Professional Development in a Pandemic

MICDS faculty members turn to professional development pursuits during the summer months, and this summer, those pursuits were especially important and unique. Although there are no conferences or sabbatical trips due to COVID-19, faculty members engaged in bettering themselves as educators in the virtual environment. The experience of being a virtual student in a webinar or online session was valuable in terms of building empathy for their students.

Middle School Language Arts Teacher Kathleen Armstrong attended Teaching Literacy in Times of Change and Uncertainty, a small conference produced by the Public Education and Business Coalition. Two sessions, in particular, stood out to her, especially within the context of distance teaching. Armstrong shared, “All children need to be heard, and they need to see themselves in stories; they need to see others in stories that give them a window into how others live, and they need to be able to walk in another’s shoes so they can understand others who are not quite like themselves, here and around the globe. The metaphor that we need mirrors, windows, and doors in the books we choose is used to tap into our common bonds as humans and to develop a shared emotional response from the reading.” The presenter for the second session was Cuban-American author Antonio Sacre who wrote stories for his own children after realizing there were no stories that told his story. His picture book stories are fun and engaging while serving as a window into another culture for some children and a mirror for those who share similar culture and traditions.

Middle School Drama Teacher and 7th Grade Dean Charlotte Dougherty, Middle and Lower School Drama Teacher Missy Heinemann, and Upper School Drama Teacher Carolyn Hood attended a week-long professional development experience, Broadway Teacher’s Workshop 2020 Online Conference. The diverse curriculum included classes on design, teaching, producing, and directing theater in the online environment. Each evening closed with a fireside chat from a Broadway legend: Steven Schwartz, Patti LuPone, Billy Porter, and Chita Rivera. Dougherty shared, “I learned not only some tips for teaching online but also how it feels to be a student online all day. I think that was the biggest eye-opener.”



Middle School English Teacher Olivia Halverson participated in Distance Learning up Close: Teaching for Engagement and Impact in any Setting presented by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie. The webinar spoke to many aspects of distance learning including addressing students’ social/emotional needs, focusing on the learning process, cultivating student-teacher relationships virtually, employing technological platforms in the classroom, and assessing students at a distance. Halverson said, “I am confident my strategies will provide students with a richer, more well-rounded distance learning experience. By reaching students’ needs emotionally, socially, cognitively, and academically through regular interactions with them and my willingness to pivot when a new approach is necessary, students receive quality educational instruction.”

Classroom Supervisor and Substitute Teacher David Kates completed the nine-day Climate Reality Leadership Corps Global Training led by Former Vice President Al Gore. The virtual training featured about 10,000 participants from dozens of countries. Gore delivered his two-hour An Inconvenient Truth speech, along with a Reality in 10 (minutes) speech, and he interviewed climate experts. Kates shared, “The goals of the training were to prepare leaders to deliver speeches in many different venues, integrate climate change into curricula, mentor youth activists, and participate in lobbying government and businesses to be more climate-friendly in their policies. At MICDS, I hope to deliver short and longer climate speeches to students in each grade and mentor the environmental or campus greening clubs.”

Middle School Math Teacher Dr. Jody Marberry attended a three-day training to earn her Qualified Administrator certification to help MICDS administer the Intercultural  Development Inventory (IDI). With leadership from Director of Faculty Equity and Inclusion Erica Moore, MICDS began using the IDI a few years ago to help us build our understanding and authentic implementation of cultural competence. Marberry will help Moore this year re-introduce and administer the IDI to all faculty and staff to measure both our growth as individuals and also as a community.

Upper School History Teachers Dr. Tanya Roth and Kristin Roberts engaged in an online course called What Makes a Winning Presidential Campaign? hosted through a partnership between the Presidential Primary Sources Project, the National Archives, and Presidential Libraries. The sessions included presentations from staff at five presidential libraries (Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton libraries). “We learned about how each of these presidents ran their political campaigns, focusing on five factors that determine if a presidential campaign is successful: strategy, technology, personality, state of the Union, financial support, and voter turnout.” Roberts applied much of what she learned to her Presidential Politics class, a course that focuses on the history of the presidency, particularly in terms of campaign strategies and changes over time. Roth teaches Accelerated U.S. History, and she also plans to incorporate resources from the program later in the school year.

Middle School Learning Specialist Susan Taylor-Alonso participated in a summer graduate course through her Multicultural Education doctoral program at Johns Hopkins University. The course focused on identifying strategies and interventions for facilitating transformative multicultural approaches to education. Taylor-Alonso said, “Using Pedersen’s tripartite model of multiculturalism, we addressed the requisite awareness, knowledge, and skills for enhancing our multicultural competencies. We created a conceptual framework to organize research approaches related to this model, and we engaged in deep reflection about critical pedagogy, intersectionality, and fostering identity safe spaces.”

Upper School Dean and English Teacher Nicole Trueman-Shaw participated in Rick Wormeli’s webinar Accurate/Ethical Grading hosted by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS). She shared, “We focused on best practices for grading the acquisition and application of skills during COVID-19. We need to be intentional about showing grace and compassion before accountability when it comes to supporting our newest Upper School friends. While we need to ultimately hold them accountable for their work and learning, we first need to make sure we are being appropriately compassionate about their learning challenges in this new virtual learning environment.” She also participated in Working for Justice, Equity, and Civic Agency in Our Schools: A Conversation with Clint Smith hosted by Facing History and Ourselves.

Middle School History Teacher Robyn Williams and Middle School Science Teacher/Maker and Robotics Coordinator Branson Lawrence took a course called Andragogy and Distance Learning through Lindenwood University as part of their Master’s in Educational Technology program. The course provided a foundation in major theories of adult learning (andragogy), digital etiquette, responsible social interaction, and online education. The course project was to design and develop an online course for adult learners. Williams created a self-paced, self-directed Schoology course for MICDS teachers. She said, “While the course was geared towards adult learners, I found the major project helpful in designing and thinking about how to organize information on a learning management system for younger students engaged in distance learning.” Lawrence created a Schoology course on instructional videos for tools and equipment in the maker space. The videos focused on safety, operation, and potential classroom use. The course intent was to enable a teacher to integrate more maker projects into their curriculum.