Little Silver, NJ -  This summer, the staff of Red Bank Regional RBR devoted a week to professional development funded by the district’s Small Learning Community (SLC) Grant. (RBR has created small learning communities for all its students to experience career themed learning experiences and to reap the benefits of a personalized learning experience within a large school. The State of New Jersey and the federal government recognize SLCs as a superior learning structure for a high school’s success.)

Principal Risa Clay comments, “One of the challenges of difficult financial times is sustaining meaningful professional development. This year our goal was to develop an atmosphere of collaborative coaching and learning among our participating teachers as well as to accomplish the traditional new staff orientation.”

Teachers were offered a menu of workshops focusing on math, science, literacy and general teaching strategies. Additionally, over thirty staff members seized the opportunity to create their own website for interactive use with students and parents in the upcoming school year. Several of the workshops were developed internally by RBR teachers who presented the programs to fellow staff. For instance, The Socratic Seminar- Let’s Debate, developed by teachers April Chichelo and Kelly Maratta, utilizes the AVID technique which employs higher level thinking skills to engage all students in analysis and thoughtful debate.  English teacher, and last year’s Teacher of the Year, Andrew Forrest, shared his unique teaching approach in a seminar he developed entitled, Teaching, Reading and Writing with Presence. John DeBarerie presented a literacy workshop he turnkeyed from a literacy training he took with Monmouth University in June.

During one workshop, Larry Ottman from Texas Instruments demonstrated the best ways to use this powerful calculator tool for algebraic applications. Trainer Jim Rahn shared certain teaching strategies so students could better visualize fractional problems rather than just memorize mechanical processes.

He states, “If the students figure out how the concept works, they will remember it.”

RBR also sought the opportunity to invite sending school middle school math teachers to Rahn’s as well as other training workshops.

RBR Science and Math supervisor Sue Zilienski explains, “Throughout the school year we have sought opportunities to train and work with our middle sending school counterparts so we can help better prepare our students in math concepts before they enter high school and build on that knowledge base once they arrive at RBR.”

Risa Clay adds, “We have identified district-wide needs, and have been able to address them through sustainable services with trainers as Jim, Larry and Nilda Collazo (who conducted a workshop on literary addressing English Language Learners) This is professional development with intentionality that will be on-going and meets the needs of our staff. We were also able to identify talents within our own teachers and find ways to share those talents and ideas. We plan to keep this momentum going during the school year by having follow-up sessions on these topics as well as others.”