Highly Trained and Qualified Staff
PSA staff have received considerable professional development best practices in order to implement the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme and to meet the needs of our students.
IB MYP Workshops
The International Baccalaureate Organization offers workshops around the world to train teachers, administrators, and staff in all aspects of the Middle Years Programme. One of the requirements of MYP authorization is that one teacher from every department must have received an IB Category 1 training in their subject area. PSA’s goal has been to send every teacher to an IB Category 1 or 2 training and to have at least staff member from every department attend an IB Category 3 training. Our teachers, administrators and staff have received IB training in the following areas: Language A, Language B, Mathematics, Science, Humanities, Art, Physical Education, Special Educational Needs, Inquiry, Development of a Language Policy, and Head of Schools.
As a member of the Minnesota IB Association, Prairie Seeds Academy teachers and staff are provided opportunities for collaboration with authorized IB schools throughout the state. Our staff has attended Minnesota IB Association trainings and roundtable discussions in the following areas: IB Coordinators and Head of Schools, School Climate and, Culture, Special Education, Action (formerly Community & Service), and Language B.
Since 2011, the PSA staff has worked with Phyllis Braxton, president and founder of a consulting firm called Pursuing Intercultural Needs and Knowledge (PINK). PINK’s mission is to assist individuals and organizations in developing intercultural competency, as well as self-awareness to improve communication. It is important to be cognizant of the many cultural facets that affect our daily interactions. To help PSA teachers and staff better understand ourselves and others we have taken and studied our results of the Intercultural Development Inventory and the Intercultural Conflict Style Inventory. To facilitate effective communication between staff members at PSA we have also learned many techniques. Our next steps in working with Phyllis will be to apply the strategies we have learned to our interactions with students.
During the 2012-2013 school year, PSA teachers attended differentiation trainings lead by Dr. Diane Heacox, author of Making Differentiation a Habit: How to Ensure Success in Academically Diverse Classrooms. Through this training, we acquired strategies to determine students’ level of prior knowledge before beginning a unit so that we could help them build a bridge connecting their previous experience and learning to new content and concepts. We learned to construct formative practice opportunities that increase in difficulty of thinking skills required, an important step in scaffolding learning. Finally, PSA teachers gained knowledge in differentiating by content, process, and product, playing on students’ strengths while providing a sufficient challenge to extend their learning. We will extend our own learning by continuing to receive training on differentiation during the 2013-2014 school year.
During the 2011-2012 school year, Jill Bromenschenkel, from Connectivity Learning Consulting, presented a workshop on co-teaching, which is the use of two teachers in a classroom to support learning for all students. Teachers learned strategies to effectively implement these teaching models to better support diverse learners. Since the training, co-teaching has become a powerful tool at our school, allowing our EL teachers and Special Education teachers to work with a variety of subject area teachers throughout the day, providing students with the necessary support. In addition to offering direct support in the classroom, co-teaching has spurred consistent collaboration between EL teachers, Special Education teachers, and subject area teachers, extending beyond their co-teaching schedule to incorporate best practices into every lesson.
To facilitate our use of collaboration time, which began in the fall of 2011, we received training from Jill Bromenschenkel (from Connectivity Learning Consulting) during the 2011-2012 school year. Her seminar provided our staff with tools related to the following areas: collaborative curriculum planning, inquiry, collaborative instructional delivery, collaborative communication related to data and day-to-day interactions, and digital tools for authentic professional collaboration and communication. Utilizing the techniques taught in this seminar, teachers and support staff are able to more effectively work together during collaboration time. This allows us to discuss strategies, share ideas, plan curriculum, differentiate instruction, design authentic assessment tasks, and standardize grading practices. Through this collaborative time we are able to make instruction accessible to all students while implementing the IB MYP.
Each year our new teachers receive in-house training on the Sheltered Instruction Observational Protocol Model implemented at PSA. Returning teachers attend refresher courses lead by our EL department and learn new techniques to assist the students whose mother tongue (native language) is different from the school’s language of instruction. Teachers learn the following SIOP practices:
- writing appropriate content and language objectives to help students hone in on the goals of the lesson
- activating prior knowledge to help students make connections between previous and current learning
- building necessary background knowledge to help students better understand new concepts
- using comprehensible input to make the language accessible for English Learners
- arranging lessons to provide adequate modeling, guided practice and independent practice opportunities through the “I do, we do, you do” model
- checking for student understanding before starting a task
- increasing student communication in the classroom to help build their language skills
STUDENT INTERACTION STRATEGIES
During the 2011-2012 school year, the staff attended a training on student Kagan Interaction Strategies, an important part of teaching language. With this training, we expanded our methods for determining a student’s level of comprehension to ensure accurate understanding of the directions. We also gained a repertoire of techniques for increasing student communication in the classroom. The use of these strategies promotes language learning and language use.
MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS AND SENSORY DISORDERS
During the 2012-2013 school year, the staff attended informational sessions on Mental Health Disorders and Sensory Disorders. This training equipped us with an awareness of the signs and knowledge of the strategies for helping students, as well as when to seek additional assistance for students who exhibit signs of these disorders.