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Teacher Empowerment at Dutch Fork High School

Submitted by:

Jeff Eargle, Ph.D., University of South Carolina
Susan Elvis, Dutch Fork High School
Christian English, Dutch Fork High School
Jessica Thur, Dutch Fork High School


Redefining a Relationship: How Evaluating our Partnership led to Empowering Teacher-Leaders and Bringing Professional Development School to the Entire Faculty

What do you do when your Professional Development School partnership has hit a wall and starts to become stagnant? How do you reinvigorate a Professional Development School program and make it part of the entire school community? Those were the two primary questions our Professional Development School Adjunct, Liaison and Administrator asked themselves at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. The answer was pretty simple: find out what teachers want to learn by asking them to reflect on the school year, pull student test scores and other data, and see what trends develop. The results led us to the formation of a teacher-led Professional Development School steering committee that would discuss data and use that to intentionally plan and implement a variety of professional development opportunities for our faculty.


Our clinical adjunct and school administrator contacted seven teachers who expressed interest in developing our Professional Development School partnership. In July 2018, six of the steering committee members met with our liaison, reviewing a variety of student data and teacher surveys. Through these discussions the steering committee determined they could design a professional development program, providing teachers strategies and tools immediately applicable to their classrooms. By the end of the year, the Professional Development School steering committee along with our liaison, coordinated with two University of South Carolina professors to present whole-faculty sessions. Additionally, the steering committee planned and presented another session on their own for the faculty.


As with any new endeavor, successes do not come without challenges. Originally, the steering committee decided we would implement a professional development plan that allowed teachers to choose from a list of focus areas and then spend four concentrated sessions taking a deep dive into that topic. Unfortunately, due to some scheduling and resource constraints, we were not able to go with this option. As any good educator knows, when Plan A does not work, one must quickly step back, reflect and come up with Plan B.


The Professional Development School committee was able to provide the desired professional development opportunities in a whole-faculty setting. Nicole Skeen led a session on simple teaching strategies that provided big impacts to student learning, and Angela Adams presented information on creating and implementing quality formative assessments. During the steering committee-led session, they had teachers separate into groups, evaluate a variety of apps and other instructional strategies used in their classrooms, present what they learned and then vote on their favorite instructional tool. As a result of the excitement generated during the meeting and in response to teacher needs and voice, the school purchased PearDeck for the entire faculty rather than relying on the free version. This connection of Professional Development School to other instructional initiatives in the school further solidified the purpose of our partnership. 


The 2018-2019 year provided a great first step into a new, school-wide Professional Development School focus. As we go forward, we plan to expand our partnership, giving teachers an opportunity to meet with University of South Carolina faculty and take a deeper dive into strategies that will enhance student learning and achievement. 


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.