During the week of August 7-11, teachers from every building, 135 in total and nearly 40% of our teaching staff, voluntarily participated in the Little Cyclone Teacher Academy at the Ames High School. The week long Academy offered a variety of courses to teachers, allowing them to select from professional development opportunities that they would want to focus on. Examples of the courses included Differentiation for all Learners, Calibrating Conversations, Incorporating Technology into a Gradual Release of Responsibility, Advocacy: a Counter Narrative, Twice Exceptional Learners, and many more.
The courses were primarily led by Teacher Leaders in the District, a few administrators, along with Area Education Agency (AEA) staff. It was a great way for teachers to get back into the swing of things, collaborate with colleagues, and brainstorm about the upcoming school year. On Thursday of that week, the entire group participated in a PLC Workshop led by Jack Balderman from Solution Tree. He provided practical ways to effectively implement the professional learning community (PLC) process in their buildings, with a focus on developing strategies to make it as authentic and useful as possible. This was the inaugural year for the Little Cyclone Teacher Academy, but the initial format looked slightly different. “The Academy was organized as a way to provide common messaging and professional learning specifically for teacher leaders, but we quickly realized that all teachers would be interested in these topics and they should have an opportunity to participate as well,” said Associate Superintendent Dr. Mandy Ross. Many of the course topics were chosen based on identified needs from last year, while others aligned well with District goals.
The participation and engagement was excellent during the entire week of the Teacher Academy, and exceeded expectations from many in the District. Dr. Ross said “I think it really speaks well that they (the teachers) are taking the time to come in before the school year starts and enter with new learning that they can apply immediately in the classroom.”
Lisa Clayberg, a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA) who is the Teacher Leader Coordinator in the District and one of the primary organizers of the Teacher Academy, reinforced the amazing commitment that Ames teachers have. “I think I’m most excited about the fact that so many individuals have signed up to take part in the opportunity to grow professionally, and I’m thrilled that we can offer these opportunities in-house.” She went onto say “I know that students are the ones who reap the benefit of educators continually growing in their knowledge and expertise and this is where the focus should always be… on the students.”