Professional Development Opportunities: Using the Summer Months to Refresh, Reset, and be Inspired
By Danielle Ciccarelli / October 30, 2018
Last summer, Gateway High School biology teacher Mary Plant Thomas spent her summer days surrounded by flora in her role as a Plant Detective at the SF Botanical Gardens, a 55 acre living museum. She and her fellow sleuths were tasked with identifying and cataloging plants in the Garden’s vast collection.
At the same time, Gateway High Humanities teacher David Booth and other educators explored the galleries of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, studying artwork dealing with issues of identity.
And for the past several years, founding middle school science and math teacher Therese Arsenault has spent her summer months coaching novice teachers in the Exploratorium’s Teacher Leadership program.
While all of these teachers’ summer experiences were incredibly different, they all had one thing in common. They gave teachers the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, find inspiration, and make discoveries that they can bring back to the classroom.
One of my most enjoyable jobs at Gateway is to curate professional development opportunities that can be shared widely on our Gateway Impact website. I found out about many of the opportunities by talking to our teachers about experiences they’ve found to be enriching and exciting. I am amazed at how many teachers, after a non-stop school year, spend the summer coaching others, traveling to South Africa to teach, taking professional development workshops, and flying across the country to study math with other mathematicians.
What I’ve learned is that summer professional development opportunities reignite their motivation and help them get in touch with the “why” of what they do. Take for example Gateway Middle School Humanities teacher Aimee Alsterda, who, a couple of years ago, was looking for a summer activity that would help her return to school feeling prepared and excited. At the urging of her Principal, she applied to be an Instructional Coach at Breakthrough SF. Aimee was accepted and loved the experience so much that she returned this past summer. As Instructional Coach, Aimee mentors and supports Teacher Fellows who have never taught in a classroom before. She helps them develop lesson plans, provides feedback, and leads instructional trainings and professional development sessions. She feels the experience has made her reflective and has improved her practice in a major way.
For some teachers like Eva Chao, a first year Chemistry teacher at Gateway High School, summer professional development experiences set the foundation and help them feel prepared and confident about the upcoming year. After working in the pharmaceutical industry and practicing law, Eva decided to go back to her first love of science and become a teacher. Last summer, she attended the Teacher Institute, part of the Teacher Induction Program at the Exploratorium, a program that supports and coaches novice teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The summer program is a chance for teachers to really explore teaching methods and the Next Generation Science Standards curriculum. “The Exploratorium method is to teach through inquiry. You experience the classroom as a student, and see how, ideally, learning and teaching science can be exciting and full of curiosity.” The summer program helped her feel more prepared for her first year teaching at Gateway.
At Gateway, we understand the value that summer professional development opportunities bring to educators like Mary, David, Therese, Aimee, and Eva. There are so many organizations offering amazing opportunities, but searching for them can take a lot of time. That’s why we created a page on Gateway Impact where middle and high school teachers can go to find many exciting opportunities in one place. All teachers deserve to have access to opportunities that inspire them, help them grow or explore their interests. Here is a short list of teacher-recommended programs. Take a look. We hope you find a summer adventure to look forward to!
- Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Summer Institutes: Teaching the Humanities through Art An exciting exploration of the connections among American art, social studies, history, and English/language arts.
- The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - Teacher Seminars
- The Exploratorium, San Francisco Teacher Institute and Teacher Induction Program
- Instructional Coach with Breakthrough Collaborative
- Park City Math Institute in Park City, Utah. (As Gateway math teacher Shira Helf says “It's a meeting of mathematicians, math professors, math undergrads and math teachers, where we all study math together!”)
- Facing History and Ourselves
- Teach with Africa Fellowships 2018, with the Global Teachers Institute.
- Nanoscience Summer Institute for Middle School Teachers, at Stanford Center to Support Excellence in Teaching