Discover St. Mary's

Professional Development Experiences

At St. Mary’s, we are passionate about and proud of our roles as educators, and effective professional development supports us as we continuously strive to be better. Opportunities to place ourselves in the role of a student, to learn from and with one another, enables us to further develop the knowledge and skills needed to empower and inspire our students. Thanks to generous support from parents, alumni and friends of St. Mary’s, the school offers a wide range of professional development opportunities that lead to classroom innovation and the types of learning experiences that prepare our students to lead lives as courageous, independent thinkers.

List of 4 items.

  • The Math Revolution

    Mathematics education looks different today. Decades of research on the teaching and learning of math has shown that both a strong conceptual understanding and a knowledge of procedures are essential in developing mathematical thinkers. It is not enough to simply teach children traditional algorithms. Students must become “competent users of the language of mathematics and begin to see it as a way of thinking, as opposed to seeing it as a series of facts and equations to be memorized,” PYP Mathematics Scope and Sequence. But, how do we support this level of deep thinking?

    All Lower School classroom teachers and the Middle School math department had an opportunity to explore this question in depth at an on-site training in March. Thanks to the generous donations from last year’s Fund-a-Need, we welcomed Cathy Williams, co-founder and executive director of Youcubed at Stanford University, to campus. Youcube has inspired, educated and empowered teachers around the world by transforming the latest research on math learning into accessible and practical forms.

    After a day immersed in research and practice, our teachers had a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the teaching of mathematics in the 21st century. Kindergarten teacher Sheri Lowry shared what all of our teachers were feeling at the end of the professional development. “Last night after reflecting on the information, I can only utter, “Wow!”  The information was amazing, and I’m inspired. Cathy Williams showed us the why behind the teaching and taught us how to include all kids, even those who do not view themselves as strong math students, to visualize, explain, summarize, justify and succeed.
  • Writer's Workshop

    Each year, our teachers have opportunities to participate in a variety of learning experiences that inspire them to create and grow.  When a faculty member attends a conference or workshop, the impact is immediate on both the teacher and her students. But the reality is that this impact is limited and confined to one or two classrooms and a small group of students. This year, we had the chance to do better. We had the power to create revolutionary change throughout the entire school, by creating a common language and common goals. This change began last spring in the Lower School when the teachers attended an on-site writing workshop led by Chara Rodrigues, an expert from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

    During this session, teachers explored the essentials of writing instruction and how to utilize conferences to differentiate instruction and set goals. “Being surrounded by our peers added a new dimension to the learning. As a faculty, we were hearing the ideas together, creating a united vision,” explains Kristen Scott, second-grade teacher.

    This vision between like-minded teachers is crucial for transformative change. The synergy it creates promotes excitement and rapid movement. The faculty recognizes they are not only responsible for their students but for the success of every child in the school. “When we meet to plan writing instruction, we talk about the specific needs of our students, not just the lessons we will teach. Since we have a common language, we work together to identify what is working and what isn’t. Our students benefit from this because, in a way, they now have three writing teachers instead of one,” shares Kellie Jelic, fourth-grade lead teacher.
  • Responsive Classroom

    Working with Amber Searles, a program developer for Responsive Classroom - an evidence-based approach to teaching that focuses on the strong link between academic success and social-emotional learning - the Middle School faculty had the opportunity to spend the day as students, learning from and with one another. They explored developmental levels and needs that are unique to Middle School students, participated in interactive learning structures used to make lessons more engaging, and discussed the importance of establishing a calm, orderly and safe environment for learning.

    “There is great energy when we come together as a faculty,” explains Middle School Assistant Principal, Señor Valdez. “Learning the Responsive Classroom strategies equipped us with the kind of knowledge and tools that make us better educators when it comes to best classroom practices. It has been instrumental in positively shaping and affecting our school community to be the unique place that we value and love.”
  • IB For Everyone

    This June, all teachers, EEP - Grade 8, attended sessions led by trainers from the International Baccalaureate Organization. Early Education and Lower School classroom teachers participated in The Role of Mathematics in the Primary Years Programme, while exploratory and Middle School teachers attended Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning in the Middle Years Programme.

    Time was given for teachers to work in collaboration, creating or revising current units. During the interdisciplinary training, Lower School Art, Spanish and Design faculty worked together to create a unit exploring surrealism. Featuring the work of Frida Kahlo, students will investigate the artist, create a surrealist self-portrait and design a film about the piece narrated in Spanish.

    In math training, fifth-grade teachers created a unit exploring the benefits and costs of the industrialization of food systems. Next year students will have opportunities to calculate food waste, determine the carbon footprint created by the transportation, packaging and production of food, and investigate the calories, carbohydrates and sugar found in their own personal diets.

    “Teachers of all subjects found the training to be productive and rewarding. Everyone was able to complete or revise at least one unit to be used with their classes in the upcoming year. They are extremely motivated to work with their new students and use the units they spent so much time designing!” explained MYP coordinator Jocelyn Williams.