SMSD Hosts Summer Professional Learning Conference

Impact Institute
Shawnee Mission School District

Many educators across the school district have been engaged in training already this summer. 

This year, the annual SMSD summer professional learning conference, Impact Institute: Literacy Unlocked, was recently presented. Sessions for Pre-K-12 educators were offered virtually across five strands of professional learning and included:

  • Core Literacy Instruction
  • Response to Intervention for Literacy
  • Disciplinary Literacy
  • Literacy for Diverse Learners
  • Literacy for Learners with Dyslexia

“Additionally, the sessions aimed to bolster knowledge and pedagogy around literacy instruction for all students,” Erin Smith Curriculum Coordinator noted. “The focus of the Institute was to make the sessions applicable to all teachers, as we all have a responsibility with sound literacy practices.”

Nearly 2,500 staff members attended, and presenters included 11 SMSD staff members and eight external presenters.

Sarah Ackerman, SMSD instructional coach presented “Using Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and the 4 C's (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity) to Grow as Readers”.  

“The mindset shift this course strived for, was helping teachers see the value of building background knowledge in readers,” Ackerman shared. “I presented research on how little time instruction STEM topics receive, and how they can be incorporated into reading instruction to make content come to life and increase engagement”

Ackerman noted there were multiple benefits to holding the virtual online sessions including chat features and the ability to embed tools such as Google Forms, Google Docs, Padlet, and Google Slides into a presentation making the format highly interactive. She also had more participants complete the feedback survey which really helps her plan future Professional Development sessions.

Heather Bledsoe, math teacher at Shawnee Mission North, said she found the virtual conference to be very successful. The virtual platform allowed for breakout groups as well as sharing of the presenter’s screen. Bledsoe shared her session with Greg Tang was memorable as he is direct and concise in his message.

“I was happy to see that his thoughts on making math more visual and mirror the training I received from the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) this past November,” Bledsoe noted.

“I am glad to see Mathematics education and training headed in this direction,” Bledsoe added. “The more math teachers can embrace this idea of making math visual, the better mathematics students we will develop and the more math literacy will grow.”

Suni Haberland, Bluejacket-Flint fifth grade teacher had a similar experience in her elementary session with Tang.  

“Tang had a lot of practice engaging his participants and really utilizing the technology,” Haberland said.  “He was able to utilize the most up-to-date iPad to use two screens, one for his work and one to see his students/participants. This was a game changer because he was able to teach and continue to take the status of the class.  As he says, it is impossible to teach if you cannot see your students’ facial expressions.”

“I’m glad the Impact Institute continued virtually, even though it was a change, I can still learn from my colleagues,” Haberland shared.

Virtual Professional Development was the best way to offer quality professional learning experiences during these unique times in our district’s history, Smith said.  The presenters were enthusiastic about transitioning their presentations to an online platform and we had high levels of engagement from our teaching faculty and administrators. 

Smith explained that one benefit is that many of the sessions were recorded and will be made available on SMSD PD On-Demand.  This will allow all teachers access to the many sessions and information. If a teacher was unable to attend the Institute or wasn’t able to get into a session because it was at capacity, they can access the information.

“Like all new endeavors, we learned several ‘tips and tricks’ to ensure smooth implementation of virtual Professional Development for future events. Overall, I was very pleased with how well everything went,” Smith said.

Teachers participating in the Impact Institute can use the professional development hours toward the Teacher-Directed Professional Development requirement as well as teacher recertification. There was also an option for a teacher to receive college credit by enrolling in a course through Dominican University designed around the Impact Institute.