JC Schools hosted its first Learning Fair on Tuesday, allowing its own teachers and community members to share their areas of expertise with teachers across the district in a sort of customizable internal conference.
The event was held at two locations: about 400 secondary staff members attended Capital City High School, and about 400 elementary staff members attended Jefferson City High School. Each group heard from fellow teachers on topics like classroom management, mental health and resilience, data teams, reading, providing good feedback to students, and incorporating nature into the classroom.
It's a more laid-back day for staff, Deputy Superintendent Heather Beaulieu said. There's no homework --teachers just get to pick a few sessions to attend that they feel would be beneficial for them, an option Beaulieu said teachers have often requested in their staff surveys.
During the pandemic, professional development was limited because groups couldn't meet in person or couldn't find substitutes.
She said the day is meant to be a fun twist on traditional professional development.
"One of the reasons why I thought today was great is because you could pick whatever learning opportunity you wanted," Belair Elementary Principal Todd Shalz said.
"Sometimes professional development's kind of put on you because people say, 'Well, we're all going to do this,' and one of the things I think that teachers all will say is, 'Well, one size doesn't fit all,'" Shalz said.
In addition to choosing their classes, school staff got a $5 voucher to spend at the food truck of their choice in the parking lot.
The Learning Fair presenters were made up of volunteers and those chosen for their expertise.
The most popular sessions related to behavioral support, calming students, and self-care and mental health.
Seventeen sessions were occurring each hour throughout they day, Beaulieu said.
In "Classroom Management -- The Four Essential Features," Todd Beaulieu and Jess James explained how to increase student achievement and decrease bad behavior.
James said misbehavior often occurs during unstructured time.
"It's the same as when a kid needs to read or write or do math, what do we do? We teach it. We model it, we have them practice it, and then we reinforce them," she said.
"Because if you don't have a plan, they will make one for you," she continued.
It's also important to clearly communicate rules, not just values, she said. "Be respectful," is a value, she said. Rules describe defined actions that you are looking for.
Jessica Smith, a district literacy coach, was a few doors down sharing how to coach students through large words in reading. She had teachers pair up and share how they would explain a word like "agreement" or "awareness" by helping students identify the part of the word they knew and look at Greek and Latin roots.
Tony Miriani was showing teachers the many uses of Canva, a graphic design program. He shared examples of products that had already been made at Capital City and how the program could be used to update teacher webpages.
Brianna Fankhauser shared strategies for providing productive feedback to students. Teachers should avoid monitoring their students' work too strictly, controlling them or making it a competition with other students.
She also asked teachers to share how they could communicate with students to let them know if they've mastered the material or not. Teachers shared they used data binders and end-of-lesson checklists. Fankhauser said teachers should speak with students and help them understand what their specific goals are to reach mastery of a subject.
Becky Pfenenger led teachers in breathing exercises during her class on stress management. She also shared tips for how to eat a healthy lunch.
In all, Deputy Superintendent Beaulieu said she'd heard positive feedback about the day.
"It was really successful. People seem so positive and just happy to be together and talk school -- and bonus that they get to learn all day," she said.
CORRECTION: This article was edited at 9:29 a.m. Aug. 17, 2022, to indicate Todd Shalz is principal at Belair Elementary School. The original version incorrectly identified his school.