Teachers As Students

When does 3 + 6 = 1? When you're talking about three new mathematics teachers, six returning mathematicians and their one, reinvigorated department.

A third of Brooks' nine-person math department was new to the school when the academic year began in September. So as students worked to get comfortable with their subjects' concepts and challenges, the math teachers focused on getting comfortable, too, with their new classrooms and colleagues.

The educators had a chance to make strides toward that end about a month ago when they spent the day together at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)'s regional conference in Boston, where they shared knowledge and learned about new resources and tools.

Specifically, the teachers looked at "best practices with the focus on active learning, practices that create a high level of student engagement . . . [and] strategies to help us implement competency-based learning initiatives at Brooks," said Mathematics Department Chair Dave Price. "It's really a great vibe right now with the influx of three new teachers. We're embracing positive change as a group by working together to improve our program."

This NCTM event (which Price called "great team bonding") is just one example, though, of the many valuable professional development opportunities that Brooks School faculty is able to enjoy throughout the year. Teachers participate in professional development through conferences and workshops related to their teaching or leadership at Brooks, as well as progress they're making toward their own teaching education in masters' or Ph.D. programs.

Similar to past years, "we're finding our usual high level of engagement in professional development across the board from our faculty," said Dean of Faculty John McVeigh. "One great trend is that we have pairs or groups of folks going together, which provides additional opportunity for collaboration both during the experience as well as once they return to campus."

McVeigh is also encouraged by the ways in which "we are seeing more and more folks bring the professional development back to Brooks to share with others," he added. "There is a train-the-trainer effect that allows their work to spread to others in our community and makes the impact wider and deeper to help us move forward in every aspect of our school."

Dean of Teaching and Learning Mary Jo Carabatsos and History Department Chair Michele Musto's experience at the Learning Design Summit with the Global Online Academy at the Episcopal School in Alexandria, Va., is one such example. The duo — who fittingly spent their week in June in a building that shares Brooks School's address number: 1160 — worked together on learning design and competency-based learning. "That shared experience really exponentially improves what you get out of it individually," said Carabatsos. "There's more opportunity for taking out what you're hearing and reflecting on how it could help us as a school."

Spanish teacher Lillian Miller's week at the Exeter Humanities Institute this summer learning the student-centered Harkness method to teaching was equally useful. "It was wonderful to learn how a student-centered class works and how much the students take out of the experience," she said, "because they are not only learning the material but are learning how to approach different perspectives in a respectful and empathetic discussion."

Meanwhile, leadership was the focus of Dean of Students Willie Waters' professional development with McVeigh at the Core Leadership for Educators program at the Stevenson School in Pebble Beach, Calif., in July, followed up with a conference with the School Leadership Institute at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va., in August. "Any conference where you are with people from other schools around the country allows me to reflect on all the great things we do at Brooks, but also hear about possible tweaks we can be making," he said.

Even a trip abroad brings important learning lessons back home. Academic Dean Susanna Waters and History Teacher Amanda Nasser accompanied McVeigh on a WWII-themed tour through Europe with 17 students in observance of the 75th anniversary of D-Day this summer.

"From the Churchill War Rooms, to the beaches of Normandy, to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, we garnered a huge appreciation for the importance of remembrance, sense of place and educating future generations on empathy and humanity," said Waters. While not your typical professional development, she acknowledged, "It helped reinforce the value of immersive, experiential learning and helped us to become better informed humanities teachers."

Ultimately, no matter what the topic or format, McVeigh said he is "confident we'll be a better school because of everyone's time, effort, and attention to their craft . . . Pursuing professional development and new experiences that will help shape the classroom experience for teachers and students alike."

Follow Brooks School on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see all the activities, projects and happenings in our community each day during the school year.


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