country studies of Peru, Mexico, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico, as well as units on polite expressions, pets, salsa making, and more.
After selecting Mundo de Pepita, Anna mapped the curriculum for K-4, updated the skill-based goals for each grade, and developed a new database of songs for grades K-2.
Elaina Louisos-Kramer, Learning Skills and Speech/Language Pathologist
Elaina Louisos-Kramer attended a summer institute course taught by Wendy Ellis at Landmark School which provided practical strategies for developing social communication skills in children with language-based learning disabilities.
Included were: social skills that need to be explicitly taught, such as strategies for self-regulation, working memory, inhibitory control and mental flexibility.
Ms. Ellis described social communication as being presented within a context but changes depending on “who we’re with and where we are”—a mantra she repeats to her students on a daily basis. She emphasized the importance of using common language that can be used by students and teachers, such as:
“Expected behaviors and unexpected behaviors”
“Thinking with your eyes” (assess the situation)
“Think it or say it?” (social filter development)
“Just Me Thinking”
Elaina developed a variety of techniques, activities and materials to target social communication skills with students.
Colleen Parenteau, Science
Colleen investigated the curriculum of Reforest the Tropics (RTT) to determine how she could effectively teach, augment and incorporate the RTT lessons into Tower's science curriculum for grades 4-6.
The Reforest the Tropics curriculum now enhances the following science topics:
- Grade 4: Static & Current Electricity
- Renewable and Non-renewable energy sources
- Grade 5: Rainforest Ecosystems
- Photosynthesis & Carbon Cycle
- Grade 6: Weather vs. Climate Water Cycle, Currents/patterns, & Climate Change
Michelle Berg, Kindergarten Assistant and Club T.E.D Supervisor
Michelle began Orton Gilligham training this summer with a level 1 overview course, a pre-requisite for beginning her practicum next year. She gained a better understanding of their multi-sensory approach to learning and why it works so well for students at Tower.