This spring is “professional development season” at Plumas Charter School, said PCS Executive Director Taletha Washburn. Teachers from all four PCS learning centers recently attended several conferences and training sessions, as well as a certification program.
“Professional development is an important aspect of teacher and staff culture at PCS,” said Washburn. “We are proud to support our employees who are passionate about what they do and want to stay up with the latest developments in their field.”
This year’s opportunities began in March, when PCS teachers attended two conferences: the California Charter Schools Association conference in Sacramento and the California Council for Social Studies conference in San Jose.
A current critical theme in education is “social emotional learning,” and several teachers said the conferences helped them explore this concept.
“There were great social emotional learning strategies to help students of all ages improve their focus and channel their energies to help them be more successful in their learning,” said Cindy Thackeray, who teaches at PCS’s Quincy Learning Center.
Teachers reported gaining information and insight during “interesting and engaging” presentations and breakout sessions, but they also stressed the importance of the opportunity to network.
“It is always nice to hear how other charter schools operate and be reminded about the importance of having different choices for students in our community,” said QLC teacher Brittini Wade.
Katelyn Johns, also a teacher at QLC, pointed out the additional value of PCS teachers networking with each other: “The conference was a really valuable time for me to collaborate with my coworkers and make sure we are using the same common language and practices,” she said.
QLC kindergarten teacher Inge Stock agreed. “This conference was a great opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues about the curriculum we are using now as well as set goals for our future,” she said. “I feel privileged to be a part of the PCS team and appreciate how we are able to work through challenges together.”
Keri Reed, lead teacher at the Chester Learning Center, said she especially values the chance to collaborate with colleagues whom she might otherwise see only a couple of times a year. “We had lots of time to discuss the best of what is going on in each (PCS) site and return energized by what we learned,” she said.
While her colleagues attended conferences, PCS’s outdoor education coordinator, Courtney Gomola, was in Idylwild, completing the rigorous Wilderness First Responder training and certification course.
One of Gomola’s roles is leading students in outdoor adventures; this means at some point she may need to assess and manage medical problems in wilderness environments.
“Learning the skills of a wilderness first responder has dramatically expanded my understanding of what makes a medical problem an emergency, and how to manage both emergency and non-emergency situations,” said Gomola.
“We also spent a good portion of time talking about some of the medical problems that currently exist within our student population, which also makes me a lot more confident in managing any of those challenges that might arise in the field.”
On April 1, PCS presented a teacher training by Jon Corripo, the director of CUE (Computer Using Educators), an organization based in Walnut Creek that promotes “better teaching and the seamless use of classroom technology.”
“Teachers learned about some quick, simple technology resources that they were able to embed the next day,” said Washburn. “These free, easy ideas help teachers become better facilitators.”
Washburn said CUE’s strategies provide a way for students — who are already excited about screens and devices — to engage productively with technology in the classroom, all without increasing teachers’ workload.
And “professional development season” isn’t over yet for PCS! At the end of April, the PCS administration team will attend a special workshop hosted by Angela Chiarenza, a leadership development coach, aimed at creating and implementing an administration framework for the next three to five years of the school’s future.
Plumas Charter School operates learning centers in Quincy, Taylorsville, Greenville and Chester. To learn more, visit plumascharterschool.org or call 283-3851.
“I learned a lot about the importance of student engagement and the value of social emotional learning.”
“It was great to spend time with colleagues. One of the best parts of teaching at Plumas Charter School is the amazing colleagues I have the privilege of working with.”
“Teachers can talk about education all day, every day. The problem is, we don’t want to burn out our friends and family. The CCSA conference felt like a guilty pleasure where it was OK to focus solely on the job that we love so much.”