A group of three teachers sitting in a group talking

South Harrison Community School Corp. recently organized a professional development day for teachers, instructional assistants and support staff to attend. Similar to weekly check-in meetings with a fitness coach, educators also need to come together from time to time to evaluate if their planning and teaching methods are keeping them on track to meet student, building and district-wide goals. At today’s professional development sessions, SHCSC staff received meaningful academic coaching, support and training so students can succeed this school year.

“The reason we wanted to do this today and bring in outside industry experts from Solution Tree is twofold,” SHCSC Director of Elementary Curriculum Diane Owen said. "Teachers need time to do work for their classroom but also need support in how to grow in systems and processes that help them do that work better. So this was a double win for us. They have time with the experts to ask questions and learn how to use their PLC time better and they have time with their team or building to actually do the work.”

The opening seminar began with Solution Tree experts Michelle Marrillia and Paula Meaker presenting this thought, “Excellence is not an event; it’s a process.” They explained how student success stems from goal setting and using our Professional Learning Communities strategically. Marrillia and Meaker elaborated that when everyone comes together during Friday PLC time, having an open but critical mindset to see small adjustments here or there that could be made in teachers' assessment strategy, literacy incorporation or behavior tracking might be what sparks a breakthrough in student growth. 

Presentation slide with words, "Excellence is not an event. It's a process."

Feeling compelled to step out of their classroom and consider how they are using PLC time, teachers split off into building-wide groups to revisit their specific building-wide objectives for students and instructional assistants jumped into their first round of breakout sessions led by Central Indiana Educational Services Center professionals. SHCSC instructional assistants rotated to the following sessions, participating in a variety of activities and engaging conversations:

  • Helping and Supporting Without Telling: Strategies to Support and Ask Guided Questions;
  • Strategies to Stay Engaged with Students and Keeping Students Engaged in Class; and
  • Understanding and Supporting Students’ Behavioral Needs and Challenges.

teachers in a class with some of their hands raised

Black woman teaching at the front of the class

Each building received one-on-one time with either Marrillia or Meaker to ask questions. While reflecting on her staff’s time with the Solution Tree professionals, South Central Jr.-Sr. High School Principal Jenna Hinkle shared, “Some of the key takeaways are that our school-wide goals and the goals our teachers have made in their PLCs are aligning. So we can go back to our students and encourage them by saying we have this bigger goal we’re working toward so they take ownership and share in our school’s success.”

A female teacher at front of classroom

The individual time with the Solution Tree instructors proved invaluable as each school had different needs. Heth-Washington Elementary teachers were able to work with Meaker to explore how they could leverage their club days to increase attendance while also providing reteaching opportunities for below-grade-level students. This would then allow HWES staff the ability to evaluate their progress bi-weekly during their Friday PLC time. They were also able to discuss goal setting, techniques to identify standards students need assistance with the most and an action plan to begin implementing immediately. 

South Harrison preschool instructors also had the opportunity to come together with Title One Director Jill Timberlake to revisit resources, teaching methods, state requirements and more.

“We don’t have very many chances for all the pre-k instructors to get together,” Timberlake said. “Because our preschool is funded by On My Way and the Harrison County Community Foundation, there is a lot of reporting involved, which adds another thing on our instructors’ plate. It was good to have today to share what we think works well in our classrooms and what areas we need more support.”

Today was a much-needed check-in and helped SHCSC staff refocus on our class, building and district goals as we move into the last few months of the semester. The professional development sessions hosted today were made possible by a grant awarded by the Indiana Department of Education Office of Special Education and other funding.