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As Teachers Grow, Students Grow: A Look at Olentangy's Teacher-Led Professional Development Program

Olentangy teachers regularly take part in professional development, but what exactly does that mean? At some districts, it means bringing in outside “experts” to teach classes on various topics. At Olentangy, our teachers conduct the teaching—and that makes a big difference.Teachers participate in a professional development session.

As a district, we believe purposeful interactions develop into meaningful relationships, and teacher-led professional development creates opportunities for our teachers to connect with each other. Months in advance, teachers and their administrators work together to create trainings that address important topics pertinent to our classroom environments, and provide skills that teachers can immediately incorporate into their lessons and classrooms.

Vince De Tillio, supervisor of curriculum and instruction at Olentangy, leads professional development throughout the district. As a specialist in teaching teachers, De Tillio helped spearhead the teacher-led professional development approach. He believes as teachers grow, students grow, and as teachers learn, kids learn.

“The best teachers are curious and want to know more,” says De Tillio. “Many outside experts who teach professional development classes haven’t been in a classroom for quite a while. We have some of the very best teachers at Olentangy and this approach allows them to feed their curiosity while teaching and inspiring their colleagues.”

For the last three years, the district has embraced this new approach to professional development—placing teachers at the center of everything. Surveys from participants show the approach is working.

“We gain valuable information from our peers in their areas of interest. It’s great to hear from different teachers from within the district and their perspectives,” says Lisa Kedo, speech and language therapist.

Many focus areas addressed during professional development originate with Olentangy teachers. Classes such as Price of Privilege, Diversity and Equity, and Literacy and Elementary Vocabulary were first bright ideas suggested by teachers and later researched and developed into popular courses.

“This approach has positively influenced our culture,” says De Tillio. “If a teacher has a good idea for a class, we welcome it.”

Throughout the year, Olentangy teachers have many opportunities to take part in professional development.

• OPDA courses are taught at night and are voluntary, but that doesn’t hinder attendance. We continually increase the number of courses to accommodate demand.

• Every summer, teachers and administrators are invited to participate in a two-day, in-district conference known as Think Tank. This event features 50 sessions and is designed to establish key focus areas for learning and development for the upcoming school year.

• The curriculum team regularly visits each district school building to share best practices and to provide teaching tools that work.

• New Teacher Academy is an onboarding and professional development opportunity for all new teachers to the Olentangy district.

“We’re offering double the classes than what we did in the past,” says De Tillio. “In order for our students to be at the top of their game, our teachers have to be at the top of their game.”

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