Presenters share the success of a new conference-style training for educators and administrators with members of the school board

SUBMITTED PHOTO: NANCY DUIN - Lake Oswego School District made a two-day conference available to its teachers, and many local administrators also learned new skills at the event. From left, are teachers on the fifth-grade team at Westridge Elementary School receiving help from a tech expert: Karen Kenney, Jeff Kelso (director of computer network services), Karen Carter, Kristen Shambaugh and Kathy Jaco.All of the more than 380 teachers in the Lake Oswego School District had the opportunity to participate in something new this year — a two-day series of specialized, teacher-led training sessions.

Teachers usually spread their training throughout the year, with a day or a few hours logged here and there during in-service days. But a change in the school calendar created back-to-back days on Nov. 23-24 for in-service training, creating the opportunity to hold a two-day conference.

The resulting Lake Oswego Professional Development Conference drew about 400 people, including administrators and most teachers, said Laura Paxson Kluthe, an event organizer and the teacher’s union president.

“Many veteran teachers in the LOSD have been craving meaningful professional development for a long time and, when presented with the two days for in-service, we knew that a conference style would be the best way to go,” Paxson Kluthe told The Review.

A group of teachers and administrators shared their conference experiences with the Lake Oswego School Board last month. SUBMITTED PHOTO: NANCY DUIN - A core group of organizers made the conference happen, including Kristin Moore (from left), Kiki Harrell, Christie Ford, Hayley Vause, Laura Paxson Kluthe, Kristy Hewitt, Jen Hunt and Sara Deboy.Board member Bob Barman said a person in any profession benefits from additional training, whether they’re a doctor, a lawyer or a business owner like he is.

“There’s no way you can be who you need to be without going to conferences,” said Barman, who owns several gas stations in the area.

The quality of teaching that students experience is closely related to their academic success, and professional development is a “key strategy” for improving teaching quality, according to a 2010 report by The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, a research and analysis organization at Stanford University that aims to advance high-quality, equitable education systems in the U.S. and worldwide.

Connecting with other teachers at the conference was crucial to helping Kristin Moore, a Lake Oswego Junior High leadership and seventh-grade math teacher.

“What I and a lot my colleagues found valuable was to be able to network with people outside of their building who were doing similar things and be able to learn” different approaches from them, Moore said.

There were 160 sessions available for teachers, some of which were repeats. Attendees soaked up a great deal of tech knowledge, including learning about Google’s many programs, such as Apps, Drive and Classroom. There were sessions on dance, yoga, behavioral strategies, classroom techniques, formative assessments (tests to figure out kids’ knowledge at the start of a class), publishing in the classroom, working with dyslexic students and more. Some sessions were geared toward a particular grade level as well.

SUBMITTED PHOTO: LAURA PAXSON KLUTHE - After an Ask a Legislator session at the school district's recent two-day professional development conference, a couple of teachers posed to capture the moment. From left: Ian Reeves, state Sen. Richard Devlin and Jefferson Moore.Lakeridge Junior High health teacher Hayley Vause, one of the conference organizers, told school board members at their Dec. 14 meeting that she enjoyed having training that focused on one of her areas of interests: P.E. It’s not always possible for her to find P.E.-specific training, Vause said, but at the conference, she learned about an activity involving the use of iPads at exercise stations so children can view a video to see a particular move again if they’re struggling with it. The teacher doesn’t have to stop class to focus on an individual.

“I enjoyed getting to know everyone there and learning from a lot of experienced teachers,” Vause said.

About 80 teachers taught most sessions, but there also were outside professionals from the University of Portland and the Oregon Senate. "Ask a Legislator" featured state Sen. Richard Devlin, whose district includes Lake Oswego and who also serves as co-chairman of the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

Moore said teachers were surveyed to determine what they wanted to learn to make sure the sessions were relevant to them. A survey afterward showed the majority of participants came away with something valuable. In response to a question about whether they had acquired new skills or knowledge that could be put to use immediately, 77 said “strongly agree,” 52 said “agree,” 18 were neutral, three disagreed and one strongly disagreed.

Lunch was provided to teachers at the event, which was held at Lakeridge High School, so they wouldn’t need to leave the site and lose time picking up some food. In response to the statement “I appreciate lunch being provided in the venue,” 114 people strongly agreed, 19 people agreed, 13 people were neutral, three disagreed and three strongly disagreed.

A committee of teachers and administrators put the event together, including administering those surveys.SUBMITTED PHOTO: NANCY DUIN - Educators became students during a two-day professional development conference at Lakeridge High School.

“The success of the entire venture hinged on the goodwill and hard work by the Professional Development Committee,” said Paxson Kluthe, a social studies teacher at Lake Oswego High School.

The committee included Moore, Vause and Paxson Kluthe, as well as Jen Hunt, Kiki Harrell, Kristy Hewitt, Christie Ford, Sara Deboy and Joe Morelock.

Morelock, the district’s assistant superintendent for academics and student services, said it cost the district $10,000 to put on the event, which included paying for outside presenters and for staff to prepare presentations, as well as for lunch for staff both days. Most professional conferences are two or more days, a duration that provides teachers enough time to focus on their own learning, he said.

“By having two days in a row, and by having more than 160 sessions available from which to choose, we approximated the experience of a professional learning conference right in our own backyard,” Morelock said. “We were able to use one of our own buildings, use the technology we already have, and provide plenty of spaces for staff to collaborate with one another throughout the two days. By having it after the start of school and before a short break (Thanksgiving), teachers were able to focus on their own professional learning in a more relaxed, albeit full, pair of days.”

The idea arose during administrators’ meetings with teachers. LOSD is not the only school district offering multi-day meetings, however. West Linn-Wilsonville School District holds multi-day workshops as well, and teachers often co-facilitate parts of some workshops, said WL-WV’s Kathy Ludwig, deputy superintendent and supervisor of primary schools. Tigard-Tualatin School District

has four single-day trainings before school starts and three in-service training days spread throughout the year, and educators have led some of the trainings. Yet, the idea of multi-day, teacher trainings sounds "empowering" and "really interesting" to TTSD's Susan Stark Haydon, Community relations director. SUBMITTED PHOTO: NANCY DUIN - Teachers and administrators listen to a presenter during the school district's recent two-day conference.

“I know several other districts do have two days during the week that includes Thanksgiving for professional development, but none that I am aware of used a conference-style format where their own teachers were delivering the bulk of the content,” Morelock said. “That said, I cannot say we are the only one doing it. It certainly worked for us.”

Board member John Wendland asked the teachers who presented on the conference whether they’d like to hold the event again.

“Yes,” they said as a group.

“Home run: Repeat,” Wendland said to enthusiastic nods from the presenters.

By Jillian Daley
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