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Teachers stay after class to keep learning

Photo courtesy Suzie Romig/RFSDInstructor Bitsy Herpel, left, shares a laugh with her colleagues and students in a Spanish for Teachers class, part of the RFSD Staff Development Program.
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Across the school district, teachers are staying after class.The teachers aren’t in trouble; they are putting in extra time to boost their own learning and to keep their teaching skills sharp.This fall, after the last bell of the day, more than 100 employees across the Roaring Fork School District can be found in a school library, local restaurant or a classroom studying topics such as cooperative learning, six-trait writing techniques, assessment teams, sheltered instruction or Spanish for teachers.The offerings, including a summer academy, are part of the RFSD Staff Development Program that has been enhanced and improved during the past two years. The program is coordinated by the district’s two instructional facilitators for curriculum and staff development, Anita Parker and Paula Marr, who are experienced teachers now in their third year in the district support roles.Teachers say the district-sponsored program provides informative and pertinent classes that also are convenient and fun. Many classes are taught in the teachers’ home school or attendance area, so they do not have to travel far. The courses count toward necessary teacher recertification credits, but are less costly and more tailored to the teachers’ professional needs than many other college offerings.”It’s an easy way to be able to take classes. They really have benefited me in my job,” noted Debbie Bair, a preschool teacher at Sopris Elementary School. “The program is definitely offering things that we need.”Bair said education has changed a lot since she earned her teaching certificate 18 years ago.”The program has given me lots of new ideas in how to better work with the children,” Bair said. “These classes give you some ideas on new theories and ideas to keep us updated.”When staff members keep learning, students and employees benefit on many levels. SES preschool teacher Leah Burnsworth explained that the more familiar she becomes with the Spanish language and culture, the more she understands subtleties in two languages. Now, for example, she realizes rather than responding with “que?” for what, it’s more appropriate to say “como?”The professional development program also provides a cost effective and efficient way for the district to train staff. Teachers are paid a stipend to teach a course in their area of expertise, and staff members who may have received grants to attend a national training can share that knowledge with colleagues in their home schools.The program also assists in retaining quality employees. Staff members earn one credit for each 15-hour class completed. After earning 10 credits, the teacher may move up one step on the district pay scale.The staff development builds professional learning communities and enhances teaching teams since educators come to the RFSD from across the country and the world. Learning common teaching techniques and best practices helps to coordinate instruction.”It keeps us all on the same page of what’s new in educational strategies,” Burnsworth said. “We have so many resources within the district who can come and do trainings. It’s just wonderful because they do a lot of sharing.”The program helps teachers improve and pull together so that student learning remains the essence of their work.Suzie Romig is the RFSD’s public information officer.


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