Posted in Colchester High School, Employee Spotlight, General, Grants, Other Important Information, Personnel, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

Expanding Professional Development for Teachers and Why It’s Important

With grant funding provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Colchester High School science teacher Kara Lenorovitz recently honored Colchester School District by presenting at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual fall meeting in San Francisco, having been selected to do so by the Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) program.

Ms. Lenorovitz joined teacher Tom Lane of Bellows Free Academy, Fairfax and St. Michael’s College’s Miranda Lescaze at the San Francisco meeting. (To read a brief feature about Ms. Lenorovitz’s San Francisco presentation, please click here, and to view her presentation materials, please click here.) More than 22,000 earth and space scientists, educators, students, and other leaders gathered to present groundbreaking research and connect with colleagues as part of the December 9–13 event.

“It was incredibly powerful and reaffirming to both attend and present at the AGU conference,” Ms. Lenorovitz said. “Having the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge scientific findings across the multifaceted disciplines of Earth science, network with researchers and educators from around the world, and to partner more closely with RACC colleagues represented unparalleled professional development. Learning more about the complexities of climate change and educator professional development opportunities offered by other national and international organizations truly highlighted that the broader RACC research focus and model of authentically integrating both high school teachers and students in a vibrant research community is a unique, dynamic, and effective model.”

Ms. Lenorovitz has participated in the Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) program, which is part of the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)—which is itself a NSF-funded collaborative research effort between university researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and high school teams throughout New England, New York, and Puerto Rico—for four years. She also mentors CHS students in EPSCoR-related efforts; last school year, three CHS seniors focused their efforts on understanding how storm events impact phosphorus levels in streams in various areas of different land uses and were later recognized for their contributions to climate change research. (Read more about that impressive feat here!)

CHS has participated in the Streams/RACC project for all six years of the program’s existence (the name morphed to Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) after its third year). Because science teacher Will Warren led the CHS team for the first two years, two science teachers and thirteen students have been actively engaged in this research initiative over CHS’s six years of participation.

Why is this important?

Exceptional teachers and teaching opportunities best position our students for success. Teacher collaboration is a critical element of student success (please click here to read a Spotlight primer about it), as are strategic professional development opportunities. In addition to serving as an elemental component in CSD’s teacher evaluation model (please click here to access our three-part primer about it), professional development is also the foundational aspect of in-service days (please click here to read more about them). Students’ ability to participate in hands-on, experiential learning is critically important, and your schools work to provide as many hands-on opportunities as possible for students—from pioneering a first-of-its-kind sustainability initiative and partnering with UVM to conduct atmospheric research to working with a state official to design simple water filtration systems … and from seeking grant funding to support the construction of a human-powered generator to teaming up with Colchester Police Department to explore forensics, your schools work to align with the Colchester School District Vision and Strategic Plan 2012–2017’s many pathways, including Pathway A: High Standards, Expectations, and Individual Engagement for All Learners; Pathway B: Technology Infrastructure and Integration; Pathway C: Learning Outside Our Four Walls; and Pathway E: Parent, Community, and School Partnerships Among Lifelong Learners. And we are having an astronomical reach—literally; did you know that one of our graduates is a flight controller for the International Space Station?

Hands-on study and application of science is important because making real-world connections to abstract classroom learning piques student engagement and attention—thus encouraging out-of-the-box thinking and enhancing learning. It also strengthens students’ observational skills and allows them to actively engage in their learning, providing additional sensory activities and expanding their curiosity. Our students are busily preparing for careers that do not even exist yet, and as such, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are of even greater importance; students must be able to translate the theories and concepts they learn now toward applications they will use in their careers that have yet to be developed. Facilitating an increased emphasis on hands-on education—and providing opportunities for leadership development and career preparation in the process—is an excellent example of the forward thinking that the district works hard to promote and encourage. In order to do that, we must have quality teachers. To have quality teachers, they must have relevant, meaningful, and ongoing professional development.

In short, expanded professional development for teachers equals enhanced experiential learning—and thus greater success—for our students.

For more information, please call CHS at (802) 264-5700.

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