Faculty Professional Development: Teachers Learn and Grow

Published : Saturday, December 7, 2013 | 1:47 AM

Photo by Flintridge Preparatory School

At Flintridge Prep, the classroom experience is enriched by teachers who are also growing as people, who are creative and who are aware of new research in education and in their fields.

Prep supports independent faculty projects and research, participation in professional conferences and workshops and course work towards advanced degrees.

With the help of professional growth funds, Prep faculty can travel to make presentations to other professionals. For instance, math teacher Jo French was able to lecture to attendees of the CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference on his experience teaching pre-calculus in a “flipped classroom” (see Spring 2013 PrepTalk)

Funding, combined with summer vacation, encourages faculty to expand their knowledge of teaching techniques, learn a new language, explore art and culture and trade ideas with colleagues.

The learning that teachers do outside the Prep campus ricochets back to the classrooms. Faculty share information with each other, keeping the campus engaged, invigorated and up-to-date.

“Going back to the classroom with summer professional development is like taking a step backwards so that you can charge forward,” says history teacher Josh Perlman, who attended two seminars last summer. “Teaching and learning are like breathing in and breathing out; you can’t have one without the other.”

PE faculty and coach Julie Jaime Mejia recently attended a seminar at Wellesley College called “Developing Females on Campus,” presented by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools. She says, “I’d like to present a session on leadership and self-confidence with all our ninth grade girls this year. I’m excited to build confidence with our female students on campus after being encouraged to teach, challenge, equip and educate our girls to pursue their passions.”

Ninth grade dean Barrett Jamison, who also teaches geometry and psychology, accompanied Headmaster Peter Bachmann, Dean of Students Midge Kimble and science teacher Theresa Cheng to the Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco in February, 2013. The topic of the conference, the Neuroscience of Creativity, resonated with Jamison. Many of the speakers emphasized that creativity requires quiet, reflective time, and that creativity can be taught. Jamison has already implemented creativity-enhancing activities in his psychology classes as well as his work with student leaders.

“The conference helped me understand environments that contribute to creativity and innovation, and also helped me appreciate how Prep is a fantastic creative laboratory, both for students and faculty,” Jamison says.

Photography teacher and fine arts department chair Tim Bradley enrolled in painting classes at Art Center—and ended up hiring the teacher, Anne Saitzyk, to assist in teaching advanced painting at Prep. He also brought back to his classroom—and his department—Saitzyk’s mantra emphasizing discovery rather than results alone.

“She would walk around our classroom,” he explains, “saying, ‘We’re not trying to make a masterpiece today.’ I could feel everyone unclench. It’s been a good reminder for me.”

Bradley also exhibited his photography in three shows: a solo show at Bergamot Station (“California Dwelling,” Craig Krull Gallery); a group show called “Present Memory” (Christopher Henry Gallery, New York City); a group show called “Face of California” (Santa Paula Museum of Art). He also was recently featured in Photographer’s Forum magazine.

Coach and PE teacher Sean Beattie and math teacher Jill Riehl are currently pursuing master’s degrees in education at Cal State Northridge with the support of Prep. In the last five years, professional development funds have also helped theater teacher Rob Lewis get his master’s degree in directing; aided Julie Jaime Mejia in earning her master’s in kinesiology from Cal State LA; and supported Barrett Jamison, Glen Beattie and Antonio Harrison ’01 in the completion of their master’s degrees.

Riehl says, “Summer professional development means faculty can get excited about returning to school and integrating what we’ve learned, and introducing it to the rest of our colleagues. You can do something every single year to get you excited about being a teacher again each fall.”

Flintridge Preparatory School, 4543 Crown Avenue, La Cañada Flintridge, (818) 790-1178 or visit (818) 952-6247 or visit www.flintridgeprep.org.

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