Teachers take Advantage of Professional Development Opportunities
Nearly forty Berkshire faculty members participated in some kind of professional development over the summer. Many teachers received grants from the school’s professional development committee to further their studies at graduate schools, conferences, workshops, and self-directed programs across the country and the world.
Here are notes from just some of their many adventures:
Jason Gappa (History), this year’s recipient of the Strom Grant for faculty study in Asia:
I decided to use the funds from the Strom Grant to travel to Japan and Korea this summer. The goal of this grant is for the recipient to enhance his or her knowledge of Asian culture and language in order to have a better understanding when American and Asian cultures collide, as they do here at Berkshire. I feel as though I learned a great deal about both Japanese and Korean cultures during my fourteen days abroad. I was truly fascinated by the Shinto tradition in Japan and the role that Confucianism plays in Korean everyday life. During my time in Tokyo, I attended the 16th annual Asian Studies Conference Japan (ASCJ), which invites English-speaking academics from all over the globe to present on topics relating to Asia. This two-day conference gave me some useful background to better appreciate both the Japanese and Korean cultures. My time in Korea focused on baseball. I coach the varsity team here at Berkshire, so I wanted to find out as much as I could about how they develop their players. Seung Kyoo Kang, the father of current Berkshire student Kevin Kang, is the president of the Korean Baseball Association (KBA). I met with Mr. Kang and his Secretary General to discuss how baseball works in Korea. I was also able to visit with the Seoul High School baseball team and attend several high school games to get a sense of the level of amateur baseball in Korea. This trip was sincerely a life changing experience. I most likely would have never traveled to Asia, but now I have an insight into these two cultures that will help me teach my 21st Century Politics class and also better relate to the Korean and Japanese students on our campus. It also gave me the gratifying experience of meeting up with some Berkshire alumni. I connected with Mark Choe, Ryo Atsumi, Yuna Hayashi, Yukimi Kochan, and Bunsaku Nagai during my trip. I am truly grateful to the Strom family and Berkshire School for supporting life-long learning and blessing me with this memorable experience.
Click here to view some photos from the trip.
Clive Davis (Music):
I attended the Conducting Institute at Westminster Choir College from June 24-30. Each day I participated in a wide range of classes including group vocal techniques, ear-training classes, conducting workshops, and evening lectures. Many of my summer Conducting Institute colleagues were teachers, church musicians, and community choral conductors. Each student was assigned to a distinguished choral conductor, and I was placed with Vance George, who directed the San Francisco Symphony Chorus for over 20 years. Vance worked with his students on a daily basis, grilling us on technique, interpretation, German diction, sight-singing and more. In addition to the conducting lessons, we spent a lot of time singing great repertoire including music of Mozart, Brahms, Saint-Saens and more. One of the highlights of the week was to take group vocal techniques from Sabine Horstmann, a German pedagogue and choral conductor who just had a way of teaching how to get great sounds from a chorus.
I participated in a conducting masterclass, leading a 40 voice ensemble in a reading of “Der Gang zum Liebchen” (The Path to my Sweetheart) from Johannes Brahms' collection of Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 31. At the masterclass, I received conducting tips from Weston Noble, a highly respected American choral conductor who for over 50 years led the Nordic Choir of Luther College.
By the end of the week, I had made new friends and learned some great choral repertoire to bring back to Berkshire School. I also have new choral warm-ups for my class, and I hopefully have learned to be more expressive and communicative in my conducting skills. I hope to be able to attend more Conducting Institute programs in the summers ahead.
Frank Barros (Science):
I took a course called "Planning for Carbon Neutrality: Practical Methods for Measuring, Reporting, and Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” The course helped me build the skills needed to create a Climate Action Plan for Berkshire School with a carbon neutrality goal by 2016 for associated scope I and scope II emissions. The plan was presented to the trustees last spring and will be used to guide carbon reduction strategies in the coming years.
It is the second of five courses I will be taking toward a professional certificate in sustainability from Harvard University.
Dana Anselmi (Admissions):
I have been pursuing my master’s degree in Educational Leadership through George Washington University since April 2011. It is a completely online platform modeled after their on-campus degree program and using many of the same lectures and professors.
The program is particularly interesting because it combines educators from all different types of schools - public, independent day and boarding, charter, international, and vocational. I have taken some very interesting classes ranging from School Law and Policy, to School and Community Relations, to Introduction to Quantitative Research. Learning about the challenges schools in our country face as has been extremely eye opening. I feel like I have a better understanding of the context of education in the US and can speak with more evidence and knowledge about the benefits of boarding school, which is especially important as an admission officer. I have also enjoyed learning about different leadership styles and thinking about what translates best at a school like Berkshire.
Bill Gulotta (History):
I attended a three-day workshop on technology offered at Harvard this summer. It was a great experience for an old teacher. I was to begin my 34th year and the next teacher with the most years was 17. I learned several things, and I have implemented a few of them already. For example, I have a blog and I will require my students to comment on the historical articles that I will put on it. They will be writing for their entire class/classes, and this will make them think carefully and write more thoughtfully. At least I hope that happens, and I am ready for the comments that are not worthy. Since their comments will be graded and read by their classmates I think it will be awesome. I have also learned how to embed speeches, and historical documents into my presentations and my blog. I will be using "Voicethread" to offer my vocal and written comments.
Jasper Turner (Mathematics):
The Exeter Math Conference far exceeded my expectations. In one class focused on GeoGebra, I quickly realized that I had a lot to learn from some veterans. I've now started to work the online program into my course lesson plans. I also took a class on the Rubik's cube. I'm happy to say that I can now solve one and understand the algorithm we learned. Best of all, it was great just to talk to other math teachers about their experiences in the classroom and swap trade secrets.
Donald Anselmi (Foreign Language):
In order to better understand a culture and to master it's language, I have seen first hand (both this summer in Argentina and last summer in Mexico) how immersion can make a huge difference. Not only did I learn in the classroom, but I was learning on the streets, in my apartment, and on various excursions. All three of my teachers were Argentine natives, which gave an interesting touch to the literature, history and cinema that I was learning. It was as if they were a primary document. But, after class I was able to go out and explore more on my own. Whenever I was out of class, the city of Buenos Aires added more context to what I had learned, but what I had learned also gave more meaning to Buenos Aires. I was always learning which was such a great feeling! It was as if my classes were compasses in helping me find my way around Argentine culture. My classes were Argentina literature, political memory (seeing the affects of the dictatorships through interviews, poems, literature, movies, etc.) and Argentina cinema. These three classes were a great introduction to Argentine culture and I plan on using parts from all of them this year in my classes when I discuss culture and teach the language. I am even thinking of trying to offer some Pro Vita classes based on certain themes in my classes.
Brandi Dahari (Visual Art):
This summer, I had the opportunity to take a handbuilding class in ceramics with Paula Shalan at IS-183 Art School. Although the class was a basic course, Paula gave me such great insight into the inner workings of clay in even the simplest of projects. Inspired by the class, I began reading "Finding One's Way With Clay" and have discovered the joy of creating a simple pinch pot. Paula's class has reinvigorated me and compels me to take the time to ENJOY working in clay rather than pushing through to an “end product.” It's a simple lesson but will have resounding impact on my work this year both personally and with my students as we discover and explore clay together.
Will Cronin (English):
I attended a creative writing class at NYU. We spent our first three weeks reading critical essays and books on specific elements of fiction. Class time revolved around discussing short stories in the context of these criticisms, which gave me a deeper understanding of the nuance and versatility of plot, character, and narrative in literature. We were also given fiction writing assignments each week, and attempting to create rich characters myself was not only fun and challenging but also gave me insight into how to teach characterization in the classroom, whether its deconstructing a character and his/her desires or brainstorming a list of traits for a character to include in a creative writing activity. We spent the last three weeks going over the mechanics of poetry by applying the criticisms of poet Mary Oliver to our own poetry reading. I have very little experience with modern, free verse poetry, but our professor focused much of our discussion on contemporary poets and their methods of constructing successful poems. My favorite part of my summer at NYU--aside from going to a different part of Manhattan every week to read and write--was when we got the chance to share our own poems with the class and hear others’ thoughts and suggestions about them. It was a bit humbling, but at the same time very encouraging and inspiring, and I hope to bring that inspiration, especially in the form of poetry exercises, to my classes this fall.
Linda D’Arco (Visual Art):
I attended an incredible ten-day workshop at the Oxbow School in Napa, California. My goals were three-fold: to find out about the school as a possible semester study program for Berkshire’s own students, to learn some of the secrets of their success in teaching the visual arts to teens, and to reconnect with my own inner artist. My colleagues at the workshop were fellow art teachers from both public and private schools in the US and Canada, professional artists, and a single college student who put up with our shenanigans. Our fearless leader, (Founding Director Head of School and master printmaker) Stephen Thomas, encouraged us to take a break from our everyday lives and explore whatever it was that had been on hold in our lives. We spent twelve hours each day in the school’s open air studios right on the Napa River, just a short walk from downtown Napa and the Napa Market. We ate some wonderful meals with fruits, vegetables, and eggs that came from the gardens right on campus. I was even lucky enough to reconnect with a current Berkshire family during my trip!
Devon O’Rourke (Science):
I've spent a chunk of time this summer considering how technology, specifically an iPad (but also integrating that device with other technology) can be used to enhance the learning experiences of teachers and students in two major avenues: consumption and creation of content. The big challenge this summer was navigating through the myriad possibilities - there are literally thousands of app's labeled as "education" in the App Store, and the process of determining what could be useful in my current teaching practices, what could be useful in novel teaching, and things I think are interesting but have no idea what they would be useful for continues to be a big challenge. I have had some success in finding what I think are fairly universal apps - things that will help any teacher/student - but there are many, many other apps that are geared specifically for a certain discipline. I have learned that there is a world of technology quite literally awaiting our fingertips, and a major challenge in integrating this type of technology is finding the time to search for what are the best tools for each teacher to use - much like every teacher having their own style of presentation, I am a firm believer that each teacher will have their own taste for educational technology. The great thing is the diversity of application tools, all using the same piece of hardware, and the general redundancy of the way these apps work thanks to the fact that the Apple scripts used to writing these programs are somewhat confining. All that means is that the more you use one app, the more likely you will pick up how to use the next one.
Ruth Fish (Marketing and Communications):
I took a class called Facebook Marketing at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies. We spent the time exploring the most effective strategies in Facebook advertising and other forms of earned media, including strategic uses for multiple pages and tabs, segmenting users for relevant messaging and optimal feedback, and attaining benchmarks for desired results. I am really looking forward to putting my new knowledge to work as part of Berkshire's marketing team!
Evan Clary and Stuart Miller (English):
In mid-July, the Center for Writing and Critical Thinking coordinator and I traveled to Harvard University for a Learning and the Brain conference about Innovation by Design, about using new research and technologies to achieve important educational aims. A unique blend of cognitive theory, pedagogy, and new technological tools, the conference urged participants to develop rigorous research designs to implement new educational strategies. We worked, for example, on how to use iPads to facilitate better collaboration between tutors and students in the Center for Writing. It was a heady, involved, and ultimately fascinating experience.
Emily Warner (Library):
I participated in the online course "Making the Match" through the American Library Association. I learned a great deal, and I think that what I learned can be easily applied to my daily interactions with the students at Berkshire School.
Over the six weeks of the course, I was able to participate in a rigorous course that involved interacting with other librarians, and reading and responding to many different young adult books in many different ways. I was able to do the following:
- Describe the reading needs and interests of teens, and describe the role of the librarian in reading guidance and motivation.
- Identify strategies and activities for matching teens and books.
- Identify sources for keeping current in the field, including those available through the American Library Association (ALA) and the Young Adult Librarian Services Association (YALSA)
- Examine the librarian’s role in Common Core and develop preliminary annotated bibliographies related to the Common Core
- Identify and use book selection tools and reviewing sources as a way to annotate and respond to a variety of YA books.
- Select books developmentally appropriate for various learners.
- Recognize the benefits and importance of using multicultural literature with all teens, and how to provide reading materials that reflect diversity in all its forms
- Distinguish between selection and self-censorship.
- Model appropriate literate behaviors and demonstrate enthusiasm for books and reading.
I believe I learned a lot by taking this course, and I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with Mrs. Merrill and Mr. Surjan, along with the greater Berkshire School community.
-- Linda D'Arco, Head of the Professional Development Committee