Minisink Valley’s Professional Development Day provides latest tools and tactics to engage students

Teachers participating in Professional Development DayMinisink Valley’s March 14 Professional Development Day offered faculty and staff an opportunity to hear from experts focusing on topics tied to amplifying student voices, cultural responsiveness, equity and diversity and subject specific matter.

“We are committed to providing ongoing learning opportunities for our faculty and staff because we know this will help them provide even better learning opportunities to our students,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Christian Ranaudo. “This day is representative of our ongoing and primary mission — in partnership with the community, parents, administration, faculty —  to enable student to identify and achieve maximum potential.”

Embracing diversity and a supportive learning environment for all

The day’s program also supports a Board of Education goal of cultivating an atmosphere that embraces Minisink Valley’s diversity and supports a learning environment respectful of all students, staff, and community members.

“Today, we are here to learn and work together to make our schools a safer, more inclusive place for all our learners, and to find ways to give each of our students what they need to be successful,” Superintendent Brian Monahan said in his opening remarks.   “We are very excited about today’s program and the strides our school community has made throughout the year to celebrate and embrace Minisink Valley’s diversity.  Our kindness-themed programming is playing an important role in making a more inclusive school culture. Now, we are taking our efforts a step further by looking at ways to bring greater equity into our classrooms and programs.”

Amplifying student voices, cultural responsiveness, equity and diversity and subject specific matter

For example, workshops which focused on amplifying student voices included: “Using Book Creator to Unleash Student Creativity.”  Participants learned how to use it in the classroom and also looked at examples of student work using this tool.

In the “Powerful Storytelling Through Podcasting” workshop, participants were reminded that audio recordings are often overlooked as modes through which students, teachers, and districts can tell their stories. They learned how to leverage the power of podcasting and saw how it can break down barriers and establish/improve digital equity within their educational community.

The “Equity and Inclusion: You are the Binder” session looked at ways to create inclusion and community in any classroom or school and then examined one’s identities to determine how “who we are” affects institutional inequalities that contribute to the predictability of who succeeds and fails in schools.

A cultural responsiveness, equity and diversity workshop called “Creating Empathy in the Age of Acceleration” focused on whether technology can be a “black mirror” of dystopia, or an open window into the world and help build understanding empathy.

Subject specific topics included “Screen Casting and Using YouTube in the Classroom” and “Cultural Connections with G Suite.”

Additionally, there were also special workshops geared to the unique needs of the Transportation Department.

Faculty know a day like this has merit.

‘….new ideas about what’s possible to make learning more engaging for students’

“If there are offerings that are relevant to what I do, I like it,” said Michelle Hlavacek, a middle school speech therapist. “Today has been like that. It’s opening your mind to what you didn’t know before and giving you new ideas about what’s possible to make learning more engaging for students.”

Brendan McGann, who teaches biology and forensics at the high school, said a day like this one brings a lot of value to the lessons he presents.

“It provides us with many more tools that we may use on a normal day,” he added. “It brings different perspectives to how one might execute a lesson.”