School District 27 has embarked on a slate of “ambitious” professional learning opportunities this year, including virtual workshops.
SD27 Supt. Chris van der Mark said the district is offering a series of workshops from instructors such as Dr. Peter Liljedahl, who specializes in creating classroom cultures and teaching mathematics, and Faye Brownley, a renowned literacy and instructional expert.
Liljedahl, who visited the school last fall to show teachers new ways to enhance the quality of their teaching, provided more tips in a virtual workshop this month and is expected to follow up with another in the spring.
“We’re not big fans of one day, one workshop wonders. You have to have these sessions over and over again until people are comfortable with what they’re doing,” van der Mark said. “You don’t just go to a workshop and next Monday you’re doing it, there’s a bit more to it than that on how we go about improving our practice.”
The district also plans to continue virtual workshops featuring Faye Brownley in February, and involving one of her publishing partners Dr. Layton Schnellert, who will share common teaching strategies that are useful regardless of grade level or subject.
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“All of those things are pretty foundational areas in teaching and learning and help people understand why kids do what they do and how they learn, grow and develop. It will make the teaching gig more enjoyable and the lessons more effective,” van der Mark said.
Most of the workshops are done virtually because of the pandemic, van der Mark said, while all staff coursework will be done online. He added the district is thrilled that the teachers have jumped at the chance to put more tools in their toolkit.
van der Mark noted staff, students and teachers have all become more adept at using technology during the pandemic.
“I’m really proud of how our school district has adapted and been able to provide the education that’s required. People have been really responsive in some fairly unprecedented times to ensure we can do what’s best for our communities,” van der Mark said.
He noted the district has also made a lot of progress with local education agreements with First Nation bands throughout the region, something he hopes will continue into 2021. The province has asked school districts to make these agreements as they lead to better understanding, communication and knowledge on how children are being supported both at school and at home. SD27 has gone from having around three of these agreements to close to 10 of the 12 major First Nations communities within their borders, van der Mark said.
van der Mark said it’d be great in 2021 to see schools return to normal and be able to have activities like school sports teams, which are a huge part of the school experience. However, SD27 doesn’t make those decisions, van der Mark said, and they will be waiting for the green light from the province.
“We wish all of our SD27 community good health and joy for the upcoming year of 2021,” van der Mark said.