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A New Model for Professional Development

Six years ago, the school initiated a new professional development program that goes beyond attendance at conferences or workshops. As an intricate component of the faculty-led Curriculum Initiative, this new professional development approach is ongoing, entails long-term relationships with experts, promotes and encourages mentorship, and is intricately linked to supervision and evaluation.

Teachers are in the Change Business
Teachers prepare the next generation; they build on the knowledge and research of past generations as they take boys into new worlds of knowledge. We are discovering so much about how people learn; it’s our responsibility to stay on top of the research. As teachers, our principal responsibility is to help boys learn and grow. If we are responsible for effecting change, we also have to stay fresh, to grow and change ourselves. So, at the heart of exceptional teaching is exceptional professional growth and development.

There are Two Levels of Professional Development at Saint David’s
The first level involves personal growth as a teacher: the quantity of knowledge and quality of skill, instruction, delivery, pacing, understanding of content, and the personal investment of a teacher in the
profession. In support of this, our teachers have the opportunity to learn from leading educational experts over a period of time. For example, the faculty has worked with Teach Like a Champion author Doug Lemov on teaching strategies and techniques, and Harvard University’s Project Zero on the implementation of Teaching for Understanding—a pedagogical framework that helps us critically evaluate our curriculum. We have also been working closely for extended periods of time, with long-term reading and math consultants to streamline these important components of our program. The outside professionals have helped us to critically and objectively evaluate our program, and develop close working relationships with our faculty.

The second level of professional development deepens the efficacy of the teacher within the context of the mission of our school. It is vital for a Saint David’s teacher to possess a deep understanding of our mission and pedagogy as it relates to our particular school. The Dean of Faculty is charged with expressly guiding the growth and development of every teacher, both in the individual and collective sense as it relates to our mission.

To help teachers achieve success, we’ve instituted a mentoring program. During a teacher’s first three years at Saint David’s, he or she is assigned a master teacher who acts as mentor to help foster professional growth within the culture of the school.

Teachers at Saint David’s are empowered to drive their professional development: they apply for grants to develop programs and explore areas of interest which will bring an added dimension to
their subject area. For example, the language arts teachers recently developed a comprehensive writing program, which involved professional development and changes to the curriculum to balance
expository and creative writing, as well as instruction with guided practice and writing opportunities. In addition, a new Summer Spain Study Tour will be offered to current seventh graders thanks to a faculty development grant, and the Kindergarten teachers implemented a math program on patterns, based on the TfU framework.

Supervision and Evaluation are Rooted in Professional Development
Independent school teachers are particularly empowered because they can design their own curriculum, a key difference between independent and public schools. With this freedom, however comes added responsibility and accountability.

Saint David’s believes that supervision and evaluation are rooted in professional development; we have completely redesigned the supervision and evaluation process with this in mind. Rather than
being based on traditional annual reviews, Saint David’s new model builds “milestone years” into the process at five-year intervals. Faculty receive comprehensive, critical feedback about their work during these milestone years. The salary structure has also been significantly adjusted to recognize successful attainment of these milestones. In effect, the individual teacher and the school collectively are asked to reflect critically and deeply on the teacher ’s growth as a professional.

This process is transparent, with professional criteria for success and the corresponding salary explicitly stated. It encourages growth.  Most important, it supports our exceptional teachers’ efforts to ensure that our boys meet the goals of our mission and fulfill the aspirations of our founders "… that they be good men.


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