Pro D Days are a welcome day off for students. For teachers, they provide the opportunity to update their educational knowledge and skills in order to improve their teaching practice.
Vernon Teachers’ Association professional development chairperson Robyn Ladner presented her annual report to trustees at the Vernon School District board meeting.
“School PD funds are used to support individual teachers in their efforts to bring added value and currency to their practice,” she said. “Teachers accessed these funds to engage in professional activities such as conferences and workshops, professional books and publications, conferences and memberships, and continuing education.”
Ladner’s annual report for the 2014/15 school year outlines the budget allocation, disbursement of funds, and some of the professional development activities undertaken by Vernon teachers as well as recommendations for the next school year.
School-based Pro D committees disburse and report on school-based allocations. The committee’s job is to monitor PD policy and find ways that will make access to funds more equitable for all teachers.
Ladner said there continues to be a substantial lack of funding for teachers in the areas of professional development, as in the system as a whole. Teachers receive about $165 each year as a professional development allotment, a figure that has not seen an increase in many years.
“A teacher wishing to attend a conference for their PSA (Provincial Specialist Association) in Vancouver each October needs to save for at least four years in order to cover expenses such as conference fees, accommodation and transportation,” she said.
“Advocating for increased PD funds for Vernon teachers, to reflect the rising cost of PD opportunities, is something both the employer and the association should be doing together.”
Pro D funding comes from the school district, usually in October; this year, Ladner said funds weren’t received until mid-February, a delay caused during the transition from outgoing secretary-treasurer Lewis Hill to acting secretary-treasurer Adrian Johnson.
“As a result, I did receive feedback from teachers who did not participate in some of the Pro-Ds because they did not have the funds — it’s only $165 but it’s still $165.”
This year, the VTA and the district matched funds for more than $14,000 in grants to support teacher inquiry, which provided grants to 12 groups of teachers for release time, resources and activities to pursue their projects.
“Teacher inquiry is a method that involves the systematic, intentional study of a teacher’s own classroom practice,” said Ladner.
A Celebration of Teacher Learning was held June 18, at which the inquiry project groups presented their learning as a result of this program and the grant.
“The event showcased how autonomous PD creates passion and energy for teachers and improved learning for their students.”
The VTA has a number of recommendations for the future of Pro D Days.
“Professional learning is highly valued and that needs to come with time and money. We hope that the board will continue to support teacher inquiry both financially and philosophically.”
She said the changes unfolding in curriculum will require a high degree of autonomy by teachers, who are trusted as professionals and can adapt and implement curriculum in a variety of ways that meet the diverse needs of students.
“This will provide challenges so we need time and space to play with that, but we’re usually a little ahead when it comes to curriculum anyway because we know it’s good practice.”
The recent introduction of the provincial government’s Bill 11 calls for a new professional development structure.
“We’re not sure what this will look like but teachers believe that autonomy over our PD is essential because the needs are so different from teacher to teacher and school to school,” said Ladner.
“A top-down mandate on how PD days are spent is not likely to accommodate the needs of individual teachers or schools or motivate professionals into authentic learning.
“One size will never fit all when it comes to teacher learning, and autonomous teacher-directed PD creates informed, inspired and engaged teachers. Advocacy for this form of professional learning is something we need to value and support.”