Posted Date: 06/23/2020
LPS TAKES IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL WITH VIRTUAL PD
FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2020
At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, Lawton Public Schools (LPS) teachers and students were hopeful of what the new year would bring. No one could have ever anticipated a global pandemic or school cessation would cut the school year short and prevent them from finishing in a traditional manner.
Distance learning became the new norm for educators across the globe. LPS Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Brenda Hatch shared that it was an eye opener for teachers.
“It gave teachers a sense of urgency to find effective tools to communicate with students, post assignments, conduct virtual parent meetings, and much more,” Hatch said. “While some embraced technology and integrated into their daily classroom instruction, we had a large number of teachers who had no idea what was available for them to use and had never received training to use technology effectively.”
Knowing the possibility to utilize distance learning in the future, Hatch put together a team to design the district’s first-ever Virtual Professional Development (PD).
“We wanted to prepare our staff to be able to deliver quality lessons that are rigorous and hold students accountable while keeping the learning process engaging,” Hatch said.
Over 1,100 LPS teachers, administrators and support staff across the district participated in the two-week training that began May 11. Staff chose from over 225 virtual lessons ranging from Google Classroom and Online Tools to Special Education and Curriculum. The PD Team provided real-time feedback and support to teachers as they completed the coursework.
LPS Assistant Director of Secondary Schools and PD team member Reagan Hall-Ousley said to better prepare teachers and staff for the beginning of the new school year the district’s goal was to ensure faculty and staff could learn new tools and techniques for both the traditional class setting and distance learning.
“We wanted staff to know that, regardless if we came back to the buildings or we remained at distance learning, they had a go-to repertoire of support,” Hall-Ousley said. “This kind of PD is forthcoming and groundbreaking in Lawton. It is opening doors and we are going to build on this for years to come.”
Lawton High School math teacher Clyde Page said he can diversify his teaching techniques to reach students’ learning abilities and be better connected technologically to some very useful tools.
“I much prefer this way of learning to the traditional way of getting a bunch of teachers behind computers and then presenting a class. Those sessions typically get bogged down because everything is funneled through a single instructor,” Page said. “This way gave us the opportunity to learn at our own pace, correct and learn from our own mistakes. It gave us an avenue to assess our own weaknesses and to take the initiative to address them.”
The boards also included administrator specific content. MacArthur Middle School principal Regina Stuever said she completed PD that pertained to the middle school level.
“I think this Virtual PD really opened up some eyes to a lot of different things that, not only I didn’t know, but things some of our teachers didn’t know,” Stuever said. “If we are not able to return to the classrooms next school year, teachers will be prepared because of this PD. It was excellent!”
The choice boards will remain open all summer, meaning teachers can improve their distance learning with the guidance and feedback from the PD team members up until next school year.
“Students will appreciate that teachers did this [PD]—they went out of their comfort zone to learn and be better for the students. That means a lot,” Hall-Ousley said. “It was such a drastic change—no one left for Spring Break thinking we would never go back to our buildings—but once they processed that teaching won’t be the same, they were able to wrap their head around the idea of distance learning.”
Tomlinson Middle School Technology Teacher Trainer and PD team member Delia Gilbert said this is also a great way to support new teachers coming to the district.
“The platform is definitely the best professional development option for teachers to have the ability to choose the PD that is the best for them in their position and where they are with their skill level,” Gilbert said. “Plus, they will get feedback from a team member whether through the Google Classroom, email, Zoom or phone call.”
Hatch shared that the district will continue to take the virtual PD to the next level ensuring student success in and out of the classroom is achieved with fidelity.
“Our teachers and administrators took a huge step toward improving instruction and communicating more efficiently using technology. This is just the beginning,” Hatch said. “Our goal is for staff members to continue building on the newly learned skills so we can better serve students in any learning environment.”
The LPS PD team met on daily Zoom calls to ensure participants were supported with timely and responsive feedback during the two weeks of virtual PD training. The team will continue to support staff this summer.
(Top row, from left to right: Reagan Hall-Ousley, Lynn Cordes, Kris Burd, Lori Manning; Bottom row, from left to right: Vanessa Perez, Doris Biegler, AJ Watson, Delia Gilbert, John Robertson)