While most students are enjoying their summer vacations, Liberty County School System teachers are hard at work, preparing themselves and their colleagues for the upcoming school year.
A group of over 100 math and English teachers from kindergarten through fifth grade convened this week at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center for the first block of the summer work sessions for faculty development, hosted by the district’s Teaching and Learning Department.
In line with this year’s training theme, “Building Capacity Through Teacher Leaders,” each teacher in attendance was identified by their principal as a leader at their school and hand-picked to attend the training. The teacher-leaders will conduct training at their home schools, passing on the information they learned through the work sessions.
Charlene Rocker, a curriculum specialist in the Teaching and Learning Department, said differentiation is a top priority of this year’s training.
“If I have a class of 30, how do I make it so that everyone gets what they need?” she asked. “Differentiation is really about discerning different abilities, levels, strategies and interests.”
Although Common Core officially was integrated in the 2013-14 school year, Rocker said that the district started training teachers on the new curriculum a full two years before its implementation.
Rocker explained that, like any curriculum, Common Core sets standards for where students need to be. The difference with Common Core, she said, is in the varying pathways teachers may use to get students up to those standards.
“It really gives you more leeway as to getting them there,” Rocker said. “We all know where we want them go, but how that teacher uses her style, in that particular classroom, to get them there — that’s up to the teacher.
“We have that same fear with any curriculum,” she continued, addressing the notion that Common Core is too restraining on teachers. “I’ve been around long enough to see them evolve … to something that’s much more sophisticated than the last one. And this one has proven to be that as well.”
Tuesday morning’s training, led by Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Anthony Calloway, focused on effectively utilizing teacher evaluations to “differentiate instruction, provide small-group interventions and facilitate student conferencing,” according to the work-session agenda.
Tuesday afternoon featured a presentation by Ellen Gadbury, a representative from Renaissance Learning, titled “Things you didn’t know you didn’t know about STAR.”
Rocker explained that STAR evaluations tell educators where gaps in learning are on an individual-student basis. Teachers then can use this data to form support groups for children who may have the same learning gaps, and to produce strategies to fill those gaps.
Summer work sessions for LCSS faculty development continue throughout this month.