In an effort to share ideas, expertise and creativity, hundreds of Higley Unified School District elementary school teachers spent a recent “professional development” day learning from one another.
The idea was crafted by elementary school assistant principals. Knowing the great pool of teacher talent in the schools, staff put together the “Professional Development Café” where teachers selected the one-hour or two-hour sessions they wished to attend.
Teachers and district staff applied to be presenters at the event, held Oct. 13 at Centennial Elementary School.
Altogether, 30 different sessions were created. Titles included: Writers Workshop, Strategies for Working with ELL and Struggling Students, Academic Vocabulary, Close Reading, Teach like a Champion, Socratic Method, Read/Speak/Move- Engaging Learners in Early Literacy and more.
“I loved having the opportunity to pick and choose classes,” said Lori Pascual, a first-grade teacher at Higley Traditional Academy. “These STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities will be great to use with my sixth-grade buddies.”
Pascual also attended classes on web page development and math standards.
Janet Williams, a 20-year teaching veteran who works with gifted students at Gateway Pointe Elementary School, plans to take the lessons from “Socratic Seminar” to her students, as well as the STEM activities and “flipped classroom” session.
A “flipped classroom” is when students study lessons at home and then put them into practice in the classroom.
“I’ll use it all,” she said. “They were all good.”
One well-attended class was Read/Speak/Move for teachers of students in the younger grades, taught by Thomas Murphy, a music teacher at San Tan Elementary School.
During the lesson, the 15-year teaching veteran showed how to incorporate movement into story reading.
“The benefit is kids need to move often and be interactive, so while reading, teachers can add interactive movements or chants to the book,” he said. “We let the kids express a concept in the book. So with the concept, ‘up,’ students lift their arms. When students physically express concepts, they can better understand it.”
Using the book “The Little Old Lady Who is Not Afraid of Anything,” he gave a demonstration, stomping his feet, shaking his arms and clapping his hands.
Jacqui Flowers, a teacher at Coronado Elementary School, taught a lesson titled, “Touchdown Moonlanding,” where teachers discovered new ways to teach scientific ideas, such as distance, rate and time.
One way Flowers teaches the ideas is through the creative build of “pasta cars,” where students use differently shaped pasta noodles to make movable vehicles. Students must also write up a report and give an oral presentation.
The entire day was a phenomenal success, said Higley’s Assistant Superintendent Dr. Steve Nance.
“Teachers were engaged and active. They clearly enjoyed the learning and the new ideas being shared. We hope to continue this in the future,” he said.