Fresh off their Christmas break, Lenoir County elementary and middle school teachers returned to the classroom on Friday as learners, students in an array of professional development sessions created by LCPS to advance the district’s academic initiatives and bolster its emphasis on digital learning and data-driven instruction.
About 400 K-8 teachers took part in the sessions held at La Grange Elementary School and Rochelle Middle School – 52 learning opportunities led by LCPS staff and designed to give teachers new ways of engaging students and tracking their progress.
“We have people who are doing a really nice job with the writing units, with math, with the guided reading; so every school has gems. We were trying to pull those to represent the strengths in Lenoir County and have them share and collaborate with their peers,” Dr. Deb Winings, the district’s director of elementary education and an organizer of the teacher workshops, said.
Eighteen K-2 teachers gathered in a classroom at La Grange Elementary where Rachel Whitfield, the digital learning specialist at Northwest Elementary, helped them build their skills with an iPad app called Seesaw, which LCPS adopted this year for elementary classrooms.
“Seesaw is a platform that allows students to have digital journals, so they can show their families, classmates and teachers what they have been working on and show what standards they’ve mastered,” Whitfield explained. “Northwest is presenting because we piloted the program last year, so we’ve had a little additional time using the program with our K-2 students.”
The Friday session allowed teachers who have already had some training on the app to “dig a little deeper into some different things that Seesaw offers,” she said. “We talked about the importance of family involvement and how to invite parents to join Seesaw so they can see their child’s work. We talked about how to assign activities to students and differentiate instruction and we also allowed them to log in as students and see the students’ side of it.”
Eleven of the professional development sessions focused on digital learning. Literacy was the topic in 14 sessions and 10 sessions focused on science or math. More general sessions involved training in classroom management, grant writing, teaching advanced learners and using data to inform teaching practices. Each teacher enrolled in two sessions.
“We wanted to make sure we had something for every teacher in our district, something they wanted to learn more about and something they could learn from their peers,” said Dr. Amelia McLeod, director of middle school education for LCPS and an organizer of the sessions.
“We want teachers to take away the idea that ‘I can do this in their classroom. I can incorporate more science, or I can incorporate more vocabulary or I can try something new and really be a teacher action-researcher,’” McLeod said.
“In that way, students have the benefit of seeing their teacher as a learner and not always the expert,” she said. “We really want to inspire teachers to be creative, to be the leaders that they are and to have that opportunity to lead not just in their classroom but also to lead in their district.”