Mahopac teachers and administrators are not only changing the way education works in their own district, they are being invited to share their innovative, cutting-edge practices with educators in other districts.
Recently, Mahopac educators presented on diverse topics including Innovative Professional Development Systems, Crisis Management, School Finance and Human Resources, Virtual and Augmented Reality, and Critical Issues Facing School Leaders.
In April, Mahopac sent two teams of educators to present at the regional Technology Leadership Institute, hosted by the Lower Hudson Valley Regional Information Center (LHVRIC) at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff.
Dr. Adam Pease, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development, along with Instructional Technology Specialist John Sebalos; elementary school teachers Christine Czuy, Andrea Jones, Carolyn Ryan, Tiffany Ziegelhofer; high school teacher Alicia Manguso; and library media specialist Dara Berkwits presented Teacher Professional Development that Nurtures a Culture of Innovation: Want Innovative Students? Let Teachers Go First.
“Our team talked about how Mahopac has re-imaged our professional development philosophy to support teacher creativity, innovation, empowerment and motivation,” said Pease. “We shared how we redesigned Superintendent's Conference Days to give teachers voice, choice and more control over their own professional growth as they support a more innovative district-wide culture.”
Part of this innovation includes allowing teachers to choose what they do at professional development days rather than having it chosen for them. “Traditionally, school districts will have a professional speaker present a topic, but what we are doing is letting the teachers tell us what they want to work on during those days,” said Sebalos. Pease and Sebalos said there was tremendous interest from area superintendents on the approach. “After the conference, some superintendents said they liked the idea but wondered if it was costly,” Sebalos said, “but the fact is, it saves money because we are not hiring people from the outside. We are working with teachers and administrators in our own district, collaborating with each other and sharing each other’s talents.”
This type of collaboration is invaluable to both teacher and student growth. “We always strive to give ‘voice and choice’ to our students, so we wanted to make sure we were doing that with our teachers as well,” Sebalos said.
Teachers, in turn, like the idea that they can learn from each other, and they appreciate having the opportunity to collaborate on topics they have chosen.
High School ENL teacher Alicia Manguso and Library Media Specialist Dara Berkwits, who also spoke at the LHVRIC conference, said that they appreciate the district leaders responding to their needs. The pair worked together during the last professional development day, which focused on the district’s use of Google programs and technology.
“Dara helped me find the apps for my students to use for a special project we are working on,” said Manguso. “The time we spent collaborating was invaluable.”
“These types of interactions are really great, because instead of just listening to someone speak, you get to be in charge of your own learning and help others to as well,” said Berkwits, who helped other teachers out with technology in the Google platform the district is embracing.
Middle School science teacher Brian Cauthers and high school science teacher Jennifer Cauthers also gave a technology presentation on classroom applications of virtual and augmented reality at the Technology Leadership Institute. “The goal is for students to be creators of content, not simply consumers,” said Pease. “The Cauthers shared innovative ways that teachers and students could use augmented and virtual reality to create original content using apps such as CoSpaces, Thinglink, and Aurasma, as well as cutting-edge cameras such as Theta 360, Nikon Keymission and Google cardboard camera.” The Cauthers also presented this topic at the annual NYSCATE (New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education) conference this past November. “We talked about how to integrate these programs into our classrooms,” Cauthers said, adding that the topic generated great interest among the audience.
Pease and Mahopac Middle School Principal Vince DiGrandi were also invited to present in the workshop, Effectively Managing Crisis in Schools, hosted by PNW BOCES. “The ability to effectively respond to a crisis is an essential quality for school and district leaders,” said DiGrandi. The ease with which information and misinformation is shared on social media and the 24-hour news cycle adds a level of complexity to an already complex process. “Although no two crises are the same, they do follow a predictable cycle of planning and preparation, response, recovery and debriefing,” said Pease. “We prepare school and district leaders on how to effectively navigate these phases.”
Pease also partnered with Brewster’s Assistant Superintendent, Michelle Gosh, to present a workshop series called Critical Issues Facing School Leaders, at PNW BOCES. In this workshop, building administrators from across the region assembled to discuss best practices on timely topics including how to encourage a more student-centered, learner-active school, how to support Professional Learning Communities among staff and organizational change theory. “It’s challenging for building administrators to network with other building administrators to have structured conversations around critical issues facing these leaders, so Michelle and I were happy to be part of making these important conversations take place in the region.” said Pease.
Mentoring leaders is also important to Ron Clamser, Assistant Superintendent for Business and Human Resources, who presented to a group of regional school administrators on the topics of school budgets and human resources during one session of the PNW BOCES workshop series entitled Preparing for Central Office Leadership. “Through my years of school administration I’ve learned a lot from those mentors who shared their knowledge and experiences with me,” said Clamser. “It’s important for me as an educational leader to do the same.” Clamser, along with Mahopac Middle School Assistant Principal Alex Levine, also participated in Manhattanville College’s Dean Symposium on Success as a New Teacher. Clamser and Levine spoke as panelists discussing what graduating students can expect upon entering the field of teaching and preparing for the interview process.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dennis Creedon, noted, “Great things are happening in Mahopac, and we are happy to share them with our neighbors. As a unified District, we are embracing change as learning opportunities that directly benefit our students.”
Said Pease, “Being part of the larger professional conversations in the region has been rewarding. It’s great to see the district’s emergence as a regional powerhouse in the areas of progressive instruction, leadership, technology integration, teaching and learning.”