Faculty professional development: A summer well spent makes for a great school year


For many of our faculty members, they used the summer to develop professionally and prepare for the new school year.

Some taught summer camps during Summer Under the Oak while others traveled cross country to engage in professional learning.

A handful of teachers used their Keryn and Ted Mathas Professional Development Grant to expand their learning and teaching methods. This award is given by alumnus Ted ’85 and provides funding for professional activities. Brendan Hoyle, theater director and coordinator of maker education, and Claire Fornsel, middle school science teacher, attended The Design & Maker Class Colloquium: Transforming the Curriculum at the Windward School in California.

“This session taught us how to integrate the MakerLabs into our curriculum, which will benefit the students with hands-on, doing-learning and build confidence, which will allow them to gain a sense of accomplishments,” said Fornsel.

“We cultivated an understanding of the philosophy behind the ‘making’ culture, gained hands-on experience through immersive workshops and studied successful makerspace curricular integration models,” said Hoyle.

Other award receipts included:

  • Jan Weintraub, lower school guidance counselor, Emily Lindale, first-grade teacher, and Sarah DeStefano, upper school social studies teacher, used their Mathas grant to travel to San Diego for the 20th Annual Character Matters Conference. "The character development conference we attended this past June was informative and inspiring,” said DeStefano. “I was able to learn a lot from the speakers, and I hope to apply my new found appreciation for character development into my curriculum. I especially want to emphasize the importance of building empathy with my students this school year."

  • Paige Solomon, upper school social studies teacher, built on her Mathas grant project from last year by attending the Eastern Regional Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Conference in Pittsburgh and completing the online course TPS Basics through Waynesburg University. “I’m very excited to incorporate primary sources into instruction every day and sharing those methods with other teachers,” said Solomon. “I will teacher a professional development course for teachers in Norfolk Public Schools later this summer.” 

  • Alan Stell, science department chair, and Melissa Silverman, lower school science teacher, used their Hackney Awards to attend the National Science Teacher Association’s 5th Annual STEM Conference in Denver. “The conference focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) at all grade levels, including biology, chemistry, physics and more. It was really good at helping teachers apply science, particularly how to apply science for problem solving—I like to call it problem solving science,” said Stell.   

Collegiate believes in life-long learners and many of our teachers displayed their love for learning by completing several courses at the university level:

  • Julie Hastings, middle school English teacher, was selected for the Tidewater Writing Project, a six-week summer program at Old Dominion University. “This course was part of the National Writing Project, which will allow me access to resources and guest speakers that will benefit my classroom tremendously,” said Hastings. “I learned how to analyze writing from the students’ perspective to develop a writer’s identity, which will enhance their critical thinking and teach them how to think critically and how to defend their writing."

  • Michelle Kellam, lower school administrative assistant, completed the college course Youth Creativity. “This summer I participated in a highly experiential class focusing on creativity and youth development,” said Kellam. “During this time of research and theory, we discovered how to use, apply and nurture creativity within young people.” 

  • Cathy Francis, band director, completed the graduate course titled Wind Band Literature. “By the end of the course, we created a four-year curriculum, which I will apply to many of the activities our students will do this school year,” said Francis.

  • Claire Fornsel took a graduate class on project-based learning at James Madison University and assisted at a teacher institute sponsored by the Southeastern Maritime and Transportation Institute. “It was a good fit for utilizing the MakerLabs, which taught us how to do projects.” 

  • Brenda Pidgeon, lower school computer teacher, completed the online course An Introduction to C.S. Lewis: Writings and Significance through Hillsdale College. "I think it's important to learn about things that you are passionate about. For me, it's reading. I'm an avid reader," said Pidgeon. "During the class, we discussed how Lewis used to say, 'You don't always have to tell them why you are teaching them something, but later you can pull it all together.'" For Pidgeon, lessons such as these are important to keep in mind, as you never know when a lesson or tidbit learned somewhere else will be able to be incorporated into a lesson and life.

  • Robyn Maus took the course Conducting and Integrating Real World Research into the Classroom at the Dolphin Research Center in Florida. She also attended three Seesaw webinars—Seesaw empowers students of any age to independently document what they are learning at school. “Through webinars, I investigated the app Seesaw which is an electronic learning journal that I hope to use with my fifth-graders this year. My most exciting summer activities involved travel,” said Maus. “I accompanied the Collegiate French students to France and attended the Dolphin Research Center in Florida where I followed marine mammal care experts in action, real researchers conducting research in the field. I think my fifth grade class will be excited to hear about what I learned this summer.”

Additionally, several of our new teachers jumped on board and joined a host of our returning faculty members for app sessions, 1:1 classroom management, SMART Notebook 16 Training and a Google Level 1 Boot Camp in preparation for the school year.