Over the past two months, I have had the opportunity to experience three professional development opportunities: I presented at the Illinois Science Teachers Association (ISTA) in October, I went on an Independent Schools Association of the Central States (ISACS) accreditation team visit in late October, and I presented at the ISACS Annual Conference in early November. These three experiences reinforced the rewards of being a teacher at an ISACS school.
At the ISTA conference, I gave a presentation titled “Back to BINGO for Bio Vocab” in which I shared some tools that I use to help students learn complex biology vocabulary. Although I had been to ISTA as a participant for several years, this was my first time presenting and I was reminded of how intimidating it can be. At MPA, we constantly encourage our students to demonstrate their understanding of material in a variety of ways. We encourage our students to speak up in front of the class, design models of scientific inquiry, and propose new solutions to problems. We also have students present on a regular basis and they have developed the tools to collaborate with each other and be comfortable in front of a group of their peers. Presenting at the conference reminded me of how important it is to have opportunities for students to “show what they know.”
Currently, I am in my 16th year of teaching at MPA, during which I have been through two ISACS self-study processes, a process that occurs every seven years for each member school. In late October, I had the opportunity to serve on an accreditation team for the first time and see the other side of this process. The collegiality and collaborative effort that is needed to be a successful accreditation team is tremendous. In the span of three days, the team needs to have a good understanding of the school they are evaluating and work together with other members from several schools in order to complete a detailed report. With this experience, I was again reminded of how well-prepared our students are to encounter situations such as these. Through activities such as Project Week, Service Days, and cross-division events, our students are exposed to many opportunities to work with people in different learning environments and achieve goals with people whom they have just met.
Finally, although I have attended several ISACS conferences over the past years, this was also my first time presenting at this conference. I delivered “Back to BINGO for Bio Vocab” to my ISACS peers. This session was extremely productive because although I was the official presenter, the collaborative effort in the room was fantastic. The proposal of new ideas and the contribution from all teachers present in the room was amazing. I came away from that opportunity feeling validated in strategies I was currently using and also challenged to think of alternative ways to continue building on tools that I currently use. This is another reminder of how at MPA we encourage discussion and sharing, and how we want students to be able to review the work of their peers and provide constructive feedback.
In each of these three opportunities, I was reminded of the ISACS mission and vision: ISACS leads schools to pursue exemplary independent education. ISACS schools empower students to contribute and thrive in a diverse and changing world.
MPA is a place that embraces these goals and I am pleased with the opportunities that teachers in Independent Schools have to continue their learning.
By Emily Drown
Mrs. Drown is an Upper School science teacher and the Curriculum Leader for our Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Department.