Professional development is invaluable. Whether it comes in the form of mentorship or instructional learning, it has the power to help you reach your goals and positively impact the trajectory of your career. And that’s especially true for teachers.
The effectiveness likely comes down to personalization; having the means to better yourself in areas of study that apply to and interest you. But what about when it comes to the betterment of an entire school—or an entire school district?
For example, a school or district may have their sights set on elevating reading literacy among students, or improving elementary-level math test scores. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of schools are also looking to professional development to help them get better acquainted with online learning platforms.
“We’ll often get calls from school principals looking for support in reaching their school or district’s goals throughout the academic year,” said Alison Hernandez, M.Ed., Professional Development Manager at ASU Prep Digital. “We compliment their efforts to reach their goals by providing custom professional development sessions inline with what their school district is doing.”
ASU Prep Digital has a robust professional development program known as the Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute (AZVTI) to help Arizona teachers thrive. It’s provided at no cost through the generous investment of the Arizona Department of Education, the Governor’s Office, Helios Education Foundation and Arizona State University. Teachers and schools can browse and participate in hundreds of courses related to various areas of teaching, from fostering math mindsets in students who struggle with numbers to best practices and resources for bridging gaps in unfinished learning. There are even modules that address teacher wellness and how to engage with reluctant learners.
It’s a culmination of courses and programs like these that helps entire schools reach their potential. Much like individual mentorship or professional development, it’s about the power of partnerships.
“Instead of just offering our courses to teachers, we work with schools on a personal level, often sending in our professional development trainers to help teachers create their own smart goals in alignment with what their school is trying to achieve on the grander scale,” added Alison. “Our solutions are highly customized based on needs and preferences. It’s a two-way conversation, where we sit down with educators to understand where there are gaps and opportunities to meet needs.”
Rhonda Newton, Principal of All Aboard Elementary Charter School, can attest to that. She and her team worked in-step with AZVTI to create customized training focused on her school’s SMART Goals and Station Rotations.
“We partnered with AZVTI to provide professional development and coaching strategies for our teachers,” she said. “Our trainer had great dialogue with each teacher regarding best practices in how to achieve instructional success to accelerate learning this school year.”
When done well, this scale of professional development has the potential to meet or even exceed school goals.
For RSD High School’s Counselor, Basil Smith, this can be a transformative experience.
“We’d recommend this partnership to any school looking to increase student engagement, building a better school culture and community, and those looking to infuse more technology into their classrooms,” he said. “These trainings inspire you to evaluate your work on a personal level and empower you to change the systems in which you work.”
For RSD High, that means taking a really personal approach to PD sessions.
“We focus on a different topic each month and provide our teachers with asynchronous work to ensure learning continues well into the next session,” Basil said.
The best professional development partnerships are a two-way street. AZVTI trainers welcome open dialogue from teachers, ask for feedback after each training session and conduct frequent check-ins to ensure training material is relevant and effective in relation to each school’s goals.
School- or district-wide professional development is also an especially powerful option for benchmarking and measuring success. It can be anecdotal and observational, or more
quantitative in the form of exit surveys and trainer ratings. Some schools use a Reflection Binder or Digital Portfolio where teachers can capture their thoughts, jot down ideas and record goals based on what they’ve learned during professional development sessions. It holds everyone accountable to reaching those goals and provides a real-time opportunity to apply new skills.
If your school or district is interested in learning more about AZVTI’s personalized professional development programs for schools and school districts, please visit asuprepdigital.org/training/ or contact Alison Hernandez, M.Ed. at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
ASU Prep Digital will initiate a discovery session to understand your unique needs, then an AZVTI trainer will reach out to schedule a video call to begin working on a plan that outlines training relevant to your school and its goals. From there, you’ll work hand-in-hand with your trainer to build customized professional development sessions, asynchronous work and corresponding benchmarks to set your school up for measurable success.