By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the state of Massachusetts allowed public school districts to reduce the school year from 180 days to 170 days for additional preparation time. The Northborough and Southborough Public School educators and staff members attended professional development days August 31-September 15.
Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stefanie Reinhorn presented an overview of the professional development at the Combined School Committee meeting of Sept. 16 and credits the success of these days to principals, directors, and teachers across the system.
Four guiding themes of the two weeks included shared learning experiences, collaboration, differentiation and reflection.
In addition to health and safety protocols and operational procedures, keynote speakers and technology skill development were highlights of the schedule. Recordings of workshops, slide decks and resources will be available to teachers for future reference.
Workshops to develop technology skills using Google classroom, Canvas, Zoom and PowerSchool were well received.
“This is a time that is very technology intensive, so there is huge appetite for professional development around technology and support and in developing skills in those areas,” said Reinhorn.
Educators were offered a variety of sessions and were able to find ones that were based on different topics and levels and supported self-directed learning.
Reinhorn said there was a lot of positive feedback overall, especially on the keynote speakers, which included Dr. Kerry Wilkins who spoke on social emotional wellness. Wilkins is a child psychologist who consults with the District. A general feeling of being more prepared for what lies ahead was felt by those who attended.
“People really valued the opportunity to collaborate with their colleagues, the opportunity to explore the technology and then have the time to apply it,” Reinhorn said.
School committee members echoed the sentiment of gratitude for the commitment by all involved in the professional development days.
Regional School Committee member Chris Covino is also an educator in another district.
“I am greatly impressed with the ability of the committee to come up with a great mix of planned activities, planned sessions and time they needed to collaborate and plan for individual instruction,” he said. “It really was great to see that there was professional development that really addressed the emotional needs, not necessarily just of the students ,but of the teachers as well. It is a very emotionally difficult time for both teachers and students. The return to the classroom can be quite overwhelming.”