Pro-D days prove beneficial for Vernon teachers

Teachers value professional development days for the chance to learn and grow in order to enhance both teaching and learning...

While students appreciate an extra day off throughout the year, teachers value professional development days for the chance to learn and grow in order to enhance both teaching and learning.

As professional development chairperson for the Vernon Teachers’ Association, teacher Robyn Ladner recently presented the PD annual report for the 2012/13 school year to Vernon School District trustees.

She said throughout the year, teachers have the opportunity to attend a variety of events, but it’s the “unconference” held April 22 that stands out.

“There is no way a conference can reach every teacher in Vernon,” said Ladner.

“But this ‘edcamp’ style of conference is participant-led and focuses on conversations and connections over topics of common interest.

“Teachers pose questions or topics, create the agenda, and select sessions.”

Attended by more than 250 teachers, the event at Vernon secondary school received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

“We had no agenda, no workshops, just questions that went up on posters. I took them all and made a schedule; all the questions were dealt with.”

The VTA and school district matched funds this year for an $8,000 grant to support teacher inquiry in the district. Nine groups of teachers received a grant 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.

“The inquiry process has grown and is being used by many teachers as a framework for professional development.”

At the urging of the VTA, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation began a pilot project for the Okanagan to investigate a sustainable model of inquiry.

They committed funds to train Inquiry facilitators to support the project groups. Four teachers from Vernon attended the two-day training session.

As a Grade 5/6 science teacher at Silver Star Elementary School, Ladner applied the process of inquiry to her own classroom with a project in the community garden

“We did our work there, twice a week during science class. This came from a question I had: ‘how can I get my kids out of the classroom, how can I take the classroom out of the classroom?’ And it’s turned out to be so much more than science.”

Ladner said the ProD Committee has a number of recommendations to the board, including encouraging the district to continue determining collaboration time that is timely and effective.

“We hope that the board will continue to support teacher inquiry both financially and philosophically.”

Ladner said the changes unfolding in curriculum and programs will require a high degree of autonomy by teachers.

“A teacher must have control over methods of instruction, evaluation, interpretation of evaluation, and curriculum. Supporting teachers in their pursuit of learning as autonomous professionals  results in deep and committed learning that can only benefit students.”

Ladner added that teachers only receive about $165 each year for their professional development.

“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.”