At Steward, students learn in an environment that focuses on the world ahead. Faculty and staff regularly engage in professional development to keep up with best practices and trends; inspired, they bring their new knowledge back to the classroom. We caught up with faculty and staff who recently participated in professional development.
Train the Trainer
School Counselor Jentae Scott-Mayo
, Yaa Agyekum
(director, Center for the Advancement of Learning
), Paul Harris
dean of student support), and Kadie Parsley
dean of student support) participated in virtual training sessions to become youth Mental Health First Aid instructors. The four learned how to teach faculty and staff the crucial skills of connecting with professional help and resources when students are experiencing mental health challenges. Mental Health First Aid training teaches participants to safely and responsibly identify and address a potential mental illness or substance use disorder. Plans are in place for Steward to have its own youth Mental Health First Aid training program; Mrs. Scott-Mayo will serve as coordinator, and the School’s deans will train their divisions. The goal is for all faculty and staff to be trained during the 2023-24 school year.
Mrs. Scott-Mayo, whose work at Steward is done in conjunction with the School’s Center for Engagement, has also been taking classes that address mental disorders, diagnosis, and treatment planning. In addition, she was recently named chair of the Board of Directors for the Virginia School Counselor Association. “I love setting an example of a commitment to lifelong learning,” she said. “I continuously seek fresh ideas and perspectives.”
Upper School Science Teacher Kristen Householder completed online training in Advanced Placement (AP) psychology through the University of Texas Austin, and she can’t wait to put into practice what she learned. In the fall, Steward will offer three sections of a year-long AP psychology course to seniors and honors students. Ms. Householder said she now has a deeper understanding of ways to teach and what testing methods she can use in her classes.
“In last year’s honors psychology course, I wanted a memorable way for my students to understand the concept of perception, so I had them wear nose clips while they tasted gummy bears,” she said. “They couldn’t taste anything until they removed the nose clips. This is an example of a novel way for students to learn. I look forward to creating similarly engaging course content for AP psychology.” Thankful that Steward encourages professional development, she noted, “I feel like the administration knows it’s important for me to move forward as a teacher. I’m constantly learning!”
The Language of Discovery
At the Comprehensible Input (CI) Summit in Savannah, Ga., Middle School World Languages Teacher Alyssa Kovach participated in workshops led by educators, authors, and CI social media personalities. “CI is a world language teaching technique in which teachers provide input that allows students to understand most, but not necessarily all, of the new language,” explained Ms. Kovach. “It is a shift from the traditional emphasis on vocabulary and grammar.”
Ms. Kovach explained that CI is increasingly becoming more popular with the world languages teacher community, as it mimics how people learn their primary language, is more intuitive, and produces more “natural/conversational” language. Most Steward language teachers, she noted, use a combination of traditional and CI techniques.
During language labs, participants observed master CI instructors teach elementary and middle school students. “In addition, our cohort advisor taught us Russian using CI methodologies, so that we could go through the experience as students," said Ms. Kovach. She added that professional development allows her to continually improve her skill set. “The conference validated many of my current classroom practices, but it also inspired me to try new activities and reconsider others. I am excited to implement what I learned during the upcoming school year!”
During a fast-paced week this summer, Middle School/Upper School Choral Music Teacher Heidi Taylor attended the Broadway Teachers Workshop in New York City. The week was packed with master classes, networking events, talks by Broadway stars … and four Broadway shows.
“A highlight was meeting Marc Shaiman, one of my favorite living composers,” said Ms. Taylor, whose students performed at Carnegie Hall
this year. “He created multiple award-winning musicals, including ‘Hairspray,’ as well as countless film scores, including ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’ He wasn’t scheduled to be part of our workshop, but decided to pop in!” Professional development “helped give me inspiration that I will bring to my students,” said Ms. Taylor “For instance, I worked with the current musical director and conductor for ‘Hamilton’ and learned vocal and conducting techniques that I plan to utilize this fall.”
Upper School Curriculum Dean Melissa Freed
, the 2022 recipient of the Cramer Award
, applied the award money she received toward a life-changing opportunity: a trip to Europe with her husband and daughters (Kaitlyn ’27
and Kara ’29
). In France, the family took a private tour of the Louvre, where they took in the museum’s significant pieces of art and learned about the history of the building.
“We went underground to explore the original palace walls,” said Ms. Freed. “To see the girls' faces light up and recognize how much older Europe is than America was a beautiful moment. Both used Monet and Van Gogh as inspiration in their art classes at Steward, so for them to see the originals was breathtaking!” The family also toured the Colosseum, Forum, and Vatican in Rome. “The best moment of the trip was seeing Kara’s face light up when she saw the Colosseum and the Circus. She screamed, ‘Oh my gosh … I wrote about this on my social studies final exam!’ She immediately had me take pictures and send them to her Middle School Social Studies Teacher, Craig Redmond-Cilley.”
Ms. Freed is passionate about the value of international travel, especially for students.
“The Upper School offers international trips, which afford students incredible benefits. They experience cultural awareness; improve their foreign-language skills; experience personal growth; and cultivate self-confidence and independence,” said Ms. Freed. “Travel enriches one’s global perspective … students see history and art come to life beyond textbooks or a computer screen. Plus, their world opens up to the prospect of studying or living abroad.”
Fostering a Love for Learning
Kindergarten Teacher Amy Hendrick is passionate about supporting students with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
“As a mom of neurodivergent children, ADHD is an important part of my day-to-day life,” she said. “And as an educator, I want all students to feel successful in the classroom and in the School environment.” To that end, she recently completed an ADHD/Executive Function Professional Development Trainer Academy webinar. The training she received will enable her to provide professional development for Lower School
faculty in the coming academic year.
“With a better understanding of ADHD, the Lower School faculty can facilitate a learning environment that can help all learners and build a love for learning for students with learning differences,” said Ms. Hendrick. “I want to help teachers know how to help these students, incorporate best practices, and debunk old philosophies and approaches.” Professional development, she added, “allows me to be the best educator I can be.”